Hitting a Wall

I've noticed...and I bet you a group of old guys gathered in Indy have too. My alma mater has dropped two of its last three. In a stretch that included the number 5, 10 & 7 teams in the conference, my Boilers made a mess in the bed. Now they'll lie in it.

With two minutes left, Purdue was up by five. My brother and I started to reminisce about the bad ole times...about a week ago. You know, when Purdue played in Columbus. Unlike Friday's contest, Purdue had a five point lead with just about two minutes remaining...Wait a minute! It couldn't happen (Pruitt bullies his way to a two-point bucket), it wouldn't happen (McCamey throws in a 25-footer to knot it), it can't happen (Illinois backdoors Purdue twice in a row and steps on the Boilers' throat and heart)...it happened. History repeated itself and Purdue allowed a victory to wilt into a defeat.

I feared this game and this opponent...and it wasn't simply because it was the third contest against a team that Purdue had beaten twice. Penn State wasn't scary to me, but the Weber-led Illini were. It's like beating a big brother or your Dad on the blacktop, you might beat him, but he knows your tendencies...and the healthy rivalry makes the contest all-the-more difficult.

But, this Purdue team has hit the wall that we all knew/thought they would. They did enough to finish second in the Big Ten for the regular season...but Grant & Kramer's knees are simply ailing. Giving them a week of rest simply will not make them well, at this point. It was obvious as Grant dragged his leg behind him like Quazimoto and Kramer allowed Illini offensive sets to make the stellar defensive player to look flat-out plabeian. But, their knees didn't force Painter to not call a timeout at the end of regulation...nor did they make Kramer take the last shot or force Calasan to shoot an ill-advised three in the extra set. Purdue lost this game because they allowed a worse team to be in the position to win at the end...and that is probably because their two best defenders pretty much turn into pumpkins after the 39:30 mark each game. Overtime is a killer for this team.

You'd think it'd be the Freshman to run out of gas at this time of year- not really the case. Hummel had three-straight defensive stops in the last five minutes...by himself. He also hit a vintage Ostrich three that kept Purdue in the driver's seat in those closing minutes. Smooge scored 22 and dazzled me with his stop-and-pop jumpers with good defensive pressure. Conversely, Martin & Johnson were pretty ineffective against Pruitt and Randle.

Here's the deal- As the committee gets ready to hand Purdue a 6 seed (really pretty indicative of this team...Purdue's probably the 24th-best team, at this point), the road has become much more difficult to a sweet-16. And, how Grant will go is how this team will go. But the competition will probably be either an under-achieving, but talented big conference foe (K State or Va Tech) or a scrappy, over-achieving, well-coached small-conference foe (St. Mary's or Davidson). Either way, it's not going to be easy. Further, I have the same feeling about the NCAA tourney that I did about the BTT- I'm not optimistic. The wind seems to be out of our sails.

A Soothing Salve
Despite Purdue's poor effort yesterday, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the conference tourneys the last two days. But, the reason I watch is to see the underdog rise up and defeat his opponent at the last possible second. It couldn't be much sweeter than what we all witnessed with 1.5 left in Conseco during the nightcap. Unreal. And honestly, it made me feel so great that my gray skies turned to a brilliant blue as I stayed up until 3:30 am local time watching even more contests. Ahhh...March is beautiful.

Oh yeah, it was pretty great watching Gordon mope off of the court...Sure, a guy like White might deserved better, but the rest of them can eat the big steaming plate of doody that they're currently gagging down.

Tits on a bull.