I don't know what to do.
I honestly do not know what to say.
Is it possible to love a team more than Boilermaker Nation loves this Purdue team? They lost their starting point guard for the first half of the season. They lost their starting power forward and possibly best player for the season at the worst possible time. They lost a key newcomer and one that was to provide frontcourt depth before the season even started. They have been dismissed as a team with not enough talent, then as one that can't overcome the loss of one player.
But they keep fighting.
They have now won 29 of 34 games, a school record, while having their projected starting lineup for only seven games. They won a Big Ten Championship for the first time in 14 years. They picked themselves up after everything they have faced this season and they have continued to fight like mad bastards when everyone outside of West Lafayette has given up on them. Amazingly, no one will give them a chance next week, either, and I like it that way.
Positives from the Texas A&M game:
Chris Kramer - There are no more words we can say about this young man. He has now elevated himself to Brees-like status in West Lafayette. I remember being on campus when Drew was doing his thing and I felt completely honored to be there. I am no longer there, but it is as I told Chris' mom last week at the Big Ten Tournament: It has been an honor to write about what Chris has given to Purdue. What else can you say about him? He has led this team for four years and tonight, when we needed it most, he willed this entire team to a victory. He will fight until he has nothing left, and it is a legacy that is going to carry over to every player that returns next year.
When I woke up this morning I realized that today could have been the last day I get to have Chris on my basketball team. I wasn't ready to deal with that loss yet, and I don't think anyone else is either. We get another week now, and he will go down swinging against a Duke team that, on paper again, looks like a hopeless matchup.
Ryne Smith - Chris Kramer doesn't have a chance to win this game if Ryne Smith doesn't do all the little things he did today. The biggest play was his jump ball when Bryan Davis was getting ready to score on the putback with 44 seconds left. Ryne was giving up 6 inches, 80 pounds, and two years of experience to Davis, but he still tied the ball up and prevented the easy score. He also had several other big moments that prove it's not how much you do, but when you do it sometimes. He has had three huge 3-pointers in both NCAA games, but his tie-up in overtime made up for his dumb foul at the end of the first half.
D.J. Byrd - I think the light went on for D.J. against Minnesota in that debacle. He has now scored 21 points in the last three games after scoring two during the entire Big Ten season. He kept us alive with two huge putbacks and added a pair of threes that were much needed. We needed someone to step up, and today it was D.J.
Keaton Grant - He only had five points, but KG was another Little Things guy and he gets to keep his career going. His biggest play was his steal and score, but he fought hard on the glass Even took a page out of Kramer's book with a wild blocked shot. Just keep shooting, KG.
Mrs. T-Mill - She kept me alive, I think. It was touch and go for a moment. This team is so exciting that she is on board and excited. She normally thinks college basketball is boring and she prefers the NBA. She'd love Kentucky.
E`Twaun Moore - I was furious when he turned the ball over twice at the end of regulation without even getting off a shot, but he redeemed himself with a Red Button moment to give us the final tie at 61 all. He also kept us going early when he finally found his jumper in his luggage. He's still not quite there yet, but he is getting close.
Patrick Bade - Forced to play big minutes early, Bade continued to grow by stepping up and holding his own against a huge front line. Help is on the way next year, but he did well today. As a note to the NCAA, Travis Carroll's high school career ended this week, so we can bring him on board next week, right?
Matt Painter - Just a masterful coaching job today. I seriously didn't know how we were going to do this but he weaved his defensive mastery and got just enough stops to finish the job. We allowed almost nothing from the perimeter and hounded the Aggies into long possessions. He substituted liberally and kept everyone fresh. This program is in great hands.
Negatives from the Texas A&M game:
Free Throws - This might be on the officials, but we only got to the line six times. We have to get there more against Duke.
Turnovers - Kelsey Barlow and E'Twaun had some particularly dumb ones today, but the ball security, especially in the last five minutes of regulation, was awful. I just don't understand how we can't even get a shot off there.
Let me save everyone some time and sum up the media's previews this week. "Purdue has fought hard to overcome Robbie Hummel's torn ACL in this tournament, but they will run out of gas against an oversized Duke team that has the easiest path Indianapolis."
We're going to keep fighting though.
We're going to keep fighting because Boilermakers never quit.
We're going to keep fighting because Kramer won't let us.
We're going to keep fighting because we still have a chance to win this whole damn thing. Elite Kansas cannot say that. Elite Texas cannot say that. Fourteen teams from the totally awesome Big East cannot say that. Indiana cannot say that.Only 15 other teams can say that, including Cinderellas Northern Iowa (A scrappy team that I love from last year), St. Mary's, and Cornell.
We're going to keep fighting because our Big Ten brethren like Michigan State, who also has a fallen junior star, keeps fighting with us. We've got your back, Sparty. I said at the beginning of the season we can settle things in Indy after splitting the regular season series. We're still on, right?
We're going to keep fighting because the collective will of this team and these fans will not let us do anything else.
Bring it, Duke.