The sun rose this morning. Like all of you, I am deeply proud in the effort put forth by out Boilermakers last night. This loss was not one due to lack of will. This was a loss because Duke was the better team. The Blue Devils hit every tough shot they needed to hit and each one seemed like a backbreaker. John Scheyer and Nolan Smith were especially tough, hitting most of those big shots after it was tied at 35. We pulled Duke into a fight with us and they won. If we had hit a few more shots and had they missed a few of their tough looks things would have been different.
There is no shame in this, but it still feels like we left business unfinished this season. For months the goal was Indianapolis. The way the tournament has played out so far we could have won the whole thing, too. There is no question that Robbie's absence was a factor. It was not a guarantee of victory, but we all cannot help but wonder what might have happened if he hadn't gotten hurt. In the end of this one their big three was better than our big two. We never got that consistent third scorer we needed, be it KG, Kramer, Byrd, or anyone else.
There is a lot to like from this game though. Patrick Bade played tough, smart basketball even after he got his third foul. JaJuan Johnson played a phenomenal game and I cannot wait for us to have some low post depth for him next year. JJ is an absolute beast on the break and run the floor better than any big man in the country. D.J. Byrd is developing a tenacity that will ease the pain of losing our Secretary of Defense. All we needed to do was shoot better and hit free throws. Ryne Smith's miss of the front end on a one-and-one was huge, as was Kramer's in the second half.We had dragged down into our style and it very nearly worked. Duke has to feel like it was in a fight this morning.
This seems like a very short entry, but we all know what happened. We simply didn't have enough tonight despite an effort that we all wanted. I have no shame in saying Duke was the better basketball team. Shoot, we were even getting some calls for over the back and such that helped us keep it close most of the way. I still don't like Duke very much, but I can at least respect they were the better team last night.
The goal is now very simple. We find a way to replace Kramer's heart and KG's shooting and we win the whole damn thing next year. I have long talked about how the 2010-11 season is the one in which all the pieces will fit together. Well, it is here now. We will have JJ, Sandi Marcius, Bade, and Travis Carroll as four legitimate post players instead of just JJ and the sometimes overmatched Bade we had this year. We have Robbie returning to give us everything he normally gives us. We have E'Twaun coming back and he has some running buddies in terms of scorers. Anthony Johnson and Terone Johnson are similar players to E'Twaun. They are threats to score any time they have the basketball. We have LewJack coming back fully healthy and ready to run the show. We have Ryne Smith coming back to be even more of a 3-point threat off the bench. We have Byrd returning to be a smaller do-everything version of Hummel with a bit of an edge like Kramer. We have Kelsey Barlow returning to... well... to infuriate us with spurts of amazingly ability mixed in with the frustration of a few dumb mistakes.
This team will be back. It will be the most perfect and complete Purdue basketball team most of us have ever seen. I think we win it all next year.
For now though, we must say goodbye to a few people. I'll try to do a separate entry on them later this week, but I want to offer a big thank you to Keaton Grant, Mark Wohlford, and Chris Kramer. I don't think any of us have words to properly express our gratitude for what you have given Purdue basketball. I just sat here staring at my screen, wondering what I should say next and I couldn't come up with game. My gratitude is speechless in a very good way there. Fortunately, I have a ton of awesome readers who delivered a record 1200+ comments on the open thread last night. Let's make Mark, Keaton, and Chris feel loved one last time in the comments, gentlemen.