After the Minnesota game, I predictably saw lots of talk about what this team needed to do to get to the tourney. I thought this talk was ridiculous. That being said, most "predictions" of how we could make the tourney included us losing to OSU. Well, we lost to OSU and now it's the apocalypse, Purdue basketball has reached a new low, and all of our player are underperforming lazy bums.
We aren't going to make the NCAA tournament this year. I am VERY aware that this isn't acceptable for the Purdue Basketball program, but that doesn't matter at this point in the season. Tournament hopes are over, other than making an absurd run in the Big 10 tourney. So the question remains: what are we to do as fans during the rest of the year? How should we cope with a struggling team?
All of the time, I hear talk about "Purdue players" that exemplify the Boilermaker way of playing. Hard working. Dedicated. Precise. These traits are great, and I think lots of our players have them. After wins, I always see praises of Hammons giving more effort, Ronnie making better decision, Terone sacrificing some scoring. Yet after EVERY loss, it is the same script. These guys are embarrassing. They are selfish. They underperform. They don't care. They aren't Boilermakers.
This narrative is, quite frankly, bullsh*t (tactful sensoring! :-D ). Do you think that players are Purdue are going to play harder than those at Ohio State, Creighton, Duke, or any other school simply because of the jersey they are wearing? No. Players ended up here because of a combination of recruiting, talent, education preference, family, and a multitude of other factors. They should be expected to play hard every night, but not any more than players at any other school. Also, if we had 19 wins right now, there would be no "effort" question regardless of how hard the team played.
I guess what I'm saying is, don't have an atomic over-reaction after every loss. I'm pretty sure that we've won some games when we played soft, and lost some games when we played hard. These things happen. That being said, every player on this team has sacrificed blood, sweat, and tears for this school. There are many problems with this team. Effort has been a problem at times, but surely is not the biggest one. Saying that effort is to blame for every loss is some twisted way of saying "If I were in their position, I would play harder and do better."
Be a good fan. Cheer for players. I criticize our players and coaches, but I also realize that this team is trying and they do in fact care. We are consistently playing six "first year" players significant minutes, and our two best players are sophomores. This team will get better. Cheer for them to win and don't act like the substance of Purdue basketball is being tarnished after every loss. This team is going to be much better next year. The guys on our team are Purdue players. Be a Purdue fan.