The second half, specifically the final 15 minutes or so, were probably the worst we have seen a Matt Painter coached team play ever. Even his first team played with passion and effort. Yesterday, Purdue simply rolled over and died against Notre Dame. Now Purdue sits at 8-4 with a critical non-conference game to at least show they can do something on offense left before starting conference play.
Already, some have given up:
And Boiled Sports:
Well, it's still only December, but I think it's now safe to say the pessimists were correct - the Tourney is a pipe dream at this point.
Now, the following is worthy of all caps hyperbole:
THERE ARE STILL AT LEAST 20 GAMES LEFT IN THE SEASON!!!!
Let's all calm down a little Yes, this team looked mentally weak like the teams of the past two years, but we saw in Maui they can be mentally tough with the way they beat a good BYU team (who, by the way, is still a good win). We saw them be tough against North Carolina State (who is also still a good win). We know this team has the talent to compete. It also helps that the Big Ten is not as stellar as it has been the last few seasons. We're far from the only team that is struggling. If people want to quit before a single conference game has been played, then fine. Get out.
Assuming Purdue beats Gardner Webb tomorrow not (and if it plays like it did Saturday, that can't be assumed). The Boilers will close the non-conference season at 9-4. That means they must go 11-7 in Big Ten play to reach 20 wins. Yes, the Big Ten is worse this year, but I will tell you right now there is absolutely no way in hell a team that goes 11-7 in the conference will be left out of the NCAA Tournament. It is just not going to happen.
Okay, so where do the wins come from? Let's first go to KenPom, which is very accurate and some people take too seriously. Purdue currently sits at No. 65 there. Not great, but still decent. If Purdue needs 11 wins it has to start with victories over the teams below it on the KenPom. This is where the first of those come from:
No. 76 Michigan (The Wolverines are a complete disaster right now and we get them early).
No. 82 Nebraska
No. 95 Penn State
No. 154 Northwestern
No. 177 Rutgers (x2)
There are six wins right there and we're more than halfway to what we need. Granted, there is no guarantee Purdue wins all six of those games. In fact, it is going to need to play far better basketball to win them, but after what we have seen during the stretches of good Purdue this year we can all agree Purdue is more than capable of winning these six. In fact, the one that scares me the most is Penn State, who is probably severely underrated.
So now we need five more wins. That's where home court comes into play. Purdue plays only Indiana, Rutgers, Ohio State, Illinois, and Minnesota twice. It absolutely has to sweep Rutgers. Any loss to the Scarlet Knights would be a mortal blow, even though Purdue did lose to Vanderbilt, who lost to Rutgers. With the other four Purdue has to defend its home court. The size advantage Purdue has over Indiana has to earn us a split with the Hoosiers. Illinois and Minnesota are good, but not great and Purdue is more than capable of beating them at Mackey Arena. Ohio State is ridiculously, hilariously overrated and 0-2 against teams with a pulse. Purdue needs to beat them at home.
So that is for more wins Purdue could get. Say they get three of those four, losing to Ohio State, and they beat the six lower KenPom teams. That's nine wins already. Where can the other two come from?
Can Purdue win at Illinois? Absolutely! Generally the Boilers play well in Champaign and the Illini already struggled greatly against Missouri, whom Purdue handled with ease. Can Purdue win in East Lansing? Well, if Texas Southern can, we can. They could also win at Minnesota. Maryland is playing some very good basketball, but Purdue gets them at home and aside from the final three minutes against North Florida the Boilers have done well at home. They can at least hold their own against the Terrapins. Purdue definitely could beat Iowa too.
Of course, this is all contingent upon Purdue figuring out what the hell is wrong from the last two games (which were brutally ugly) and start playing better. It means nothing unless there is some team leadership as mentioned in yesterday's quotes and unless coach Painter finds a way to turn it around. I still believe this team is different from the last two years and seeing the expressions of Jon Octeus and Rapheal Davis yesterday tells me they are tired of this crap.
I am trying to take this season with a more even keel. It is never as good as we think or as bad as we think. Yesterday sucked and we all know it. The good news is that there is plenty of time to do something about it. There are 20 games to do something about it counting at least one in the Big Ten Tournament. Aside from the Wisconsin game, I don't think there is another "put it in sharpie" loss on the entire schedule, mostly because the rest of the league has not been that impressive, either. Wisconsin is the best team in the league. Maryland is getting to a place where it is might be a clear No. 2. Northwestern and Rutgers are 13 and 14. Spots 3 through 12 are teams where anyone can beat anyone.
This season is not over and the hopes of making the NCAA Tournament are not over. Find the toughness that was there earlier in the season, take care of business in Mackey Arena, and start playing tough, hard-nosed basketball again. Coach Painter said it best yesterday: If you start playing better on one end it affects the other end. If you play poorly on one end it affects the other. This team can quit or it can start working again and still do some good things this season. I have zero doubt the ability is there. It will not be easy, but it can be done.