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Don’t Panic: There Will Be Plenty of Time for That Later

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Lert’s all calm down for a moment.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, I know a title as such coming from someone who basically lost his shit after a 3-point home loss to the defending National Champion (and currently unanimous No. 1 team) is hypocrisy, but it is a new year. Many have requested that I tone it back a bit. Admittedly, I have been guilty of over-reacting too much, so this is me trying to take a more even keel.

Did the loss suck? Yes. It was a loss at home. It was a game that Purdue was heavily favored in and probably should have won. It is a blow towards our Big Ten title hopes. It is a ding on our national profile at a time when we had a chance to move up in the polls.

It isn’t a reason to panic.

Again, I am trying to be a little more positive. This comes early in the Big Ten season, so there is time to make up for it. As always, there is time to learn from mistakes. Turnovers were a problem with 14, but the impact of them at critical times made them worse. Purdue struggled defensively, but Minnesota made some pretty stunning shots. Purdue didn’t shoot well, so it can shoot better in the future.

There are still 16 games left in the Big Ten season, and that is our beginning reason not to panic.

It is still very early in the Big Ten season

At most, teams have played twice in league play. Michigan State and Nebraska are the only teams that have escaped at 2-0. Wisconsin is 1-0 in advance of a very tough week at Indiana and Purdue. The other 11 teams have a loss. Michigan State needed overtime to survive this same Minnesota team. No one expected Nebraska to win at Indiana and Maryland.

What today’s game was is a missed opportunity. Purdue had a chance to establish an early lead over Indiana and Maryland as contenders. It wasn’t able to because, it turns out, Minnesota has made quite a turnaround from last year (more on this later).

Nothing is ever easy in this league. Purdue has its work cut out for it with 9 of the last 16 away from Mackey Arena, but this is far from a crippling loss. Indiana and Maryland also dropped home games. Purdue can still make a big statement at home next Sunday against Wisconsin. Thursday against Ohio State is also big. Michigan State looks like it is ready to make a run. Wisconsin is still very good. Maryland, Indiana, and Purdue are all going to be right there. A 14-4 record might be enough to win what looks to be a very even league this year. Purdue still has work to do, but with 16 games left, it can get it done.

This capped a HORRIBLE week for ranked teams

Let’s look at the top 16 this past week:

UCLA lost at Oregon

Duke got blasted by Virginia Tech

Louisville lost at home to Virginia

North Carolina lost by 12 at Georgia Tech

Creighton lost a heartbreaker at home to Villanova

Virginia lost at home to Florida State

Butler lost at St. John’s

Purdue lost in overtime to Minnesota

Indiana lost to Nebraska and Louisville

That’s 10 losses by the top 16 teams within the past week. Most of them were against ranked teams (Oregon, Virginia, Villanova, Louisville, Florida State) or to teams at least receiving votes (Virginia Tech, Minnesota).

There really is not a dominant team in college basketball this year except for Villanova, who seems to be winning challenge after challenge in close games. That happens to be a team Purdue played pretty well, too. A lot of the top 25 played good teams this week and lost. Minnesota is a good team.

The Gophers played an excellent game

Jumping out to a 17-4 lead by hitting your first eight shots is a great way to get an upset on the road. Even then, Purdue had a 7-point lead at 50-43 with 13:40 left in the game. Purdue had taken its hit and it looked like it had taken control of the game. Mackey was rocking and it looked like we would cruise.

Well, Minnesota had an answer. In fact, it seemed like they had an answer to every big momentum swing. Nate Mason answered with 10 straight points by himself to completely erase the lead. He was the answer all night with a massive 31 point, 11 assist, 6 rebound effort. He had his share of circus shots that went in and plenty of “I am playing with a ton of confidence and scoring right now” shots. It was impressive.

There were other answers too. Amir Coffey hit a 3-pointer with 3:35 left to tie the game just 16 seconds after Ryan Cline had given us a 71-68 lead. That was an immediate answer, followed by a Cline turnover and a Dupree McBrayer layup. After both teams had empty possessions with the game tied 75-75 in overtime something needed to happen.

With 2:45 it did. Eric Curry scored on an assist from Mason. Cline missed a three and Mason scored on a layup. McBrayer had a steal and score. It took 49 seconds for Minnesota to take complete control and win the game. Cline then missed another three and Curry hit the dagger to make it a 9-0 run with a minute left.

Minnesota ended up shooting 49% from the floor and 38% from three. Mason had a fantastic game on top of that. They were better than Purdue, plain and simple.

Purdue was off

Some shots that normally fall for Purdue weren’t tonight. Dakota Mathias had a career high 10 assists, but only four points. Cline had two really good looks at a three in overtime that you would have him shoot 100% of the time. Purdue only shot 40% and it normally shoots 50%. It shot 32.1% from three and normally shoots 41%. When you combine that with Minnesota playing extremely well, it is a testament Purdue even made it to overtime. Those differences were really big in OT.

I thought Purdue would dominate given the foul trouble Minnesota had, but Purdue could not hit its open looks. Once it was 75-75 Purdue had two possessions to take the lead. One was a 3-second call (I think?) On Mathias and the other was a missed shot by Swanigan. Even if Purdue scores both times, Minnesota was playing well enough to answer yet again.

Then there was Isaac Haas. He is clearly struggling right now, as much as a guy averaging 14.4 points and shooting 62.5% from the field can struggle. Minnesota had enough size to frustrate him into only 6 points in 19 minutes. In the modern era of basketball the big, lumbering center is going away. Haas is still very useful. He can punish a lot of teams and is a major asset. Against some teams, however, he can be limited. Tonight he had four turnovers and only three rebounds.

Haas will break out of it. Most of the time his offense and size is a major asset, so it is still great to have him. Nights like tonight are just frustrating because we want to see more.

Sometimes, you just get beat.

That’s what happened today. Minnesota played better than Purdue and got a hard-earned road win over a ranked team as its reward. They are significantly better than last year and now we need to consider them as a candidate to be an NCAA team. KenPom has them as a top 40 team now and they own some good wins over Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and now Purdue. They will be tough for a lot of teams to beat.

I think that is why I feel better about this loss than I do Villanova and Louisville. Against Villanova Purdue had a ton of mistakes that were self-inflicted but still gave the champs all they could handle. Against Louisville it was self-inflicted mistakes and generally awful play. Tonight, Purdue kept fighting back and Minnesota kept answering. Credit to them.

Going Forward

This loss sucks, but there is time to make a difference and we have a huge week ahead. Purdue’s trip to Columbus against a mercurial Ohio State team now looms very large. Purdue needs to find a way to win that one, especially after they lost at Illinois today. It may too early to call it a “must win”, but we certainly need it a lot more now than we did earlier today.

Then next Sunday is a huge game with Wisconsin. Since the Badgers are a fellow contender and we only play them once (at Mackey, no less) it becomes a very important game. Getting that one gives Purdue the tiebreaker for any Big Ten Tournament seeding scenarios and hands a direct loss to a team we are chasing in the loss column.

It also looks like this won’t be a crippling loss on our NCAA profile. There is still plenty of time to get good wins and earn a top 3 seed, which should be the realistic goal. Win the Big Ten and we should have a favored path to the second weekend, which is all you can really ask for.

Time to go back to work, boys.