Ever since Purdue lost to Michigan what seems like ages ago, but was actually just Sunday, my Twitter timeline, my Facebook newsfeed, my text messages, and even my email have been filled with the hottest of hot takes about why this team is done. I’ll admit in my frustration I texted and maybe even tweeted some things that I don’t truly believe in the calm sobering light of a week off. What we fans, and all fans really, fail to understand is that sometimes when your team loses a game the other team is just flat out better. That’s what happened on Sunday against Michigan.
I know people hate to talk about playing the hot team or running into a buzzsaw but sometimes that just happens. Think about when Purdue ran into Shaka Smart and VCU in the NCAA tournament. Purdue may have been the better overall team and MAYBE if those teams play 10 times Purdue would take the series but that doesn’t matter come March. What matters is that one game, and for that one game VCU was better. The same thing happened this Sunday. Purdue and Michigan played three games this season with the first two being incredibly close but saw Purdue pull away for victories in both of them. In the third, and probably the one that mattered most, Michigan was the better team. Does that take away from the fact that Purdue beat Michigan twice? Absolutely not. What it does do is say that on March 4th, 2018 Michigan was better than Purdue.
When we look at the grand scheme of things for this season it all builds to selection Sunday and Purdue’s seed and opponents. Sure, there’s glory in getting the one seed, maybe, MAYBE, it helps with recruiting from a prestige standpoint, but more likely than not it just means that if Purdue loses it will get more press if they are a #1 seed. If Purdue winds up a #2, like I think they will, or a #3 as some are projecting it won’t make much difference. What matters is the matchup. If Purdue gets slotted against a team like Michigan in the first round or second round that might be a problem. But that’s the thing with the NCAA tournament, you just never know where you’re going to end up and who you’re going to prepare. There’s no way to prepare for Purdue’s next opponent at this point so what Purdue must do is focus on themselves.
At the level that Purdue is at talent wise I truly believe they can beat anyone you put in front of them. Will they though is a different question. Sure the 19 game winning streak was great, but that team is in the past. Who will come out and play next week in Round 1 of the NCAA tournament. Will PJ be hitting his threes? Will Vincent be the dynamic player we’ve seen in spurts? Can Purdue take care of the basketball and be opportunistic on defense? Will the team be the epitome of tan, rested, and ready? So much of high level athletics happens between the ears and if Purdue can take this week to get their mind right and remember the type of team they are there’s no reason they can’t succeed. After all, a noble spirit embiggens the smallest man. If those things happen there’s no reason that Purdue won’t be in San Antonio for the Final Four.
Sometimes the other team is just better but for now, with a week off, Purdue has to focus on themselves and hope that in the post-game press conference the opposing coach just says “Purdue was the better team today.”