It’s no secret that us Purdue fans have had our heart broken a time or ten when it comes to the NCAA tournament. It’s what we have become judged upon no matter what we do, by others and maybe even by ourselves. Just take a look at the men’s basketball mentions after a win. You will most always see an FDU graphic. And before that it was a Peacock.
I know I have a nagging “but” in my head with every win Purdue has had this season. Dominating the Maui invitational and that immediate excitement only with a nagging “but we won the Phil Knight tournament last year.” Knocking off #1 Arizona and our guards proving they can hang with the bigger, more athletic guards “but it’s only December.” Going to College park, a place we hadn’t won at since 2017 and beating the Terps convincingly “but will we fade in February”. It’s like a pesky fly that won’t go away and keeps landing on you, always reminding you that it’s there.
But at what point am I not enjoying what’s happening in front of me because I’m afraid about what may happen in the future. I see a lot of the fanbases online going through mediocre seasons, always okay but never great and I think how lucky we are to have a competitive team now year in and year out. It makes the entire season a hell of a lot more fun knowing not only can you beat a top ranked team, you are a top ranked team.
You can argue winning the Big Ten is harder than winning the National Championship because it’s a grueling season long accomplishment. But I can’t lie when I say, okay been there done that. I want the next thing. Of course winning the conference would be great again and Purdue has a good chance to do it… but what comes after that.
At this point I am certain that our March woes are mental, once you get over that hump the impossible doesn’t seem so hard after all.
It reminds me of when I was in high school, I was a Lowell Red Devil (RDP anyone?) in the Kirk Kennedy days and our football team was the epitome of friday night lights. We’d win conference and roll through sectionals only to be knocked off in regional to some “powerhouse”. It seemed they were always from Fort Wayne. Finally they got past that regional round and went on to win state. They went back to state the next 3 years after that. It just seemed like Coach Kennedy somehow knew after that his teams were just as good as theirs and the hurdle was smaller.
I think it’ll be similar with Painter. Once he reaches that final four I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do it again a few more times and hopefully bring home a national title or two.
But I keep reminding myself that these are the good ol’ days of Purdue basketball. As Raphael Davis likes to remind us, it was only 10 years ago that we finished in the bottom of the Big Ten with not even a chance in March. I want it, they want it, we all want it, but let’s enjoy the ups and downs of the season as it comes. We’ll have plenty of time to pop our nitroglycerin pills in March.
So what type of fan are you? Are you enjoying where we are or are you the it doesn’t matter until March fan? Personally, I’m still working on it.