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Purdue Women make it into the NCAA tournament

The Purdue Lady Boilers earned an 11 seed spot in the NCAA tournament to face the 6 seed Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday.

After a 20 loss record, finishing last in the Big Ten conference standings last season, many doubted that the Boilers would make it back to the NCAA tournament for the 2015-2016 season.  Well they are back, maybe not with a great seed, but with a 20 win season, is is quite a turnaround.  This is the culmination of a lot of hard work, conditioning, practicing, developing several tough defensive schemes, learning how to share the ball and play as a team.  The sophomores made progress, the freshmen made significant contributions, and the juniors and seniors provided leadership and heady play.  Looking back, the pre-conference part of the season took a lot of people by surprise with only two losses, with a victory over Louisville, and an overtime loss to Stanford.  The conference season we knew would be a grind, and some key injuries, especially the foot injury to Hayden Hamby, took their toll on the team and contributed to a rough stretch when the Boilers lost 8 out of 10 games.  Many fans doubted at that point that any post season play would even become a reality.  However, Purdue fought back to finish the season strong, and made it to within one point of making it to the semi-finals at the Big Ten tournament in a heartbreaking loss to a hot Michigan State team, who went on to the championship game by beating Ohio State.

During these ups and downs, the team never stopped fighting or believing, and made a nice little run to end the regular season and made a decent showing in the Big Ten tournament.  Now another new "season" awaits in March Madness where the Oklahoma Sooners await.

This should be an intriguing match-up. Oklahoma head Coach Sheri Coale always fields a competitive team and this year has been no exception.  I haven't been able to watch much of their games, but they have a decent team.  Maybe not up to standard of some of their teams in the past decade, but dangerous nevertheless.  They have lost 10 games, but 4 of those were to Baylor or Texas. The Sooners lost a few games in the non-conference portion of the season to average or below teams, but during their tough Big 12 schedule, they didn't have really any bad losses.  Their team is led in scoring by  6-3 Redshirt Senior Forward Kaylon Williams at 12.7 points per game.  Their only other player averaging in double figures is Redshirt Junior guard Peyton Little. I don't know much about the rest of their players, but you can be assured they are most likely athletic, play well as a team, and are very well coached.  They will be a handful for an opening round match, that is for sure.  They do tend to turn the ball over a lot, so hopefully Purdue can ratchet up the defense and win the turnover battle.

Don't count Purdue out of it just because of the lower seed.  Often in the tournament, match-ups are more important that comparisons of seeds.  Our Boilers are led in scoring by the trio of Wilson, Morrissette, and Perry.  Keys and McBryde follow in scoring and provide a lot of versatility.  Hamby is hanging in there, probably still not fully recovered from the foot injury, but will be able to contribute along with others such as Thornton, Horrocks, and the freshmen Murphy and Keisler.  Great team work and stout defense are two hallmarks of this years' squad.  While struggling to score points in some games, the scoring and shooting have picked up later in the season, which should definitely make the Boilers a tough team to face in the first round.  Purdue played a very tough game against Michigan State in our last game at the Big Ten tournament, and will come into this game fired up and ready to compete.  The game will be at 1:30 PM Saturday on ESPN2 in Lexington, Kentucky.  If the Boilers win they will most likely find themselves playing the Kentucky Wildcats on their home floor, a daunting task indeed.  But for now our team can savor the opportunity to play in the Big Dance.  It feels good to be back in.

Congratulations to Coach Versyp and the team as we return to a rightful place in the Big Dance for the 8th time in Coach V's 10 seasons at the helm.  I'm not making any predictions but only will say that I expect it to be a hard fought, close, and competitive game.