Purdue Boilermakers (24-8) vs. Baylor Bears (21-10)
When: Thursday, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Washington, D.C.
1. The Baby Boilers Grew Up Before Our Eyes. At the beginning of the season we were positive we were watching an NIT Purdue team .. .or maybe a 12-seed, 19-win Purdue team. As the preconference season began, we looked genius as the Boilers struggled versus the "always tough" Lipscomb. Then the wheels looked like they were coming off as the Baby Boilers lost to Missouri (on the road), Iowa State (neutral site) and finally, Wofford at Mackey Arena. That painful night stuck out for Purdue fans, but also stuck in the minds of voters as the season progressed. This youthful Purdue team lost to Michigan State in East Lansing, but then went on an 11-game tear with two wins over the now Big Ten Champ Wisconsin Badgers, as well as a nationally-televised win over Sparty. The road win v. Wisconsin and home win v. MSU marked the first time Purdue had ever beaten two top-10 teams in a week in the history of the program. This team that at one point was the only in the nation that had four starting freshman grew up quickly. In fact, it could be said that these babies "became men" right before our eyes ... their voices got deeper and fur even began to grow where there was none before .. .nevermind. Point is this group of players, comprised mostly of freshman and sophomores achieved the highest national ranking in the past ten years getting up to 15th. Frosh Robbie Hummel played biggest on the biggest stages as he thrived versus Wisky, MSU & IU. He averaged in the high-teens along with nearly ten rebounds in those contest and he wasn't afraid of taking the important shot. Also, E'Twaun Moore, the jewel of this highly-touted class, came out of his shell at around the midpoint of the Big Ten season; he ended being the leading scorer for the team. Chris Kramer had the unenviable task of guarding Eric Gordon, Drew Neitzel, Jamar Butler and others, but shut down many of these scorers for ten to twenty minutes at a time, fighting knee and wrist injuries all along. Matt Painter showed that he's one of the best coaches in a coaching-rich conference by blending the right line-ups at the right times and game-planning to overcome Purdue's experience discrepancy as the season progressed. So what's the prognosis? Well, this is a darned good Purdue team, much better than we thought they'd be. While statistically they aren't the best-shooting team, they have been extremely smart with the ball and don't turn it over much. And they play hard-nosed, high-energy defense for 40 minutes each game, plus they shoot free throws well. It's said that guard play is important in the NCAA tournament - if this is the case, Purdue could get as deep as the round of eight...but what they have in guards, they simply do not have underneath. Purdue's bigs will struggle against a team with an experienced, skilled PF/C...But this team has the potential to make a lot of noise, if they play the right team.
2. No Fun Allowed At Purdue! The student ticket situation changed recently, and if you were a member of the "Paint Crew" your seating was on a first-come, first-served basis. If you were there early enough, you could be down low in the Paint Crew section. So students started showing actual school spirit and began camping out in tents outside Mackey Arena for hours before games ... then for days... then for MANY days. Everybody loved it. The John Purdue Club (rich alumni) sent them hot chocolate, Coach Painter bought them doughnuts and chicken wings, students traded off "holding" their spots in line so they could go to class, ESPN showed it when they were in town to do games. It was all good fun — until the University decided this was simply too much fun and halted it entirely. First the inflatable penis appearances are dramatically reduced - now this. What's next? Will Purdue Pete's hammer be deemed too barbaric or something?
3. Nicknames We Want To Hear Brent Musburger Say. Musburger, Steve Lavin and sultry Erin Andrews have done a number of Boiler games this year. As the Boilers improved, Musburger got into this weird habit of calling Coach Matt Painter "Matty." We know Musburger is all lovey-dovey with everyone (and like 300 years older than Painter), but we seriously doubt he'd call Coach K "Mikey." Anyway, we eventually discovered that Robbie Hummel was known as "Ostrich" in high school and, even better, E'Twaun Moore was known as "Smooge." Looking up Smooge, we find it's "funk from a dog's ass." Go on, Musburger, you 68-year-old coot. We dare you. — Boiled Sports
1. Dave Bliss was a real dick. Much has been made of the job Scott Drew has done to clean up the mess that was left him, but you really can't quite overstate it. To remind you, former Baylor coach Dave Bliss made illegal payments to his players, and, when he was busted, after the death of Patrick Dennehy, he told his players to lie about money given to Dennehy and tell investigators that he was a drug dealer. Needless to say, Bliss is not coaching anymore, and the Bears spent years in NCAA probation hell until Drew, Mr. Fix-It, came in to reconstruct the whole program.
2. No Valpo. Contrary to popular believe, coach Drew did not get his undergraduate degree from Valparaiso; he went to Butler. His father Homer was the coach and his brother Bryce the hero during that famous NCAA tournament game, but Scott, being less of the athlete, stuck to coaching; he went to Valpo as a grad assistant, and then took over the team for one year when Homer retired. After Scott decided to take the Baylor job, Homer came out of retirement to coach Valpo again, and Bryce, Mr. Athlete Big Shot, is now an assistant to his dad, again.
3. Tweet Tweet. Reserve freshman guard Tweety Carter received his unusual nickname because of his incessant crying as a child. One did not know crying could sound like the words "puddy tat." Oh, and freshman LaceDarius Dunn, even though he doesn't start, might play in the NBA someday. — Will Leitch