Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Purdue - Final Four

Purdue has returned to the Final Four for the first time since 1980.  For ride or die Purdue Basketball fans this is a once in a lifetime experience that probably warrants shelling out $5,000 for game tickets and plane tickets to Phoenix, AZ.

Purdue again had the number one seed and marched past Grambling St, Utah St, Gonzaga and Tennessee (my sister's alma mater) and will now face NC State.  Gonzaga was a tough sweet sixteen match up and Tennessee certainly played well also.  NC State is playing with confidence and despite being an 11th seed, they have proven the win and advance strategy that got them a national championship in 1983 under Jim Valvano as a 6th seed.  

It is quite the turnaround from last year's loss to 16th seed Fairleigh Dickinson University (Purdue was a number 1 seed).  The most memorable meme last year was "Purdue - Where you are more likely to walk on the moon, than be in the final four."

I started at Purdue in 1989 and over the past 35 seasons it has been tough to be a Boilermaker's fan.  Every bracket pool I submitted had Purdue winning it all and more often than not, Purdue lost in an upset in the first or second round.  My bracket this year sits at 1491st among 559,172 entries by correctly picking Purdue and NC State (my Dad's alma mater) in the final four.  I also picked Northwestern (lost in the second round to 1st seed Connecticut) and Clemson (lost in the Elite Eight to 4th seed Alabama).  I will not be winning any money as I have not entered a pool with friends since 2018.

Gene Keady coached for 16 of those seasons with 10 NCAA tournament invites.  Purdue had 2 Elite Eight appearances (Glenn Robinson in 1993-1994) and 2 Sweet Sixteen appearances.  

Matt Painter (who played for Keady) has coached for the past 19 seasons with 15 NCAA tournament invites.  Purdue has had 1 Elite Eight appearance and 5 Sweet Sixteen appearances under Painter.  stand out players include JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore.

Going to the Sweet Sixteen 10 times over the past 35 years is quite an accomplishment, but Purdue still has had a reputation for playing "small ball" and competing well in the Big 10, but less well against the style of play and the fast transitions of the NCAA at large.

Personally, I will be watching the game on Saturday at home.  Maybe I will have my new hat, t-shirt and throw pillows.  I usually do not stock up on sports gear, but when I have a team in the hunt, I make an exception.  Case in point the Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and now the Purdue Boilermakers.

Purdue Football has not fared much better with 16 bowl appearances in the past 35 years and the best performance being a Rose Bowl loss to Washington in 2000 (Drew Brees era).

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