I was working during the first half, so I can't comment on the part of the game where Purdue apparently played well. From a phone conversation with my dad, it sounds like our Boilers shot the ball at a pretty high clip before halftime on the way to that five-point lead.
It wasn't the best performance as Wisconsin...and Frank Kaminsky, to be specific...woke up and started to attack. Bucky started to assert itself, and when that happened, it didn't seem like Purdue was able to punch back.
With that said, I don't think it was a bad loss.
Let's look at what the team has accomplished to this point: late-season victories at Indiana and against Ohio State in Mackey helped add something to what was a shaky NCAA resume. In beating Illinois a at the beginning of March, that magic number of 20 wins was reached.
We all know how worried people were when Penn State had an 11-point lead in the first half against us on Friday. There's no way that losing to the Big Ten's 11th place team would have helped. In fact, it might have moved this squad to a bracketologist's "last four in". But they got it done...and here we are.
Let me go ahead and say that Purdue is safely in the tournament at this point. There's no way a team that finished top four in a conference with the Big Ten's reputation (12-6 in the league) would be left out. Yes, those losses to Gardner-Webb and North Florida were bad in December.
But think about this:
North Florida has had a pretty strong season. An eight-game win streak, as well as an Atlantic Sun conference championship, have them squarely in the big dance. People thought that loss was bad at the time, but falling to a tournament-worthy team isn't anything to scoff at.
|Speaking of people that have turned a corner...|
(Photo belongs to BTN.com.)
Gardner-Webb, on the other hand...well that was just bad. It's inexcusable.
It's also in the past.
It's been clear for some time that Purdue has turned a corner. We beat three (then) ranked top 25 teams in four games. A.J. Hammons has stepped it up. Rapheal Davis became the Big Ten DPOY that he now is.
Where can this team go now?
Well, I have a feeling that it might be better than many people think. There's something to be said for experience...and I remarked on Twitter in the last week that Jon Octeus is likely to fight incredibly hard to keep his college career alive for another game.
You could point out that the rest of the team hasn't been to the tournament. And that's true. But there's also some depth. All anyone can really say is that, like always, what happens in March Madness will depend on matchups.
The NCAA tournament is the best time of year in sports. Those first four holy days of hoops are the greatest.
Let's see what happens.
I love March.