This is a depressing state of affairs. Illinois was starting to get a little bit of talk coming into conference play, but they’ve quickly dropped to 2-6. Penn St. does now have a nice win on their resume, but they are still clearly a flawed team at best, also at 2-6 in the conference, and a paltry 11-10 overall. Nebraska is in the same boat, only marginally better thanks to not having played as many games, sitting at 2-5 and 10-9 overall. Even with Purdue fielding such a young team, those are certainly games you would expect to win.
Where have the losses come from? They couldn’t defend home court against an increasingly mortal-looking Ohio St. team. Purdue pushed the Buckeyes fairly hard, but there isn’t a “moral victory” column in the standings. Even if there had been, given their recent woes, I’m not sure that game would even count as a moral victory now. They lost in Mackey to Wisconsin for the second or third time in history. That hurt, and that was another game the Boilers showed flashes in but couldn’t finish. They lost a game in Minnesota that, as it turned out, they probably should have won. They certainly played well enough in the second half and put themselves in a position to win it. They just dug far too big a hole to start. They also dropped a game to Northwestern with some extenuating circumstances.*
*Not that I would ever expect anything less from a school of Northwestern’s pedigree, but that was a very classy move. Also, I hate to complain about the officiating, but Purdue had a golden chance to win that game in the first overtime. They certainly should have put it away in regulation, but how the mauling of AJ Hammons at the end of the first overtime (a la Penn St. at Mackey) wasn’t whistled, I’ll never understand.
So, yes, Boilermaker fans are understandably a bit down at the moment. But, there is hope! Yes, Michigan is 7-0 right now. But does anybody think they’re world beaters? I sure don’t. And, well, did you read that first paragraph? The Big Ten is as balanced a conference as any in the nation right now. If Penn St. and Northwestern can pull off upsets this year in two of the toughest arenas in the country, never mind the conference, then why would it be so hard to imagine Purdue going up to Crisler Arena and winning? Answer: it’s not. That’s not a guarantee that it’s going to happen, but far more shocking things have happened. Hell, they happened in back to back games last night.
Look, has this team underperformed to this point? It’s arguable, but yes, I would say they have. But they’re not that bad off. They’re sitting at 3-4 in a tough conference, which is identical to Indiana, a team that somehow is generating some buzz for the tournament right now. All that buzz seems to stem from the Hoosiers being a young team that’s beating Wisconsin in Bloomington. Well, if Purdue can win tonight, they would be 4-4, tied in the conference with that same Wisconsin team, and have a win over the top team in the conference at their place. That should certainly buy some buzz. And it would firmly keep Purdue on the road map to the tournament that I laid out earlier. Be bummed right now if you want, Boiler fans. That’s perfectly all right. But don’t give up hope yet! Even if they don’t win tonight, all it takes is a good showing and some good wins down the road to keep on track. And there will be opportunities for those good wins.
And if they end up in the NIT, honestly, with how this team is built, winning a few games in that tournament would not be the worst thing in the world.
No, the worst thing in the world might possibly be the CBI. I tried to polish that turd as best I could last season, but good God, looking back, I can’t scrub the stench of that showing off fast enough.