Purdue Basketball 2021-22: Let’s Start the Show

I turned 42 last month.

I’ve thought a lot about that. The average American lifespan is 78.8 years. Obviously there are highs and (unfortunately) extreme lows that skew that, but I had grandparents who lived to be 91, 88, and 83. I’m fairly healthy, so the 84-85 range is probably fair, and maybe a few more with medical advances in the years to come.

Still, I’m about half way. My bones hurt a little more. It takes a few extra moments to get going in the morning. I have had multiple foot surgeries in my life and may need more later on. Time is undefeated and when it comes to Purdue Men’s Basketball, time is both hopeful and cruel.

Technically I can say that Purdue has played in a Final Four in my life. On March 22, 1980, the Boilers faced UCLA at Market Square Arena, losing 67-62. Two days later, they defeated Iowa 75-58 for the now-defunct game for third place, but it’s now been 15,205 days since our last appearance on the final weekend of college basketball. In that period we only came into a match three times.

I was 162 days old for that UCLA game.

If you are a Purdue basketball fan, there is always hope. Over the past 40+ years, we have always been a top 25 team and NCAA tournament participant. Since that 1980 tournament, 40 tournaments have been played (2020 was cancelled). Purdue has played 29 of them. They made another five NIT appearances, so count those as “close to the tournament”. That leaves only six of the last 40 where Purdue was either in the Big Dance or just outside it, going into the end of the season with at least a chance. With 41 years of only two coaches, one of which easily transitions to the chosen replacement, that’s enough. For the vast majority of NCAA Division I schools, a single appearance on the field is a program dream. We are blessed to be in the handful of schools where making it is just the bare minimum expectation.

Still… 15,205 days, and by April 2, 2022, the day of the next Final Four, it will be 15,349 days.

There is a lot of heartbreak in those performances. 1988 had Kansas State upset after we destroyed them by 30+ in the regular season. 1994 was the return of Big Dog. 1996 seriously underperformed as the No. 1 seed. In 1998, Mark Madsen defeated Brad Miller with impunity. 2000 was the broken streak ruined by Wisconsin, our third defeat in four games against them that year. Hummel’s knee in 2010. VCU led us off the floor in 2011 (and Hummel’s knee too). Kansas destroyed us in 2017. Haas elbow in 2018. Clark to Diakite in 2019. Even last year was disappointing as we fell victim to a top 4 seed who got upset in the first round for the first time. I didn’t even mention teams that probably wouldn’t make it to the Final Four but still suffered painful losses like Cincinnati and Little Rock.

I feel like Captain Ahab right now. I’ve seen Purdue do everything in college basketball except make it last weekend. It has become an obsession in my brain. I have to see it. Big ten titles are not enough. Pre-season accolades aren’t enough. Only March is important. Until we make it, everything else feels like a disappointment, especially after being in the arena in 2019 and half a second away. I’m a Cubs fan and they even won the damn World Series in my lifetime. We can’t get a fucking Final Four if we’ve been much better at our sport than the Cubs?

15,205 days, and those 40+ years are only there because of half a second.

March is cruel. Excellent teams fall all the time, the best example is UMBC over Virginia. A year later, they still came back to win the title. I see teams like George Mason, Butler, VCU, Wichita State and Loyola-Chicago running into this past weekend and they’re great stories, but there’s a certain feeling of “Oh. Come on. On. THEY can do it, but WE can’t? ”

When you have a team like this year’s team, it’s impossible not to think about April 2, 2022. I work for a real estate management company in Indianapolis. A few weeks ago, I casually mentioned to the VP of my department that I was looking at refundable flights to New Orleans for the week. You know, just in case. I said I wanted to fly back on Wednesday just because it was significantly cheaper than Tuesday after the title match. She then told me, “We have residences there. If you work from their office or go between them to take website photos, you probably don’t need any free time and we can even pay to fly you back.”

I told her to shut up and go back to her office (funny, of course. She’s a Purdue fan too.”

There looms April 2, 2022. It’s tantalizing. Experts pick Purdue to make it and maybe even win the whole damn thing. However, the crux of the tournament is that with all hopes you can get to March 26 or 27 (the days of the regional finals) in less than a week, but not make it.

I lived those 15,205 days. I’ve seen at least half a dozen teams good enough to make it (1994, 2000, 2010, 2011, 2018 and 2019 being the best odds) come up short. There’s a nagging sense of doom in my bones that no matter how good things look, a Haas or Hummel situation can happen in the blink of an eye. You wonder if there is a higher power that prevents this. It gives you PTSD (Purdue Tournament Stress Disorder). A season like Purdue football feels a bit more pleasant because we might get 8-4 (or better!) out of nowhere, while basketball has sky-high expectations.

It’s hope, but it kills you.

Is typing nearly 1,000 words on this a sign that I’m crazy through and through? Probably. Still, this season is full of hope. Purdue is as talented as any team from the past 41 years, and it is also deeper and more experienced. Everything is in the right place, and as the shooting comes from outside, plus a little more defense, April 2, 2022 is getting a little closer every day. I think the shooting will come. Brandon Newman and Sasha Stefanovic are too good not to come, plus the other role players who can hit. Get tired of it and defense is even less important.

I really think that not only can this team make it to April 2, 2022, it will prefer to do so unless something happens to Purdue. It is arguably the most complete Purdue team in terms of talent, depth and experience in my life. It’s going to be very, very good, and when it does, there will be very few teams that can beat it.

I think back to that night in Louisville. I was guarded all night. I was guarded because Carsen Edwards was practically glowing, he was so hot. I was guarded when Grady Eifert grabbed that rebound that meant “hit free throws and fasten”. I was guarded when we made a mistake sending them to the line. The ONLY time I let myself believe it happened was when the ball was tipped into the backcourt. I felt like it would either go out of bounds and be our ball, 70 feet from their basket, with maybe 2 seconds to go, or they would have to throw half a court. That’s when my brain finally said, “We’re going to the Final Four and I’m diving into the Purdue fans behind me.”

I think about that moment, all the way back to Indy that night. I’ve thought about it a lot since then.

However, this team can do it. This team can have a great regular season leading to that favorable path as a 1 or 2 seed. I would like a 25 . wante Big Ten Championship and third in the last six years, but I’m dying to be in New Orleans on April 2, 2022. This team can end that drought after 15,349 days. It’s so good. It may even be good enough to end the drought of “no NCAA tournament championships since the Big Bang”.

Before the 1950 World Cup Final, Uruguay was a massive underdog to host nation Brazil. After the team’s coach gave them a likely futile strategy, the team’s captain, Obdulio Varela, gave an emotional speech about going against the odds and not being intimidated by a crowd that most accounts for 200,000 people in favor of Brazil. used to be. the famous Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro. He closed with the line,”Guys, the outsiders are made of wood. Let the show begin(“Guys, outsiders don’t play. Let’s start with the show”).

They went out and stunned the Brazilians 2-1 to win the World Cup.

I am an outsider. I have absolutely nothing to say about making it to April 2, 2022, so my fear of “Oh God, when is it going to go horribly wrong” means nothing. I’ll be there, basking in Mackey’s glow as much as I can and hopefully over the next five months I can enjoy what could be an incredible ride. This group, this team, has more than enough capacity to get the job done. They know, and I think they will play extremely well with that pressure because even the 2018 team seemed to be getting tight the longer that win streak went on. I don’t see that in Jaden Ivey and Trevion Williams. Ivey especially wants that pressure. He lives off it. He gets better and wants those moments.

These guys can make sure it doesn’t get to 15,350 days.

Let’s start with the show.

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