That said, when the Boilermakers open the postseason tournament tonight at 7 p.m. in Mackey Arena against short-handed Western Illinois, Matt Painter will be coaching to win.
"You coach it like a Big Ten game," Painter said. "Everything's going to be the same."
The team will look the same, all the same players playing the same amount, presumably. How that team handles itself will be interesting.
To close the regular season, the Boilermakers played their best basketball of a season in which they were maddeningly inconsistent and struggled more so than at any point in time since 2005-06, when it was simply out-manned.
But that momentum didn't carry over to the Big Ten Tournament, where Purdue regressed and was beaten by Nebraska.
"The whole year I talked about our immaturity," Painter said. "... Our immaturity isn't just from our freshmen, and it just rears its ugly head and it happened the other night when we start taking shots we haven't taken in a month and start having defensive breakdowns when we know what's coming on the other end, having those mental lapses.
"It's frustrating, really frustrating. That's what we were doing in the middle of January right there, giving other teams points, then not executing on the offensive end â€¦ then taking bad shots. It was really disappointing, but like I said during the year, we got what we deserved, because we just didn't have a mature approach."
Now, it might be the ultimate test of that maturity. Painter talked earlier in the week about some players maybe not being "gung ho" about playing. For their part, players this week have said all the right things about being enthused just to get to play again, but the best way to back up words is with action, starting tonight against the Leathernecks, who were 22-8 this season and 13-3 in the Summit Conference.
With a win, Purdue would host either Santa Clara or Vermont Monday.
The Boilermakers would have to win three games to reach the CBI finals, which are played in best-of-three format.
F: D.J. Byrd
C: A.J. Hammons
F: Jack Houpt (6-7, 210, Sr.)
F: Adam Link (6-6, 210, Jr.)
C: Michael Ochereobia (6-8, 260, Jr.)
G: Jordan Foster (5-11, 175, Fr.)
G: Remy Roberts-Burnett (6-0, 180, So.)
Guard Ceola Clark III, who averages 12.5 points, tore his ACL in the Summit League Tournament and won't play, obviously. ... Forward Terrell Parks has been out with an ankle injury. He's Western's leading scorer (12.7) and rebounder (9.6). ... Western Illinois is ranked 18th in the CollegeInsider mid-major top-25 poll ... the Leathernecks foul less than any team in the country, just 12.6 times per game. ... Terrell Parks (6-8, 250) leads Western at 12.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. ... Coach Jim Molinari was the interim coach at Minnesota after Dan Monson was fired. ... associate head coach Billy Wright was formerly the coach at Pike High School in Indianapolis. ... strength coach Drew Kramer was on the strength at Purdue before moving to the Leathernecks.
Game time: 7 p.m. ET
Radio: Purdue Sports Network (95.7 FM locally)
TV: AXS TV
Internet: GoldandBlack.com subscribers can follow along live with our in-game blog, "Game Day Live."
Things to think about
1. Who really wants to play? This is very simple: Western Illinois' best should be no match for Purdue's best, but is Purdue motivated enough to bring its best? You're going to find out real quick just how engaged the Boilermakers are in playing a tournament many of them had probably never heard of prior to the past few weeks or even days.
2. How does Matt Painter handle his team? Obviously the idea of playing to get more experience is relevant to next season's team. Does that mean the younger players play more? They can't play much more than they are anyway.
(Painter has already promised to coach like it's a regular season game that matters, but we only bring it up because at this stage of the season, we just need something to write about it. Not going to lie.)
3. What kind of crowd shows up? Tickets are relatively cheap and response has seemed positive.
GoldandBlack.com Prediction: If Purdue plays well, Western Illinois shouldn't pose much resistance, especially without one of its top players. As with an early season game, if Purdue just plays like it's capable, it should roll over the short-handed Leathernecks. If it doesn't, things could be interesting for a while at least.
Purdue 80, Western Illinois 60
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