Salt Lake City, Utah - I visited all the landmarks in Salt Lake City: the Great Salt Lake, the 2002 Winter Olympics Cauldron Park, the Utah state capital, the Mormon church headquarters and the Rose Park Coin Laundry. With clean underwear, I am now ready to switch my reporting duties from the Purdue Boilermakers to the Butler Bulldogs.
But first a few closing thoughts on the Boilermakers, who I covered in Spokane, Washington, last week. Purdue advancing to the Sweet 16 is a huge accomplishment for a team that most experts (and maybe even some fans) had written off after Robbie Hummel’s injury. Chris Kramer’s toughness and determination has spread throughout the whole team.
The Boilermakers have proven many people wrong, including me. I thought this was a Final Four team with Hummel. I thought they would win one tourney game without him. I can’t see the Boilers beating Duke. But maybe that’s just the kind of motivation Purdue needs to hear. Hummel will join the team in Houston, giving Purdue another emotional boost.
Going from Spokane to Salt Lake City made more sense than coming home and leaving the next day, and saved Channel 13 a few dollars. So that’s why I’m with the Bulldogs now. Butler is in my Final Four. But I realize I’m going with a big underdog. Syracuse is a very good number one seed. The Orange won their first two games in the NCAA tourney by more than 20 points each.
Butler will have to play its best game of the season. Birthday boy Gordon Hayward, who turned 20 Tuesday, will have to perform the way every Bulldog fan knows he can. We have not seen that game from him for awhile. Butler has never advanced to the Elite 8. I think this is Butler’s best team and now is the time. Brad Stevens will be a hot coaching commodity at the Final Four. I hope he’s still coaching Butler that weekend.
Syracuse has often been a team ripe for an upset in the NCAA tourney. If Northern Iowa can beat Kansas, I believe Butler can beat Syracuse.
-Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter
TheSportsGuy13 on Twitter
Spokane, Washington – Purdue plays in about one hour here in the Northwest, a long way from the Final Four in Indianapolis. Purdue looks like a long shot. A Final Four favorite just a month ago, now the Boilermakers are many experts’ target for an upset today at the hands of 13th seed Siena.
While I can’t see Purdue getting any farther than the Sweet 16 (and that would be a good accomplishment for this now vulnerable squad), I do believe they will win today. Siena is a good team with 27 wins, champions of the MAAC. The Saints are in the NCAA tourney for the third straight year and have pulled off upsets in their first round game the last two years. The last time Siena lost was to Butler February 20th. The Bulldogs proved just how good they are Thursday in a first round blowout of UTEP (I’ve got Butler in the Final Four and I don’t think I look too crazy anymore).
But Siena has not beaten anybody that would impress you. The Saints played some good teams: Temple, Georgia Tech, Northern Iowa and Butler. Siena lost all of those games. Purdue may not be what it once was. But the Boilermakers are still good enough to beat the Saints. The 2nd round will be a little trickier. Check back with me on that.
A couple more thoughts before tipoff:
-Purdue has won 11 straight first round NCAA tournament games. That’s an impressive run that will not end today.
-Senior Keaton Grant has played in 99 victories, the most of any player in Purdue history. A win today would make a nice even 100. I’m afraid that’s where it will stop.
If Robbie Hummel comes back healthy next fall, Purdue will be a potential number one team in the nation. Until then, Boilermaker fans may have to settle for one and done.
Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter
Follow Rich at TheSportsGuy13 on Twitter
“We’ve had a few ups and downs, which was expected, but it’s the tournament now and the only thing we can do is just try to move forward and stay strong as a team and go out and get ready to try to win our ball game tomorrow,” said E’Twaun Moore, junior guard.
“I really didn’t have time to feel sorry for us. We’re in the middle of the Big Ten championship. We were able to accomplish that. So for the most part our team just handled the whole situation well. We knew we had to move on and just be ready to play,” said JuJuan Johnson, junior forward.
“I’m about 75 percent right now. Hopefully get a little bit better tomorrow – that’ll take a lot of pressure off if I’m feeling better, so hopefully get a little better percentage tomorrow when it’s time to play,” said Lewis Jackson, point guard.
Robbie Hummel’s season-ending knee injury is so unfortunate on many levels. First for Hummel: he missed several games last season with a bad back. He came back strong this season and was a finalist for some player of the year awards. For the Purdue Boilermakers, they lose a player who does just about everything well. As Hummel goes, so goes the Boilers. But Hummel will not be going anywhere but rehab. And for Purdue fans, this was the season the Boilermakers could get back to the Final Four in Indianapolis, just like they did in 1980. Now that seems unlikely.
This Purdue team is playing so well. After a disappointing skid of three games early in the Big Ten season, the Boilermakers have won 10 straight games to take sole posession of first place in the conference. Purdue has climbed to 3rd in the national rankings. A top seed in the NCAA tourney is a definite possibility. But I’ve heard many people say Purdue just went from a Final Four team to a Sweet 16 squad. I can’t disagree.
If the Boilermakers still want to reach their goals of a Big Ten championship and Final Four run, they have to keep playing with the guts and determination they did at Minnesota after Hummel went down. JaJaun Johnson has to own the paint without getting in foul trouble. Keaton Grant has to play like a senior who only has a few games left and wants to save the best for last. Chris Kramer has to be a shut down defender against the opponent’s best player.
All that is possible, but difficult to sustain. Hummel is a huge loss. Purdue’s Sunday game against Michigan State will be a good indicator of the mental fortitude of the Boilermakers after taking such a big blow.
-Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter
TheSportsGuy13 on Twitter
New Orleans has upset Indianapolis to win Super Bowl XLIV.
As Peyton Manning tried to rally the team to yet another fourth quarter comeback this season, he was intercepted by Saints defensive back Tracey Porter, who returned the pick 78 yards for a touchdown.
Porter, a Louisiana native, played collegiately at Indiana University.
After a first quarter dominated by Peyton Manning and the Colts’ defense, New Orleans has raced back, used a surprise to take the lead early in the third quarter.
Trailing 10-6 at halftime, the Saints recovered an onside kick after the break. After an extensive scrum, New Orleans was given possession and moved right down the field, getting into the end zone with a 16-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Pierre Thomas to take a 13-10 lead.
But the Colts didn’t take long to answer. Read more.
“They did a nice job, obviously, moving the ball down on us. We didn’t help with a couple penalties there. They kept drives going but we had a big stop down there and kept them out of the end zone. But our guys gotta pick it up in the second half,” said Colts Coach Jim Caldwell at the start of half-time.