It was a reasonably successful first weekend for the Big Ten in NCAA play. Three of the four teams won their first-round games and Michigan State & Wisconsin are still preparing for next weekend. We'll have plenty of time the rest of the week to discuss the Spartans & Badgers, but first things first. A proper burial needs to be given to the seasons of Indiana & Purdue.
The Boilermakers turned in a solid tournament effort, outgunning Baylor in the first round 90-79, before dropping an 85-78 decision to Xavier on Saturday. Keaton Grant played well the entire weekend, knocking in a combined 36 points. Matt Painter also got good production out of his bench. Terrence Crump scored eleven in both games and JaJuan Johnson chipped in ten during the Baylor win. Overall, good three-point shooting triggered Thursday's win, while Saturday's defeat was driven by three Xavier players scoring 15-plus, and the Musketeers shooting 54 percent from the floor.
It was a season that ought to be looked on with great pride in West Lafayette, as a group that was too young and too inexperienced, contended for the Big Ten title to the very last weekend and then won an NCAA Tournament game for the second straight year. Painter is coach of the year in a league that had a number of deserving candidates for that honor. The future looks bright for this program and Jeff Washburn at Boiler Station writes that all they need is experience.
The obituary for Purdue's downstate rival isn't going to be quite as upbeat. Indiana tanked in the first round against Arkansas, dropping an 86-72 decision. Kelvin Sampson may not have been good about monitoring his phone usage, but the man could coach defense. And when he left, the Hoosiers turned into a sieve. In the loss, Eric Gordon was a non-factor, scoring only eight points. The future of this program now stands in doubt. Gordon is likely leaving for the NBA, D.J. White will be gone, and the second coaching search in three years is about to get underway. Indiana continues to look for someone who can both win and do it cleanly. Of course one such candidate recently left his job at Texas Tech. But that's probably overestimating the capacity of the IU administration to admit a mistake, isn't it? Dan Dakich is making his pitch to return as head man.