Remember that Purdue men's basketball team that looked like it was floating upside down in the Wabash River? It doesn't exist any longer.
Sure, Boilermakers coach Matt Painter's squad appeared dead for the season just over 48 hours ago, but when a team finds a way to win at Wisconsin, bringing its record to 14-15, and has the mathematical possibility of climbing as high as sixth in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament – hey, nothing's over until Sandi Marcius says it is!
What looked like a team that had no shot at earning any type of postseason berth a week ago, suddenly could possibly finish this season with a winning record – which very easily could earn the Boilermakers (7-9 Big Ten) a berth in some postseason event.
It's amazing what one road win — albeit an incredibly impressive one — can do for a program.
“For us, it let us know that we can compete on the road against a really good team,” Painter said.
Purdue will host seventh-ranked Michigan (24-5, 11-5) at 7 p.m. today (BTN).
The Boilermakers hadn't beaten a good team on the road since beating the Wolverines 75-61 on Feb. 25… of last year.
Their only league road wins this season had come over Nebraska and Penn State, and by definition, those two don't fall under any category with the descriptive word of “good” attached.
“It wasn't one of those things where you beat a really good team in your backyard,” Painter said.
This Boilermakers team had done nothing but struggle this season on the road – and very often at Mackey Arena. So when Painter's crew fell behind 13 points with 6:59 left in the first half in Madison, there was little reason to believe that Purdue would prevail.
“A lot of things were pointing to the same old story,” Painter said. “Our guys were able to hang in there and make some plays.”
On Tuesday, Iowa topped Illinois (63-55), which leaves those two teams, along with Purdue, each with nine league losses. The Boilermakers host Minnesota (8-8) at noon Saturday, so the possibility of all four squads finishing with nine losses very easily could occur. However, regardless of how each team finishes, Purdue has a winnable (and losable if you've followed this team this season) game to open the conference tournament in Chicago on March 14.
“Once you see us have success,” Painter said, “it comes down to us rebounding the basketball, taking care of the basketball, and taking good shots.”