Purdue coach Matt Painter sees time off this month as a positive

Purdue men's basketball coach Matt Painter argues a call during the second half of a game earlier this season against Indiana in Bloomington. (By The Associated Press)
Purdue's Vincent Edwards (12) goes to the basket against Indiana's Justin Smith during the first half of a game earlier this season in Bloomington. (By The Associated Press)

Purdue has had the better part of five days to rest their bodies and prepare for its opening game Friday in the Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Following a condensed tournament schedule that could possibly last through Sunday, the Boilermakers could have another extended break leading into the NCAA Tournament, which would start for Purdue on March 15.

All of that time could be beneficial, according to Boilermaker coach Matt Painter.

“If people are injured,” Painter said, “you’re going to get healthy. Everybody is kind of worn down at that time. The one thing you want to be able to do is you want to be able to stay on edge.”

The No. 8 Boilermakers (26-5) will face the winner of Indiana (16-14) vs. Rutgers (14-18) Friday at (approximately) 9 p.m. (BTN).

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Purdue shouldn’t have too much difficulty staying “on edge,” especially if it has to face its biggest rival in the Hoosiers. This year will be the 14th time (13th at Purdue) that Painter has led a team into a postseason conference tournament and he said that there is no magic formula to managing any time off successfully.

“It’s hard to like say, ‘Hey, this is the right thing,'” Painter said. “I think the one thing that you do have experience of, you have experience of coaching your team. I don’t think there’s just a theory out there for all teams to jump on. You’ve got to have a pulse on your team.”

Painter not only has the “pulse” of this team, but the group also has the “pulse” on itself due to its experience.

With four senior starters having played 135 games, this is a team that knows how to prepare for its postseason play.

“You don’t want to go scrimmage and be competitive and go crazy and somebody gets hurt,” Painter said. “So you don’t want that, either. But you also want to keep them fresh. You want to shoot the basketball. But you want to be able to keep them on edge.”

The only injury that Purdue has had to deal with of late is an ankle sprain to senior forward Vince Edwards. However, after sitting out a couple of games, Edwards came back to play 25 minutes in a rout of Minnesota on Feb. 25 at Mackey Arena.

“I thought he looked good out there,” Painter said following that game. “I don’t think he looked 100 percent for me, but I’m also guessing just watching him. But I thought it was a good game for him to kind of get the rust off.

“Any time you sit out, it’s not as much the ankle sometimes, it’s the fact that you haven’t practiced. He needs to keep getting treatment, keep working on it, but he also needs to be able to practice, and I think once you practice and you kind of get back into your flow, it really helps you come game time.”

With the unique schedule for this year’s league tourney (it is being played a week ahead of time in order to hold it at Madison Square Garden), Painter said that time between tournaments (11 days) could prove to be beneficial for a team like his, which has secured a berth into the NCAA Tournament, which opens on March 15.

“I think a lot of people are making more of it,” Painter said of the elongated break in games. “It kind of gives a story line, but there’s not much to it. It’s a week before. It is seven days before. It’s not that big a deal.

“I think people have that, like when you go deep into a tournament, a conference tournament that is, sometimes playing back in the NCAA Tournament, it’s taken a little bit out of you. Sometimes getting beat in the conference tournament if you’re a team that is already in can help you a little bit. Sometimes none of what I just said matters.”

History shows that despite being the third seed overall, nothing is a given for the Boilermakers in this tournament.

Of the 13 times that Purdue has earned a bye into the quarterfinals, its overall record is only 6-7.

The Boilermakers have advanced to the finals three times (the last being 2016), while their last championship was in 2009.

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