Oklahoma basketball freshman phenom Trae Young sat in his chair with his head down clutching both fists hoping to hear his school’s name while the 68 teams competing in the NCAA Tournament were revealed on Selection Sunday.
The Sooners were called to the dance, and Young shook his clutched fist while continuing to hold his head down in relief before joining the rest of his teammates in celebration.
That’s what Selection Sunday looks like for bubble teams like Oklahoma, which lost eight of its final 10 games to close the regular season.
There was no looking away from the screen or clutching of fists hoping that his season continued for players like Isaac Haas, who helped lead Purdue to a 28-6 record and a Big Ten Tournament championship game appearance. Consistency has been the formula for much of the Boilermakers’ season outside of one three-game stretch in February, when they lost consecutive games to three Big Ten opponents.
It’s been an exhilarating regular-season experience for Purdue fans, but great regular-season showings are no longer enough for a program that’s made the tournament four consecutive years. The fans are primed and ready for a postseason run. Repeating last year’s Sweet Sixteen appearance that ended in a 32-point loss to No. 1-seeded Kansas won’t cut it for this season’s East Region No. 2 seed.
Fans are expecting a potential Final Four run, and the weight of the season just might fall on the shoulders of the 7-2 center Haas. Haas is 290 pounds of pure consistency, shooting 62 percent from the field on the season. He’s a dying breed in today’s college game that has fallen in love with the 3-point shot.
Haas is a hard-nosed hustler who lives around the rim, averaging just under 15 points and nearly six rebounds per game. The type of big man that shoots 0 for 0 from deep in 138 career games, he’s an ideal post player. The Boilermakers aren’t short of 3-point shooters, either, having hit 42 percent of their shots from behind the arc, which ranks second in Division I.
Sophomore point guard Carson Edwards runs the ship, averaging a team-high 18.5 points per game. Six-eight senior forward Vincent Edwards helps Hass bang down low with a team-leading seven rebounds per game and helps spread the floor by shooting 39 percent from 3-point range.
This Boilermaker team could be remembered as one of the best if this group of core players helps lead them deep into the postseason.
Purdue has the talent to go deep, but the challenge will be playing up to its potential every game on its way to the Final Four. Possibly meeting Arkansas in the second round could present some problems, and getting past No. 1-seeded Villanova in a possible Elite Eight match up won’t be easy, either.
Michigan State is the favorite of the Big Ten schools to go the deepest, and Michigan has validated its talent by knocking off both Michigan State and Purdue on its way to winning the conference tournament.
As far as Indiana fans are concerned, Purdue is our best bet for a Final Four appearance. If Butler manages to get past Arkansas in the first round as a 10th seed, it will meet its match against the Boilermakers.
Purdue could be the standard of consistency for the state of Indiana with a deep tournament run this year.