Purdue doesn't need your sympathy. Not with that defense.
The Boilermakers beat 13-seed Siena 72-64 on Friday, yet were the upset pick for the first round. Nearly 37 percent of voters from ESPN's tournament challenge had them losing, a higher percentage than any 12-5 games. Even President Obama picked against Purdue in his bracket.
|As long Purdue plays defense like this, it'll be a tough out in the NCAA tournament.
Turns out that was a motivational factor.
"The biggest thing for me was when President Obama said he felt sorry for us," guard Lewis Jackson said afterward. "Guys don't want people to feel sorry for us. We want to prove that we still have a lot of talent and can make a big run in the tournament."
Guess Obama lost the West Lafayette vote.
The sympathy started when forward Robbie Hummel tore his ACL during the last week of February. As Purdue's best all-around player and top outside shooter, most – including me – wrote off the Boilers as a Final Four contender.
Since the injury, Purdue is 4-2 and hasn't been the same team on offense. The bottom was an 11-point first half during a loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament.
But the defense remains potent. Dan Hanner from Yet Another Basketball Blog ran comparisons of Purdue pre- and post-Hummel injury and found that the offense dropped significantly – but the defense actually got better. A spot in the Final Four is still a longshot, but this isn't a team that's going quietly.
That was the case against Siena. The Boilermakers held the Saints to .826 points per possession, a performance that would've been impressive even with Hummel.
Never underestimate the power of a perceived slight.
"You can't help but see it," guard Keaton Grant said. "You've got analysts picking against you. You've got the president picking against you. We were very aware. It was just more motivation."
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