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OSIPOFF: Purdue’s chances at .500 record, any postseason tourney, virtually non-existent

Purdue head coach Matt Painter first half an NCAA college basketball game against IndianWest Lafayette Ind. Wednesday Jan. 30 2013.

Purdue head coach Matt Painter in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in West Lafayette, Ind., Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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The Big Number

Purdue’s average margin of defeat in its eight conference losses is 20.1 points, with none of those losses coming by fewer than 10 points.

The Bonus

Purdue committed 17 turnovers in each of its games last week, on the road against Illinois and Indiana.

“We just didn’t take care of the basketball, just didn’t pay attention to detail,” said Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, whose team averages 12.8 turnovers per game. “… We have to do a better job of valuing each possession, and trying to manufacture a good shot.”

Updated: March 22, 2013 10:41AM



Perhaps it should have been abundantly clear when Purdue lost at Northwestern. Or maybe when the Boilermakers lost at Illinois.

But there seemed to have been at least a glimmer of hope for them to make the postseason, even the NCAA Tournament, as farfetched as it might sound.

Now? The NIT, or CBI or CIT, all seem unrealistic.

Purdue has made six straight NCAA Tournament appearances under Matt Painter — averaging 25.2 wins in the process, with no fewer than 22 (first and last) and a high of 29 — missing out only in his first season, when the Boilermakers went 9-19 in 2005-06.

Obviously, they have already surpassed that win total this season — this group, and the program in general, has not fallen on times that hard. But with a 12-14 record, with five games left in the regular season, it’s going to be a major challenge for these Boilermakers to reach the .500 mark.

From where are the wins going to come? The schedule goes: Northwestern, at Iowa, at Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota. Are there really four wins there? More like two, probably. And figure Purdue could get out of the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, then fall to one of the upper-division teams in the quarterfinals.

And that’s likely that.

The Boilermakers are in the middle of their bye between the latest pummeling they absorbed from Indiana and their second game against Northwestern. With the additional practice time, maybe they can address some of their issues, iron out some things. But it’s doubtful. As Painter himself said, it’s February, and these guys have been at it for a while now, freshmen or not.

He has openly questioned this team’s effort and playing hard and toughness and work ethic — all traditional Purdue staples. He has wondered aloud about the possibility of players prematurely leaving the program, because of a lack of fit.

But make no mistake, too, there is a talent gap, especially in this ferocious Big Ten. Yes, there are nice players, promising pieces. There’s probably even enough talent on the roster to have several more wins.

But Painter has been unable to extract it. And he has tried it all, rifled through that coach’s toolbox, from pats on the back to kicks in the pants (figuratively), and everything in between. He is admittedly as frustrated as he has been in his tenure.

After a woefully disjointed non-conference season — understandable, as it was still at a point when youth and inexperience could be used as a reason for such inconsistency — the Boilermakers appeared to have made strides, if not out-and-out turned a corner. But they since have regressed, with perhaps the weight of the losses accumulating, irreparably damaging their psyche and self-belief.

They’ve lost three straight games, five of six, and six of eight.

This freshman class still has oodles of potential. And the incoming three-player recruiting class is also highly regarded (with Purdue actively pursuing spring signees).

But for now — unless there’s some sort of dramatic turnaround, one this team has given little indication it is capable of engineering at this late date — what very well could prove to be a transitional season to another prosperous era almost assuredly will end in Chicago.



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