Purdue University: Sweet 16 Bound?

Tim CarySenior Analyst IMarch 18, 2008

Of any potential sleeper in the NCAA tournament, Purdue might be the most obvious pick.  And since I'm a Purdue fan, that doesn't bother me—I'm taking the Boilermakers to get into the Sweet 16!

Why Purdue?

For starters, of all the teams that qualify as a Bleacher Report sleeper (#6-16 seeds), they're one of the highest seeds as a No. 6 seed.  Purdue has been ranked consistently in the top 20 nationally for the last month and a half, and was projected into a No. 4 or No. 5 seed until slipping up in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals against Illinois.

Also, the potential matchups are great.  Obviously no team in the NCAAs can be taken lightly, but of the possible opponents, Purdue got a great draw.  On Thursday afternoon, the Boilermakers will tangle with the Baylor Bears, who were the very last at-large team to make the field, according to the CBS Selection Show.   

In the second round, Purdue will most likely meet Xavier, a No. 3 seed.  The Musketeers have had a wonderful year, but do not hail from one of the BCS conferences, and have struggled through some injuries lately.  Any team that gets a top-three seed should be respected, but really, who would you rather play?  Xavier?  Or a team like Wisconsin? (sixth-ranked nationally but also a No. 3 seed)

Speaking of the Badgers, that brings me to Purdue's body of work in the 2007-08 season.  The Boilermakers boast two wins over their conference foes from Madison, and are the only team in Wisconsin's last 25 games to defeat the "Big Red".  Purdue has wins over Michigan State (home) and Louisville (neutral) this year as well.  

I won't try and convince you that Purdue players have a lot of tournament experience - every basketball fan has heard the nickname "Baby Boilers" to describe a team with only one junior and one senior in the rotation.  However, this team has not played like underclassmen in January and February, and I don't expect them to pull a "freshman moment" in March. 

One more reason to watch out for Purdue: they have a chance to get healthy.  I would have loved to see the Big Ten tournament trophy heading to West Lafayette, but Purdue's quick exit in the quarterfinals gave a few extra days of healing time to injured guards Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant.  Kramer (the league's Defensive Player of the Year) and Grant are the only returning starters from last year's NCAA squad, and both should be in better physical shape for getting the weekend off.

I think Purdue really deserved a higher seed than the No. 6 they got, but as a fan, I'm thrilled with their draw...and as a Bleacher Report writer, I'm ecstatic they qualify as a potential BracketBreaker.