Purdue’s NCAA Tournament History Under Matt Painter

Last night did not go well. That much we can all admit. Kansas outplayed Purdue and deserved to win that game.

After the game if you venture anywhere on the internet you can find basically two schools of thought. The first is that Painter is terrible and deserves to be dragged into the street, tarred and feathered, and then hanged for his sins against Purdue basketball. The second, and I believe the more reasonable, is that Purdue simply seems to run into the hot team or the team that is a bad matchup for them. Another explanation is that Purdue never seems to find their way into the broken bracket. Rather than agree with this opinion without doing any research I went ahead and took a look at Purdue’s NCAA history under Matt Painter to make up my own mind. Let’s go year by year shall we?

2007- Purdue gets to the NCAA Tournament for the first time under Matt Painter in just his second season as head coach. This is following Gene Keady’s last year when the team went 7-21 and Painter’s first year when the team went 9-19. Purdue was a 9 seed which means after their first round victory they faced a 1 seed. They lost to Florida but gave them their closest game of the tournament. Florida would go on to win the National Title.

2008- With more experience Purdue rose to a 6 seed and after their first round victory they faced a 3rd seeded Xavier team that was simply bigger but also more athletic. Purdue lost and Xavier would go on to the Elite Eight.

2009- With more improvement Purdue would go in as a 5 seed and advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time under Painter. They would lose to 1 seed UCONN who would eventually make it to the Final Four.

2010- We all know what happened in 2010 so I’m not gonna mention it. Purdue was a 4 seed and made it to the Sweet Sixteen again. While there they faced 1 seed Duke and lost. Duke would go on to win the National Title.

2011- Purdue achieved their highest seed under Painter here with a 3 seed. They won their first round game and then faced 11 seeded VCU in what most of us thought would be a layup. Unfortunately, VCU, a first four team, was a buzzsaw and ran through everyone they faced on their way to the Final Four.

2012- Purdue was a lowly 10 seed here but was lucky to be in the tournament. The heroics of Robbie Hummel made this possible. Purdue would win their first game but fall to 2 seed Kansas in the round of 32. Kansas would be the National Runner-Up.

2015- After deciding the NCAA was cool again and they should come back Purdue was a 9 seed and lost to 8 seeded Cincinnati in overtime. Cincinnati would win only this game and lose in the round of 32.

2016- Purdue again faltered in the first round. Purdue was given a 5 seed by the committee and faced University of Arkansas Little Rock the 12 seed in the dreaded 5/12 matchup. Purdue would lose again in the first round but this time in double overtime. ALR would lose in the round of 32.

2017- Purdue was a 4 seed and B1G Champion. They made it to the Sweet Sixteen and lost to 1 seed Kansas. Obviously we don’t yet know how far Kansas is going but as of this writing they are in the Elite Eight.

So, what does all this mean. Well let’s take a look at some numbers.
  • Painter’s record in the tournament with Purdue is 10-9.
  • Of those 9 losses 4 are to 1 seeds.
  • Of those 9 losses 5 have made it to the Final Four or better. This is still pending Kansas who could very well make this 6 of 9 losses.
  • Of those 9 losses 3 are to teams that played in the title game. (Pending Kansas)
  • Of those 9 losses 2 of them are to the eventual national champion. (Pending Kansas)
  • Of those 9 losses just 3 of them have been to teams that were seeded below Purdue.
  • In the 3 Sweet Sixteen appearances Painter has led Purdue to the team has never faced anything but a 1 seed. That means Purdue has never been the beneficiary of a broken bracket under Matt Painter.
To me this proves the idea that Purdue simply has faced some very tough opposition in the NCAA Tournament. I think the numbers back that up especially the number of teams (5) that have gone on to make the Final Four after beating Purdue in just nine tries.

The counter-argument here is of course that Purdue simply needs to have a better regular season, be seeded on the 1-3 line and they would avoid the 1 seed for longer. That’s certainly true and there’s no real way to deny that. If Painter wants to have NCAA success the regular season has to be better. Purdue had such a season in 2010 until things fell apart. That injury caused their seed to drop from a likely 1 or 2 all the way to a 4.

There’s a certain element of luck involved in any run through the NCAA Tournament. It helps if your bracket is broken, if you play near your home, if you get a great seed and a favorable draw. All of these things make NCAA Tournament success more likely. Purdue, it seems to me, has been lacking in the favorable draws. Purdue seems to get the hot team or the top team more often than we would like. That matters. Sometimes, when a team loses a game it’s not because they played bad. Sometimes, and stay with me here, the opponent plays a great game. Purdue’s history in March is littered with great games by tough opponents. Last night was just one more to add to the list.

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Kansas hands Purdue biggest tourney loss

KANSAS CITY, Mo. ― It began right on cue — a murmur building into a din as the assembled Kansas fans caught on to the moment.

"Rooooock Chaaaaaalk. Jaaaaaaayhaaaaawk. KU."

Purdue hoped to preclude that transfer of the Jayhawks' victory chant to Sprint Center on Thursday night. After thriving late in a handful of rugged road victories, the Boilermakers planned to apply that poise in the clutch against Kansas.

The electric Jayhawks never allowed Purdue that opportunity.

Top-seeded Kansas raced, dunked, stole and shot its way to a 98-66 dismantling of 4 seed Purdue in a Midwest Region semifinal at Sprint Center.

The Boilermakers, in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010, needed one of their best performances of the season to hang with a team as gifted and dynamic as Kansas. They came nowhere close and suffered the worst NCAA Tournament defeat in program history.

"Nobody gets blown out like that in the NCAA Tournament, by that margin, if it's not on both," Purdue junior center Isaac Haas said. "They got hot and we let that overwhelm us. We had defensive breakdowns and they got going and it is what it is.

Kansas advanced to face Oregon, which defeated another Big Ten team, Michigan, 69-68, in the night’s first semifinal. Purdue’s season ended at 27-8, including an outright Big Ten Conference championship and the program’s first Sweet 16 berth since 2010.

Those accomplishments were, temporarily, overshadowed by the totality of Kansas' dominance.

The Boilermakers were playing for their first Elite Eight berth since 2000. Instead, they suffered a loss far surpassing their previous NCAA tourney low — a 22-point loss to Temple in 1999. It was Purdue's biggest loss of any kind since a 37-point home loss to Indiana in 2013. It was also the fourth-largest Sweet 16 loss in tournament history.

"It's a tough pill to swallow," Purdue junior captain P.J. Thompson said. "I thought we had an awesome season. If I'm going to lose with anybody I'm going to lose with these guys. Whether it's to the media, fair-weather, whoever — I'm always going to stick up for my guys.

"We didn't bring it tonight, but Kansas played awesome."

Indeed. They Jayhawks made 15 of 28 from 3-point range, outrebounded Purdue — the best defensive rebounding team in the Big Ten — 36-29 and held the Boilermakers to 26 second-half points.

Purdue turned the ball over 16 times, fueling Kansas’ 20-8 edge in points off turnovers. Purdue led 33-25 with under seven minutes to play in the first half. Kansas outscored the Boilermakers 73-33 the rest of the way.

Josh Jackson soared from the wing for offensive rebounds like a pterodactyl attacking prey. Lagerald Vick dazzled with a breakaway 360-dunk in the second half — an encore to his lob dunk that capped a surge into halftime. Kansas seemed to turn every long rebound, and plenty of the short ones, into back-breaking fast breaks.

"Now they're catching lobs, shooting step-backs 3s, just taking shots," Purdue junior captain Vincent Edwards said. "It's tough. At that point you just open up everything. Now everything's falling for them and they're feeding off their crowd."

Purdue power forward Caleb Swanigan scored 18 points in what may have been his final game in a Boilermaker uniform. The Big Ten Player of the Year is expected to again enter the NBA Draft evaluation process. After the game, Swanigan said he hadn't thought about his next step and had no timetable for a decision.

Purdue led 33-25 with 6:46 to play in the first half despite Kansas effectively bottling up Swanigan. Haas scored 11 first-half points on 5 of 7 shooting and the Boilermakers made 6 of 13 from 3-point range.

Swanigan scored 12 in the second half, partially offsetting six turnovers with four assists and a steal. Kansas coach Bill Self, however, was most pleased to hold him to only seven rebounds. Starting big man Landen Lucas spent much of the second half in foul trouble, but the Jayhawks got big minutes from Carlton Bragg, Jr., and Dwight Coleby.

Jackson grabbed four of the Jayhawks' 12 offensive rebounds.

"You add those guys together you get 23 key minutes out of that position when Landen can't be in the game," Self said. "I think they both kind of bailed us out."

Multiple Purdue players said they knew they were going up against perhaps the country's best backcourt. Yet they couldn't stop Kansas' guards from proving it at their expense.

Kansas point guard Frank Mason III collected 26 points on 7 of 11 shooting, seven rebounds and seven assists for Kansas. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he became the sixth player with a 25-7-7 line in an NCAA Tournament game since assists became an official stat in 1984.

Devonte’ Graham scored 26 while hitting 5 of 9 from 3-point range. As the avalanche built momentum, Purdue increasingly struggled to keep the Jayhawks' speedy guards in front of the defense.

"I'm a competitor, and I thought I competed at a high level," Thompson said. "But they were getting the matchups they wanted and they were going by guys when we were switching. They were able to get in the paint. Any time they get the paint, bad things are going to happen."

Mason scored 15 points in the first half, making 3 of 4 behind the 3-point range. His 3 with 36 seconds left in the half pushed the Jayhawks’ lead back to five after Purdue had cut it to 42-40.

On the other end, the ball stuck in freshman Carsen Edwards’ hands. When he coughed it up, the loose ball stayed in bounds by bouncing off a referee. Vick started a fast break and finished with a lob dunk from Graham for a 47-40 halftime lead.

Purdue pulled within 53-51 early in the second half. Kansas responded with a 16-3 run, led by Mason and Jackson, who collected 15 points and 12 rebounds.

"You cannot let them get in transition," Purdue coach Matt Painter said after the game. "They're going to keep getting those opportunities and shoot the way those guards shot, then they can't be stopped. They don't shoot like that every single night."

Thursday’s late semifinal, played about 45 minutes east of Kansas’ campus in Lawrence, was a neutral site in name only.

Sprint Center was perhaps three-fifths full of its nearly 19,000-seat capacity during the Oregon-Michigan game. By tipoff of the second contest, those empty seats had overwhelmingly been filled by fans adorned in the Jayhawks’ red, white and blue.

Prior to the game, Purdue’s players welcomed the true road game environment. They faced a similar, albeit less intense, discrepancy in Milwaukee a week earlier thanks to Iowa State’s well-traveled fans. Some of the Boilermakers’ most clutch performances also came in hostile environments, including road wins over NCAA Tournament teams Maryland, Michigan State and Northwestern.

That experience, however, didn't mean much against Kansas’ skill and athleticism.

"We had a good season," Purdue junior captain Dakota Mathias said. "Outright Big Ten champs. Getting into the Sweet 16 was an accomplishment. Obviously, we wanted more."

PURDUE (27-8)-V.Edwards 3-8 0-0 8, Swanigan 6-11 3-5 18, Thompson 5-9 0-0 12, Mathias 1-4 0-0 3, Cline 3-4 0-0 8, Eifert 0-0 0-0 0, Haas 5-9 1-2 11, C.Edwards 1-10 4-4 6, Luce 0-0 0-1 0, McKeeman 0-0 0-0 0, Albrecht 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-56 8-12 66.

KANSAS (31-4)-Lucas 1-2 0-0 2, Mason 9-11 4-5 26, Mykhailiuk 4-8 0-0 10, Jackson 6-13 1-3 15, Graham 7-15 7-9 26, Bragg 0-2 0-0 0, Lightfoot 2-2 0-0 5, Coleby 1-1 0-2 2, Self 0-0 0-0 0, Young 0-1 0-0 0, Vang 0-0 0-0 0, Vick 4-7 3-3 12. Totals 34-62 15-22 98.

Halftime—Kansas 47-40. 3-Point Goals—Purdue 10-27 (Swanigan 3-4, Cline 2-3, Thompson 2-5, V.Edwards 2-5, Mathias 1-4, Albrecht 0-1, C.Edwards 0-5), Kansas 15-28 (Graham 5-9, Mason 4-5, Mykhailiuk 2-5, Jackson 2-5, Lightfoot 1-1, Vick 1-2, Bragg 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Purdue 27 (Swanigan 7), Kansas 35 (Jackson 12). Assists—Purdue 17 (Mathias 7), Kansas 18 (Mason 7). Total Fouls—Purdue 18, Kansas 15. A—18,475 (18,972).

Kansas 98, Purdue 66: The Morning After

Many people will look at the score this morning and think that Purdue was completely outclassed. It is hard not to disagree when the final margin is 32 points. Kansas was clearly the better team and for the most part, Purdue never had an answer for their athleticism. It is what I was afraid of coming into the game. For all of Purdue’s strengths, the Boilers still struggle mightily against hyper-athletic teams.

When you look deeper, though, this was a game that was competitive into the second half, then flipped wildly in an instant.

That instant came with 15:55 left in the game.

To that point, Purdue had actually played the Jayhawks pretty even. There were no indications that a 32-point blowout was imminent. If you were a neutral party that had watched the first 24 minutes you would have seen that Purdue came out of the gate strong. We led 33-25 with roughly six minutes left in the first half and were shooting over 60%. Even the CBS commentary was impressed. Kansas then made a strong closing run to the half and led 47-40. They also had praise for Purdue afterward, as even they sounded stunned with how fast things turned.

Normally, you could write this off as the moment the blowout began, but this was different. Purdue was able to hang tough for the first four minutes of the second half thanks to some timely three-point shooting. Caleb Swanigan hit a pair of threes and P.J. Thompson added one. With 16:09 left Landen Lucas missed a jumper and Dakota Mathias got the rebound.

Here was Purdue’s chance. It had weathered the predictable Kansas storm, it seemed, and with a basket the game would be tied. If Purdue connected on its fourth three-pointer of the half the Boilers would even get the lead back. Purdue brought the ball down and got it to Swanigan. He was double-teamed, so he kicked it back out to Ryan Cline.

Now, if you could somehow freeze things and play out different scanrios based on what Cline does it would be interesting. What if he shoots, but merely misses? What if he shoots and scores? What if he rotates the ball around and sets up another play with plenty of time left on the shot clock? Does the game go any different? If Purdue scores here to tie, symbolically, it would have done a lot. It would have shown that Purdue survived a rough spot and was still right there. Maybe it spurs another Purdue run. Maybe it starts to unnerve Kansas because they had thrown a devastating punch and Purdue had recovered.

It might have only delayed the inevitable, too. The way Kansas played the final 16 minutes no one was beating them. Still, this was the moment. This is where Purdue could have made a statement. For 24 minutes Matt Painter had his team not only prepared, but it was right with one of the best teams in the nation.

What came next was a completely uncharacteristic unraveling of a team that had shown more poise this year than it had in many, many seasons.

Cline attempted to reload the post to Swanigan, but the pass was picked off by Josh Jackson. That led to a breakout where Frank Mason III found Devonte’ Graham for a wide open three-pointer. He buried it, and it started what turned into a 45-15 finishing kick for the Jayhawks.

That 45-15 run was astounding to watch, too. It was like a switch flipped on that one turnover by Cline and suddenly the Jayhawks could do no wrong and Purdue could do no right. We saw fragments of it before the turnover. Kansas ratcheted up its defensive pressure in the half court and it was preventing Purdue from getting the ball inside. Purdue hit some threes, which normally loosens things up for us and was a point that many people said we needed to do, but we were rattled a bit. Those early threes kept Purdue in it to the 53-51 mark. The Jayhawks disrupted Purdue’s offensive flow, however, and started causing turnovers.

It is almost like Kansas woke up on that Cline turnover and realized, “Hey, we’re just better than these guys.” They certainly showed it over the last 16 minutes. It was a fury of dunks and threes. Their ball movement was crisp and effective as they found open shooter after open shooter. There were still a few moments before the run really got going. Cline hit a three with 14:45 left to make it 58-54, but Mason scored 15 seconds later. The lead was only seven when Lagerald Vick picked off a lazy Carsen Edwards pass and went coast-to-coast for a highlight reel dunk with 12:11 to go.

The run really got going after Purdue’s next possession. Carsen Edwards got a good look at a three that touched every part of the rim before somehow popping out. Mason got the rebound, then went the length of the floor before finding Jackson for an open three that he nailed. It was a six point shift that made it 66-54 and basically ended the game with 11:38 left.

Purdue was never in it again after that point. It’s like Jackson’s three there completely unraveled what was left, and the last 11:38 saw Purdue look as bad as it has all season long. Offensively, Purdue managed three tip-ins of missed baskets and a Thompson runner in the final 14:45 after Cline’s three. That’s it. Kansas played impeccable defense that forced Purdue either into three-point attempts or turnovers. They adjusted to prevent Isaac Haas from even getting the ball after Haas had killed them in the first half. Faced with this, Purdue started making poor decisions and that only allowed Kansas to put on even more pressure.

On the other end of the floor Kansas went just completely apeshit. That’s really the only way to describe it. They went to a level that few teams in the history of college basketball can hope to slow down. It turns out that when you have a National Player of the Year, a top 5 draft pick, and a bunch of 4- and 5- star recruits you can look really, really, REALLY good when things are clicking. They were more than clicking for Kansas. We had seen similar moments in our own team over the course of the season where we just unleashed hell offensively on opponents. Well, it was our turn to have hell unleashed on us. No one is beating the Kansas team of the last 12 minutes. I don’t care how good you are. When they are moving the ball that well, functioning like one unit, and shooting as well as they did, no one can stand up to it.

And you could tell in Purdue’s body language, too. That was probably the most frustrating part of it. Purdue had hung in there early. It stayed with a great team for the majority of the game, but in those final 12 minutes Kansas went to another level that not only could Purdue not match, the Boilers themselves went a few levels backwards.

It was a helpless feeling watching that shift. The worst of it was between 14:45 and 4:19. That 10 minute stretch was completely different and unexpected from the 25 before it. Literally nothing worked for Purdue and everything worked for Kansas. Up to that point, it was a great ballgame, but you don’t get credit for hanging with Kansas for 25 minutes. That’s why the game is a full 40.

And really, this was on everyone. Cline was awful defensively. Mathias was a ghost. Carsen was just awful for the most part. Vince became Vincent. Those were four guys we absolutely needed to be on and they were off. The only question I have of Painter is why was he double-teaming Lucas in the paint, but that is not why Purdue lost, not when Kansas went thermonuclear. There is only so much you can do when a guy like Jackson is making plays like he is not even a member of the human species.

So what do we do now? The Painter haters were completely turgid last night and hit full release in that run. Nevermind that Kansas played out of its mind for that stretch. It was completely vindicating for them and we received multiple, “IT IS CLEAR THIS IS AS FAR AS PAINTER CAN GO!” and “MATT PAINTER IS 0-3 IN SWEET 16 GAMES!” tweets.


Seriously. If that’s what you’re going to do, you’re not going to be happy for a while because Painter is coaching this team for several years to come. If you’re convinced that this is as far as we can go then stop watching because you won’t have any joy if we reach this exact level again and if we do pass it most of the Painter haters still won’t be happy or give him any credit. He is going to be coach at Purdue next season. And the season after that. And the season after that. I feel bad for those that think we have reached our ceiling under Painter. To them we might as well never try again as long as we have him because it only means reaching the Sweet 16 and no further.

Do you know why I support Matt Painter? Because he will at least get other chances here in the Sweet 16. We’re going to get back here again under him, likely multiple times. Hell, with what Purdue has returning there is a very good chance it will be right here again in 365 days. The NCAA Tournament is enough of a crapshoot that just reaching the Sweet 16 should be the goal because anything can happen afterwards. If you get enough chances eventually you break through. Jay Wright didn’t make an Elite 8 until year 12 or a Final Four until year 15 of his career. He was a perennial underachiever until a year ago and now he is considered an Elite coach. he has only been past the second round with Villanova 4 times in 16 years. This proves the Tournament is a massive crapshoot.

Let’s look at all three of Painter’s Sweet 16 attempts so far:

2009: A 5 seed and very young Purdue team loses to 1 seed Connecticut 72-60 in a game that was semi-close throughout, but UConn held a scrappy Purdue team at bay.

2010: A 4 seed Purdue that had lost Robbie Hummel less than a month before (costing it a 1 seed) gives eventual National Champ Duke a game before bowing late 70-57. Purdue was only down 2 with 9:36 left.

2017: A 4 seed Purdue plays 1 Seed Kansas tight for 24 minutes before they unleashed a Death Star on us.

There are two keys to advancing in March, as pointed out by Crimson Quarry a few weeks ago: You need reps and you need consistent high seeds. Painter’s best seed so far has only been a 3 seed. He has been a 4 seed twice and a 5 seed twice. Generally, his teams play to their seed. He is 7-2 as the higher seed, losing only to that smoking hot VCU team in 2011 and last year to Little Rock. There are basically two ways to consistently earn those higher seeds: either go an absolutely absurd 30-4 in a year or be consistently good over time.

The foundation for the “over time” corollary has now been laid. Purdue is back to a level of “hey, these guys are a solid basketball team every year”. We’ve been ranked in every poll for two straight seasons and will probably begin next season in the top 25. That’s a start. The next step is to move that 25-6 regular season into something like a 28-3. Purdue is probably a top 2 seed this year without losing at Nebraska and Iowa. If it beats Villanova at the beginning of the year it is at least one seed higher.

Of course, the common cry is “We need to demand more from Painter!” Okay. You think he is not wanting more? You think he is satisfied here? Do you think that starting a weekly rally and marching outside his office shouting “WE DEMAND MORE!” what will change things? Is he supposed to flagellate himself in the press conference after losses?

And that is why I am excited for next year and the years to come. The foundation that the Baby Boilers started and the 2013-15 teams eroded has been re-laid. Taking that next step is that hardest, and it is one Purdue has been trying to take for decades, but we are at least back at the point to take it. We enter next season knowing that a Big Ten title and return to the Sweet 16 are not only achievable, it is probably expected. Honestly, anything less would be a disappointment. We will have four senior starters returning. Ryan Cline and Carsen Edwards return with another year of experience. A missing piece has been athleticism, but we have Eden Ewing, Aaron Wheeler, and Nojel Eastern coming in to give Painter his most “athletic” class yet. There will be more depth and even more versatility with the lineups that Painter can use. There is also the small chance Caleb comes back. I don’t think it happens, but if it does Purdue gets a huge boost. Even the schedule is there with the tough Battle 4 Atlantis field, a strong ACC/Big Ten Challenge home opponent, and Butler.

I would believe we have peaked under Painter if I saw him settling and not trying to improve, but that is not the case. The critics said he needed more shooters and he got them. The critics said he needed to improve against the press, so he scheduled a scrimmage against West Virginia and Purdue was much better against it this year. The critics said he was awful in close games, but Purdue showed incredible poise in late game situations this year for the most part. The critics said he couldn’t get a five-star and he got Swanigan. We are 12 years in and Painter has shown that he will at least address an issue and try to correct it.

Other opportunities will come. Purdue will be in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. That gives this team another chance to move forward, and I would MUCH rather be grousing about what we need to do to move past the Sweet 16 as opposed to the alternative of “how are we even going to make the tournament”. There are 320 or so teams right now that would love to be in our shoes because we at least have the chance to rectify the Sweet 16 problem next year.

So let’s remember this season for what it was. We won a Big Ten title for the first time in 7 years. We won it outright for the first time in 21 years. The foundation for more has been built and it is only a plateau if the players and coaching staff are satisfied right now.

I can assure you, they are not.

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