MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Purdue’s Boilermakers are cruising on a 29-win season as they are ranked in the AP’s top 10 wire-to-wire, including a first-place finish for one week in December, and they drew the No. 3 seed for the NCAA Championship.
However, they finished one game shy of first place in the conference, losing to Iowa State in the Big Ten Tournament final and were Annoyed by the conceited St. Peter On Sweet 16. That didn’t sit well with Coach Matt Painter or anyone else associated with the show.
“We thought we had a team that could do more damage than he did. As the conference took its media days in basketball this year, you take full responsibility for that,” Pinter said Tuesday in Minneapolis at the Target Center. Win the league. I thought we should have won the championship. I thought we had to get to the Final Four. We didn’t.”
While the Boilermakers lost All-Ten Big Ten goalkeeper Jaden Ivey, Trevion Williams and Sasha Stefanovic, they still have a team topped by the 7-foot-4 Zac Eddy – one of three unanimous picks for the 11th player. Season – He should be able to compete for the conference title again.
These days, with the transfer portal doing the heavy lifting, picking favorites is more of an imprecise science. Boilermakers are ranked fifth in the Big Ten pre-season media poll.
“You have some people being selected in the first half, and 70 to 80% of their players have not played with them last year. Usually when that is the case, they are not selected in the top half,” Pinter said. “You have a huge chunk of some of these guys who have had really good jobs so far, so it’s easy to measure that, it’s easier to say that this guy averaged 16 points in another big conference, he’s going to be successful here. After that the experience of success together is still important” .
A new beginning
Kevin Willard took charge of the Maryland program after 12 seasons at Seton Hall. Willard, a longtime resident of New York and New Jersey, has revealed some of the discoveries he’s made since moving across the Atlantic coast. The first thing that stood out was the quality of the recruits playing in the backyard of Terrapins—including the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.
“High school basketball, AAU basketball at the DMV is second to none,” Willard said. “It’s great that you’re there because you get the boys of a lot of kids that we obviously couldn’t have before.”
Willard’s first signing on arrival at College Park was 6-foot-6 substitute Noah Batchelor, a native of Frederick, Maryland, who last year played for IMG Academy in Florida. He also earned an alumni transfer in guard Jahmir Young, a producer from DeMatha Catholic High School in suburban DC who averaged 16.7 points per game over three seasons in Charlotte.
But Willard knows there is no such thing as building a fence around the state.
“You’re not going to keep all your local kids at home,” Willard said. “Fan rules like saying that. If you keep everyone at home, you won’t be able to play with everyone and everyone will be mad at you anyway.”
The most steep learning curve may actually be in the dining room.
“You have to know how to eat crab cakes. I’m learning how to crack crabs and eat crabs. It’s a new thing to me. You’ve got to split the middle, take off the legs, and go through the whole process,” Willard said with a laugh.
Three acetate in jersey?
Rutgers is aiming for a third consecutive NCAA berth, a streak the program hasn’t done before. Returning players to coach Steve Bikell accounted for 64% of the team’s minutes played last season. Key among those players is Year 5 goalkeeper Caleb McConnell, Senior Defensive Player of the Year.
There’s also a huge feature in the home arena that the Scarlet Knights developed in recent years in the 8,000-seat building now known as Jersey Mike’s Stadium, enough to warrant interest in a conference with some of the country’s most sought-after gyms for visiting teams.
When Trace Jackson-Davis and Rhys Thompson of Indiana were thinking about the wildest road game scenes, they mentioned the usual suspects in Michigan, Ohio and Purdue. but also:
“Rutgers is very lit,” Thompson said.
“Yeah, Rutgers is great,” said Jackson Davis.
Bikkel praised the environmental fan base.
“I think they really like our guys and respect the way they play,” Bikel said. “They play with a bit of timbre, excitement and enthusiasm.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey is back with two of his sons, with Year 6 forward Conor McCaffrey returning to ride one more in a backup role and Year 4 forward Patrick McCaffrey returning to the starting lineup.
There are downsides to playing for dad, of course. Connor said of himself that he felt “more comfortable responding” to the coach than anyone else in authority. Patrick cited the stress that comes from the family name and unfounded assumptions of nepotism about the situation on the team.
The good, though, outweighs the bad, such as being part of a real family environment. Then there’s the credibility that Connor has gained during so much time on the show.
“We’re thinking alike,” Connor said. “My suggestions and my points are often on the same page. It gives me freedom for audio plays and plays.”
Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell contributed to this report.
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