Apr 5, 2024 - News

Purdue returns to Final Four with plenty to prove

Purdue basketball team celebrating.

Matt Painter and the Boilermakers are ready to win the big one. Photo: Nicholas Muller/Getty Images

It has been 44 years since Purdue has gotten this close to a NCAA Tournament championship game.

Why it matters: As the No. 1 seed Boilermakers prepare to play No. 11 NC State in the Final Four on Saturday, they do so with several chips on their shoulders.

  • Despite their regular season dominance, critics pointed to last year's first-round loss to the No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson and head coach Matt Painter's history of losing the big one as reasons to disregard the Boilermakers.

Similarly, Zach Edey's phenomenal and history-making senior season has done little to quiet draft insiders who doubt his ability to translate his game to the NBA.

What they're saying: "I think it's just basketball," Edey told reporters after securing a spot in the Final Four. "I think what wins basketball games in the regular season wins basketball games in the postseason. It's just basketball, and what we do wins a lot."

State of play: Purdue took out Grambling State, Utah State, Gonzaga and Tennessee to reach their first Final Four since 1980.

  • In their 72-66 victory over the Volunteers, Edey led the way with 40 points and 16 rebounds and came out on the better end of a shootout with Tennessee's Dalton Knecht.

Flashback: Purdue's men's team last played in the NCAA title game in 1969, a losing effort against the John Wooden-led UCLA Bruins.

The intrigue: When asked what lesson he learned from legendary Purdue coach Gene Keady that he wants his team to hold onto, Painter said it's to value having a great life as much as having a great playing career.

  • "It's just understanding that you're a former player for 40 to 50 to 60 years. And just keep that in perspective," Painter said Sunday.

💭 My thought bubble: I arrived as a freshman at Purdue in fall 2004, the same time Painter was pulling up to be associate coach for a season before fully taking the reins.

  • I also remember all the talk of the young coach never being able to fill his mentor's shoes buzzing around campus.
  • So I hope Painter knows that, 20 years later, he has absolutely become a leader of his own era. And his shoes will also be mighty hard to fill one day.

How to watch: The game starts at 6:09pm on TBS, TNT and tru TV.

  • The winner will face either UConn or Alabama in the championship game Monday.

If you go: First, book a flight to Phoenix.

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