Purdue eyeing Big Ten Tournament title with NCAA implications on the line in NYC
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue heads to New York City as the #3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and the Boilermakers are motivated to capture their first conference tournament title after falling short of back-to-back Big Ten regular season titles.
“We know we came up short of the regular season title with a couple of bad losses, so we’ll be ready,” senior forward Vince Edwards said Wednesday at Mackey Arena.
“I think as seniors we just have to step out on the floor with confidence and play because we know it could possibly be our last big ten tournament game,” Edwards added.
Last season, the Boilers were knocked out in the first round of the conference tourney, and they know that claiming the Big Ten tournament title this season would be crucial for their hopes of a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
“I think it is a huge deal and I think we want to win this out, hang the banner and potentially be a number one seed, and I think that can be easily accomplished if we win this tournament,” senior center Isaac Haas said. “I think our resume speaks for itself and it would show that we are playing our best basketball going into March, which would hopefully give the committee a better look at us.”
The Boilers are also embracing the opportunity to play this Big Ten tourney on one of basketball’s biggest stage in Madison Square Garden.
“It’s a huge opportunity to be able to play there,” Edwards admitted. “To play in the mecca of basketball, a place that’s so prestigious, it’s one of the best, if not THE best basketball arena in the whole United States and it’s a dream come true to step on that floor.”
Edwards said he and head coach Matt Painter will keep tabs on his injured ankle throughout the tournament. But don’t expect the senior to step off the court without a fight.
“If I need to be limited in minutes some games, it is what it is. But they know I’m not going to tell them to take me out, so they gotta guess that on their own,” Edwards said with a smile of the Purdue coaching staff and trainers.
As far as the challenge of potentially playing three games in three days, should they advance to the championship game, the Boilermakers are excited for the possibility.
“I think that’s a lot of fun,” Edwards said. “It reminds you of the old AAU days where you get to play back-to-back-to-back.”
The third-seeded Boilers have a bye until Friday, where they will meet the winner of Thursday’s game between Indiana and either Rutgers or Minnesota.
The Scarlet Knights and Gophers will play Wednesday for the right to advance to Thursday’s meeting with the Hoosiers. As for the potential to clash with their in-state rivals at the Garden with post-season play on the line, Purdue sees it as an exciting opportunity after meeting just once in the regular season.
“It would make it a lot of fun, but they gotta win and we have to see who comes out,” Edwards said. “But to play them on a Friday night, 9 pm, late tip in Madison Square would be huge for both programs to be able to move that rivalry to that venue.”