KANSAS CITY, Mo. – After back to back overtime loses in the first round of the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons, the Purdue Boilermakers feel they have nothing to lose in Thursday’s Sweet 16.
The Big Ten champs say they plan to leave it all on the floor when they take on the number one seed in the Midwest region, Kansas in Kansas City.
“Absolutely. No doubt,” said Purdue guard Dakota Mathias. “That’s what we’ve done the last month of the season. We’re excited. We like our guys. We like the way we’re playing right now, so we’re just going to have fun and enjoy it.”
“I don’t feel like there’s any pressure,” forward Vince Edwards said. “We’ll just go out and play and do what we’ve been doing. We feel like if we do what our coaches and the scouting reports taught us to do and play the right way, we’ll come out with a happy result.”
The Sprint Center seats almost 19,000 and the Boilermakers know most will be rooting for the Jayhawks.
“They’ve had an unbelievable season,” said head coach Matt Painter.” They’re a one seed. They’ve earned the right to be close to home, so we definitely look at it like an away game and try to have that kind of focus.”
The Boilermakers got a first hand look at the venue on Wednesday with a 50 minute shoot-around. The group appeared loose, but focused on the task at hand with the possible exception of Big Ten player of the year candidate Caleb Swanigan.
“Biggie” kept his game face on throughout the shoot-around and the media portion of the day.
“It’s fun. You’re playing basketball and that’s what you want to do,” Swanigan said. “Basketball’s fun and things like that. It’s just that I came here to win. I didn’t come here for the fun part of it.”
Former Purdue head coach Gene Keady watched the workout from the sideline. He coached Painter when he was a player for the Boilers and isn’t surprised he has them back in this position.
“He’s a problem solver,” said Keady. “He’s very team oriented and loyal. He thought he was ‘Pistol Pete’, but he was a great guy to coach. I really enjoyed being around him.”
“What he did is the blueprint of our program and that’s such a key thing. I think that hurts a lot of young coaches. They don’t have that and they’re trying to find it and we’ve been able to have that at Purdue because of him,” said Painter.
The student will try to do what the teacher was never able to do in his time in West Lafayette, guide the Boilermakers to the Final Four. Tip-off with Kansas is set for 9:39 p.m on CBS4.