WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue is back in the NCAA Tournament after a Big Ten Championship regular season. Receiving the 3-seed in the South region, the Boilers will take on 14-seed Old Dominion, regular season and conference tournament champions of Conference USA.
“I’m happy right now,” says sophomore center Matt Haarms. “We’re always gonna be playing a really good team (in the NCAA Tournament). Old Dominion’s a very talented team. Played really well in their conference of course. So we’re just looking at that right now, our first round matchup.”
“I think it’s fun, finally playing somebody new outside the conference,” continues junior guard Carsen Edwards. “Just competing at this high level on this stage is fun to me. It’s just a blessing to be able to play the game I love every time I play.”
The First Team All-Big Ten Edwards admitted after the Big Ten Tournament to be battling a sore back. After the Boilers learned their March Madness fate, his tone was a bit more positive.
“I’m fine now,” he adds. “We had some days off. I don’t like losing, but I guess you can look at it this loss to Minnesota gave me some more time off. Just taking that time to get healthy.”
“When somebody has an injury, you just have to trust what they say,” explains head coach Matt Painter on his approach to Edwards’ situation. “Players will always tell you, ‘Hey, I’m okay.’ Sometimes they are. Sometimes they aren’t.”
A two hour flight separates Purdue from it’s fifth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. In each of those prior four trips to the dance, the Gold and Black had a certain group of four players: Last year’s seniors P.J. Thompson, Vincent Edwards, Dakota Mathias, and Isaac Haas. Their graduation may have left a void, but Painter believes this year’s seniors have helped fill it.
“Ryan Cline and Grady Eifert have given us good leadership,” he says. “We do have a lot of experience on our team of being in the NCAA Tournament.”
“Everyone wants to prove that they (deserved) the seed they got,” says Cline. “You just gotta come out with energy and be excited.”
“We’ve got some good guys that are focused and want to win,” adds Edwards. “I feel like our approach, don’t add any pressure to ourselves. Just kind of worry about what’s in our circle as a team and just be ready.”
Outside of that circle come some high expectations as CBS Sports’ Seth Davis picked the Boilers to make his Final Four. Still, a potential four games lie between now and then.
Purdue opens it’s 2019 NCAA Tournament Thursday night against Old Dominion in Hartford, CT with a projected tip time around 10:00 p.m.