This recent comment by Purdue basketball coach Matt Painter about his highly regarded recruiting class of Caleb Furst and Trey Kaufman-Renn almost slipped past me.
“Hopefully they’ll help us win a Big Ten championship and have success in the NCAA tournament and get to a Final Four,” Painter said. “But also get a great education and not lose our soul in the process.”
My interpretation of that final comment is that it’s an indictment of some of Painter’s peers. There are big name coaches out there, reportedly including a brother of Indiana’s head man, who would consider deals with the Devil if it meant raising an NCAA championship banner.
Painter didn’t need to affirm his belief that rules matter and that he won’t be making any “strong ass offers” (like LSU’s Will Wade was caught saying on an FBI tape) just to get a five-star player. Anyone who has followed Purdue basketball recruiting for decades can probably name a handful of players who seemed like Boilermaker fits but ended up elsewhere under a cloud of suspicion.
Now that big men Furst and Kaufman-Renn are joining a touted freshman class that includes guards Jaden Ivey, Ethan Morton, Brandon Newman, forward Mason Gillis and 7-4 center Zach Edey, perhaps Purdue is on the verge of a third era of success under Painter.
The “Baby Boilers” class of JaJuan Johnson, Robbie Hummel and E’Twaun Moore would have taken Purdue to the elusive Final Four if not for one but two ACL injuries to Hummel. The class of Vincent Edwards, Isaac Haas, Dakota Mathias and P.J. Thompson – aided by Carsen Edwards – had another shot at reaching the Final Four until Haas suffered a broken elbow in the opening game of the 2018 tournament.
We won’t talk about the gut punch from the 2019 NCAA tournament but coming a second away from a Final Four with basically Carsen Edwards and Carmel’s Ryan Cline carrying much of the load says a lot about the Purdue way of playing basketball.
“I talk about checking those boxes, trying to get a great person, a great student and a great player,” Painter said. “It doesn’t always work that way because sometimes the people you go after that check those boxes, you don’t get them. In recruiting, everybody gets told no.
“Anytime you get classes back-to-back or three in a row especially, you feel good about it. That’s what you’re trying to do, build and have a good team but also grow old with that team. If you’ve looked at the success that we’ve had, outside of one situation, we’ve had teams growing old, teams staying together, teams fighting through adversity. When you do that . . . you’re able to compete for championships. We’ve won three Big Ten titles but we’ve been second four or five times. Anytime you are first, second or third in this league, you’re going to get a pretty good (NCAA tournament) seed.
“You want to fight and really work toward getting guys like Caleb Furst and Trey Kaufman in your program. They have all the ingredients that are going to lead to success. You want to coach those guys.”
Hoosier Hysteria, NCAA-style
If reports earlier this week prove correct, the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament could be renamed Hoosier Hysteria instead of March Madness.
With memories of COVID-19 erasing the 2020 NCAA tournament, plans are in the works to confine all of the tournament to Indianapolis and perhaps the surrounding area. That’s an insurance policy for the NCAA, which The Athletic reported suffered financial losses of $700 million with the cancellation of last season’s tournament.
The Final Four was already set for Lucas Oil Stadium, but the NCAA may be turning its attention to setting up a bubble for all 68 tournament teams. Plans would call for playing 67 tournament games at sites that may include Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Farmers Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, the University of Indianapolis and Marian University.
Some reports also indicated that if the NCAA feels comfortable extending the bubble, Purdue’s Mackey Arena, Indiana’s Assembly Hall, Ball State’s Worthen Arena and Indiana State’s Hulman Center could be considered for tournament games.
Before any Boilermaker or Hoosier fans start making plans for a yellow brick road path to the Final Four, keep in mind that the NCAA doesn’t project arenas full of fans so there would not necessarily be a homecourt advantage.
Of course, this tournament bubble plan is a moot point if schools can’t manage to play in this current environment of rising COVID cases. Purdue and Indiana are scheduled to begin play Nov. 25 vs. Liberty and Tennessee Tech, respectively.
Just a little respect
Purdue ranks second among the 10 most under-appreciated college basketball programs according to March Madness 365 podcast hosts Andy Katz and Chad Aycock.
The Boilermakers were the only Big Ten program on the list, which is headed by Florida State. Ranked 3 through 10 were Tennessee, Xavier, Oklahoma, Saint Mary’s, Southern Cal, New Mexico State, St. Bonaventure and Bradley.
“… No team has more Big Ten championships in the history of the conference than the Purdue Boilermakers,” Katz and Aycock stated. “Purdue is located in a state that lives and breathes basketball, but it’s not the Boilermaker state. It’s the Hoosier state and with Indiana getting most of the attention it can be hard to break through. But breaking through is just what Purdue has done the past few seasons. They have made the Sweet Sixteen three consecutive years starting in 2017 and made the Elite Eight in 2019. If there is a Big Ten team that historically deserves more love, it’s Purdue.”
Lofty expectation
CBSSports.com recently polled its college basketball writers with this question: Which active coach is most likely to reach 800 victories?
Purdue’s Matt Painter was the choice of writer David Cobb. Virginia’s Tony Bennett, UCLA’s Skip Cronin and Baylor’s Scott Drew were the other selections.
“My comrades selected the three trendiest picks for this prompt, but I took Matt Painter because of his staying power at a school that produces consistent winners while avoiding NCAA scrutiny,” Cobb wrote. “If Painter coaches Purdue for another 20 years -- and he very well could -- the Boilermakers will have had two head coaches during a 60-year span between 1980 and 2040.”
Painter celebrated his 50th birthday during the offseason.
“Painter is chugging along at 22.5 wins per season in the 15 years since he took over for his mentor Gene Keady,” Cobb wrote. “If he keeps that pace up, Painter will reach 800 wins around age 69 or 70. But he'll likely get there even sooner. “Before a 16-win campaign last season, the Boilermakers averaged 27.3 wins per season over their previous four seasons. 
“Purdue is the perfect place for Painter to quietly climb the all-time wins list. There are expectations and resources, but they come without the intense pressure of a blue-blood program. It's also Painter's alma mater, so it's easy to see him sticking it out long enough to reach 800 wins.”
Good report card
One of the best Boilermakers to play for Painter received high grades from NBA.com New Orleans Pelicans writer Jim Eichenhofer.
He cites veteran guard E’Twaun Moore, saying “no Pelicans player’s presence on the court was more tied to the club’s overall fortunes.”
Eichenhofer notes that New Orleans lost 11 of the first 12 games in which Moore did not play. Coincidence or not, as soon as Moore became a regular on Dec. 18 at Minnesota, the Pelicans went on a 10-4 stretch.
“Along the way, the methodical veteran wing provided his usual blend of above-average three-point shooting (37.7 percent, keeping him a tick over 40 percent over his four Pelicans seasons) and timely offensive production,” Eichenhofer writes. “Overall, New Orleans went 27-29 when he played, but just 3-13 when he did not.”
Moore averaged 8.3 points in 18 minutes a game during the 2019-20 NBA season. He will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. During Moore’s nine-year pro career, he has made stops in Boston, Orlando and Chicago. He has played the past four seasons in New Orleans.
Second-generation Boilermaker
The daughter of Rosevelt Colvin, a star defensive end for Purdue’s two-time Alamo Bowl championship teams, is among two recruits who signed with the Boilermaker volleyball team.
Raven Colvin, a 6-1 middle blocker from Heritage Christian, was an honorable mention Under Armour All-American in 2020.
"Raven is a remarkable high-flyer who has electric speed along the net,” Purdue coach Dave Shondell said. Her intensity is inspiring and her genuine drive to succeed will quickly win over our Boilermaker fans. Despite her physical blessings, Raven's emotional skills are more impressive. I love the way she battles, point after point - while encouraging her teammates to join the fray. She is fun to watch."
Purdue’s other signing, outside hitter Ali Hornung of Providence High School, was Indiana’s only Under Armour first-team All-America selection.  
Long drought ends
As successful as the Cincinnati Reds have been during the past 50 years (three World Series championships, 10 division titles), until Nov. 11 the franchise had never had a Cy Young Award winner.
Trevor Bauer's selection ended years of frustration by Reds fans and officials who saw Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, Mario Soto, Danny Jackson, Pete Schourek and Johnny Cueto all finish in second place for baseball's top pitching prize. Bauer's victory ends the longest Cy Young Award drought at a mere 64 years, or since the award came into existence in 1956.
It's not like the media and Major League Baseball had been spurning the Reds in major awards. Since 1956, the Reds have had seven Rookie of the Year winners (Frank Robinson, Pete Rose, Tommy Helms, Johnny Bench, Pat Zachry, Chris Sabo and Scott Williamson) and nine National League Most Valuable Players (Robinson, Bench twice, Joe Morgan twice, Rose, George Foster, Barry Larkin and Joey Votto).
Now the mantle of zero Cy Young Award winners moves to the Texas Rangers, who came into being as the Washington Senators in 1961.
Noteworthy
It’s been a historically bad football season in Ann Arbor, even worse than the Rich Rodriguez era at Michigan.
Wisconsin’s 49-11 victory this past Saturday night at Michigan Stadium was its largest margin of victory over the Wolverines, surpassing the previous mark of 22 points in 1962.
For the first time since 1912, Wisconsin has won consecutive Big Ten games by at least 38 points. Maybe athletic director Barry Alvarez knew what he was doing when he used COVID as an excuse to call off games with Nebraska and Purdue even though cases were below the Big Ten cutoff for playing. The Badgers are a different team with Graham Mertz at quarterback and he would not have been able to play against the Cornhuskers or Boilermakers due to the Big Ten’s COVID-19 protocols calling for a 21-day absence . . .
Illinois’ Isaiah Williams broke the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 192 yards on 31 attempts to lead the Illini to a 23-20 comeback win at Rutgers in his first career start. The freshman added 104 passing yards to finish the contest with 296 yards of total offense.

Kenny Thompson is the former sports editor for the Lafayette Journal & Courier and an award-winning journalist. He has covered Purdue athletics for many years.