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The next step? Purdue will have to wait

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The IPFWs and Coppin States are in the past. Here come the Ohio States, Michigan States and...gulp... Indianas. If this team doesn't turn some things around in a hurry, it could be the first Boilermaker team since Matt Painter's first season in West Lafayette to miss the NCAA tournament.

Some of the problems were things most Boiler fans could have and should have seen coming like the lack of any major post presence, sporadic rebounding issues and inability to create a shot in clutch situations.

Others, like shooting only 62 percent from the free throw line, were an unwelcome surprise. The inability to close out close games against good teams is something most wouldn't expect from a veteran squad led by the likes of Robbie Hummel and Lewis Jackson. The heartbreaks against Butler and Xavier were both avoidable.

Some in the Boiler community are more optimistic. Hummel told the Indianapolis star "If we can turn this thing around, then (the early season struggles) could be a good thing."

I, for one, feel like the ship would have been righted a few weeks ago if were ever going to be.

That's not to say that this Purdue team doesn't have any talent; Hummel should earn some All-American votes and some of the younger players look like they have real potential. It's just a team in transition.

When Jacob Lawson develops, his athleticism will be something Boiler fans haven't seen in years. Players like Kelsey Barlow, Sandi Marcius and Terone Johnson are solid role players who are only going to get better. The recruits coming in next year are easy to get excited about.

But this team can't compete with the best teams in what is probably the top conference in the nation this season. Purdue is a middle of the pack Big Ten squad. It hurts to think, but the Boilers may even lose both games to a resurgent team from Bloomington.

And that's not something we're used to at Purdue, anymore. Painter has brought us to the brink of national success in ways we haven't seen since Glenn Robinson and Cuonzo Martin were hitting jumpers in Mackey Arena. We wanted progress. We wanted to take the next step.

But this Purdue team won't be the one to do that. We're just going to have to wait.