Not many coaches have the wealth and variety of NCAA Tournament experience that Matt Painter has acquired. He has reached the big dance multiple times as a player, an assistant coach and a head coach. The biggest red mark on his tourney resumè? Painter has never experienced a regional final(Elite Eight) game and therefore has never been to the Final Four. On the other hand, as a coach, Painter has only lost to a lower seeded team once in his seven previous tournament appearances.
Painter played point guard for Purdue and coach Gene Keady. During that time, he was lucky enough to play in three NCAA Tournaments. Unfortunately for Matt and his team, they only won one game in those three appearances. In 1990, Painter was a freshman and the Boilers were a 2-seed. They would win their first game against lowly Northeast Louisiana before being upset by 10-seeded Texas in the second round. Next, in 1991 Purdue would lose to a 10-seed again, this time in the first round against Temple. Finally, as a senior Painter would help lead his team back to the tourney after missing it the previous year. However, they would fall in an 8-9 game to Rhode Island. Interestingly, that would be the last time Purdue would lose in the first round of the NCAAs, and the next season they would make the Elite Eight while Painter had already started his coaching career as an assistant at Division III Washington and Jefferson College.
Painter's first Division I assistant job was at Eastern Illinois, but his first D1 tournament experience as a coach wouldn't come until his time with Southern Illinois under Bruse Weber. In 2002, Painter helped Weber lead their team to a Missouri Valley regular season championship and an at-large bid in the tournament as an 11-seed. The Salukis would upset both Texas Tech and Georgia on their way to a Sweet Sixteen appearance and loss to Connecticut. They would return the following year and lose by a single point to Missouri in the first round. For the 2003-04 season, Bruce Weber would take the head coaching job at Illinois and Painter was promoted to head coach. SIU would continue their success under Painter as they again won the regular season conference title and made the tournament, this time as a 9-seed. Painter's first foray in the big dance as a head coach would end in another one point loss, this time to Alabama, who would make an Elite Eight run that year.
Purdue hired Painter to be a coach-in-waiting for a year after his single season at the helm of SIU, and after a year as the associate coach under Keady he became Purdue's head coach. In just his second season as head coach, Painter would lead the Boilers to the NCAA Tournament, where they would lose to 1-seed and eventual champion Florida. After another second round loss the following year, Painter would lead his team to consecutive Sweet Sixteen appearances, falling to 1-seeds each time, including another eventual champion in Duke in 2010. The 2011 tournament was one of disappointment. Despite losing senior Robbie Hummel to an ACL-injury before the season, the Boilermakers achieved their highest seed (3) since 1998, but lost to 11-seeded VCU in the second round, ending the careers of E'Twaun Moore and JuJuan Johnson. The next year Hummel returned and Painter's team again exited in the second round, this time to 2-seeded Kansas, their fourth consecutive loss to an eventual Final Four participant.
Now, Painter is going dancing again following a two year absence. Can he keep his alma mater's streak of opening round victories going against a tough Cincinnati squad? And if so, does he and his team have what it takes to upset the juggernaut that is Kentucky in the second round? We'll find out more tomorrow, but you can rest assured that Matt Painter has the experience to have his team ready for the big stage.