As a Purdue fan it's become apparent that the fan base has a love/hate relationship with the idea of being an underdog and being disrespected by members of the media. It doesn't matter if it happens during the season or several months before a single game will be played, whenever Purdue fans see their team not getting the respect they deserve they tend to gravitate in droves to vocally voice their frustration and disagreement with whoever they feel slighted them.
That being said, though, Purdue fans and players tend to build off of the lack of respect shown to them. While not getting the national respect they feel like they deserve, Purdue fans almost tend to relish being the underdog, being the team to come out of nowhere and surpass everyone's expectations. The "us versus them" mentality that pairs very well with Purdue's focus on playing disciplined, tough defensive basketball that is extremely physical and breaks down opposing teams.
So with that being said, ESPN was once again in the crosshairs of numerous Boilermaker fans. Well maybe not ESPN directly, but rather Eamonn Brennan and Joe Lunardi.
ESPN staff writer Eamonn Brennan posted another edition of ESPN's "Way Too Early" Top 25 this week, with Indiana, Butler and Notre Dame all making the cut. Somewhat surprisingly absent from the list was Purdue, something that didn't sit well with most Boiler fans as the Indiana team they trounced twice last season was well hyped by Brennan while a Purdue team that has gotten better in every arguable way (outside of point guard) still seems to be the least heralded team out of the four main Indiana schools. Brennan had the following to say about the Hoosiers:
Indiana is atop that second tier. The Hoosiers are bringing almost all of their considerable offensive firepower back, from guards Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson, to rim-running four Troy Williams, to the coterie of floor-spacing sharpshooters (Nick Zeisloft, Collin Hartman) that often made Indiana one of the nation's most watchable teams. Adding No. 6-ranked freshman center Thomas Bryant should mean better interior defense and rebounding
That of course won't sit well in West Lafayette as Purdue fans have to wonder what they need to do to become the team once again considered Indiana's top basketball program. While I think Purdue fans are honest enough to realize Indiana should be a good team in 2015-16, the rivalry between both schools definitely caused a bit of backlash on social media yesterday. And to make things more interesting we have what transpired with Joe Lunardi as well.
I understand that posting a projected bracket in August is pointless. Hell, it's pointless until February or so and it's mainly used as a way to get people talking and create debate. That being said, back in April immediately after the season finished Lunardi released his bracket for the upcoming season. He penciled in Purdue as a #4 seed and one of eight Big Ten programs to make the big dance. Fast forward four months later and Lunardi's latest bracket now interestingly has Purdue with a projected eight seed. So what happened in those four months?
Star center A.J. Hammons announced that he'll return for his senior season. Five-star recruit Caleb Swanigan, one of the nation's top prospects, decommitted from Michigan State and signed with Purdue. Johnny Hill, an experienced point guard that spent last season with Texas-Arlington, transferred to West Lafayette, helping add depth to the team's weakest position.
And yet Purdue apparently fell off considerably in his latest bracket. While on one hand the randomness of the two brackets isn't a major surprise, and it will likely lack consistency until the season is well under way, it's still a weird drop in projections and one that Purdue fans also got relatively vocal about on Twitter.
Either way, it's only August and Purdue is developing the "us versus them" mentality once again. While the fan base will most likely be considerably argumentative on social media, it's likely the players will take notice that the national media is once again shying away from them in favor of other more popular programs instead. Or in other words, perfect locker room material as Purdue looks to build off of last season's surprising return to form.