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Sunday Night Thoughts: So Maybe Purdue is Alright After All?

The rest of the Sweet Sixteen field has been decided, with Purdue making the cut and Michigan State coming up short

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Purdue Boilermakers vs Butler Bulldogs Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday didn’t quite feature the dramatics that Saturday had in store for college basketball fans everywhere. However, there is still plenty to ponder now that the field of 16 is set for the next weekend of absolute mayhem.

There were no dramatic, 30 foot buzzer beaters and no Sister Jean interviews, but the day did feature a second Big Ten team clinching a berth in the Sweet Sixteen. Let’s look at how the two Big Ten games unfolded.

Sunday Recap:

- No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers 76, No. 10 Butler Bulldogs 73

It was a question that was asked a million times. You could have put an over/under on mid-broadcast Isaac Haas references at 100 and had some serious counting to do. How would the Purdue Boilermakers handle life without their 7’2” mammoth in the post?

The offense featured very little balance, with a majority of their shots coming from the perimeter. That was to be expected, and the Boilermakers were able to get the shots to go down. Vincent Edwards led them with 20 points on only eight shots, but his first half was plagued with foul trouble.

The Boilermakers did lead 61-51 with ten minutes remaining, but the offense became stagnant in those final ten minutes and Butler star Kelan Martin started hunting his shot to get Butler right back into the game. With 1:36 remaining, Vincent Edwards turned the ball over with the score at 73-71 and Kamar Baldwin had a chance to tie it at the rim. In an act of redemption for the turnover, Edwards raced down the floor to swat the layup off the backboard for Dakota Mathias to grab the rebound.

Just over a minute later, Mathias would come off a Matt Haarms screen to knock down the game icing three to give the Boilers the 76-71 lead with 14.2 seconds remaining. That shot is what everyone will remember, but Edwards’ block is likely what saved the game for Matt Painter’s squad.

-No. 3 Michigan State Spartans 53, No. 11 Syracuse Orange 55

This was, without a doubt, the worst offensive performance of the season for the Michigan State Spartans. In Detroit, in front of a very partial crowd, they had absolutely no answers for the length and athleticism in the Syracuse zone. En route to the loss, the Spartans shot a woeful 17-66 (25.8%) from the floor.

The old adage with a zone defense is that it can be very difficult to block out and you may end up allowing a high number of offensive rebounds. Michigan State has always been a dominant rebounding team under Coach Izzo, so perhaps that would work to their advantage on a poor shooting day. The Spartans racked up 29, yes 29, offensive rebounds. They just couldn’t get anything to go down.

The Spartans played down the stretch with Ben Carter in the middle of the zone, and it quickly became apparent that he was very hesitant to play aggressively and look for his shot when facing the basket at the free throw line off the catch. A handful of times, he appeared to have the best look of the possession and pass it up for a contested three.

Miles Bridges followed up his monstrous performance from Friday night with a dud of an afternoon on Sunday. He finished with 11 points on 4-18 shooting.

For the second consecutive season, the Spartans will see it end in the Round of 32 and will likely move forward into next year without Miles Bridges or Jaren Jackson Jr., as it’s anticipated both will turn pro.

Other Thoughts:

1. UMBC Retrievers earned the respect of a nation

Of course, they’re in the history books. They beat the brakes off of the top overall seed in the tournament in Virginia on Friday night. It seemed pretty apparent they left everything on the floor in that one, as they couldn’t get the same shots to fall to continue their magical run against Kansas State.

Regardless, the way they played in both of these games has certainly earned the respect of an entire country of basketball fans. To see a team play for each other the way the UMBC Retrievers did over this weekend is a special thing, and it’s how teams find themselves in the record books.

Hats off.

2. Sportsmanship in the face of disappointment

Kelan Martin is a superstar scorer for the Butler Bulldogs, who as mentioned, lost to the Purdue Boilermakers Sunday. He is a senior, and that was the last collegiate game he’ll play. This is a guy who has scored over 2,000 points in his career playing in the Big East, and who did everything possible to put his team on his back in their two games in this tournament, scoring 27 and 29 points in their two games.

Following the disappointing loss to the Boilermakers, he found his way onto the team bus after the game. Not the Butler team bus, however. Martin made his way onto the Purdue team bus before they departed from Little Caesars Arena to wish the Boilermakers luck moving forward and to congratulate them on the victory.

Butler University has always had the reputation of doing everything the right way, and the actions of one selfless senior exemplified that one more time on Sunday.