HOUSTON -- Keaton Grant can envision the moment. He and his Purdue teammates are standing amid the confetti as One Shining Moment plays on the big screen at Lucas Oil Stadium. They will be holding the trophy, the new national champions of college basketball.
“People will say we got lucky or whoever we beat didn’t bring their A-game,’’ Grant said. “We joke about that all the time.’’
In a region full of teams with chips on their shoulders -- Saint Mary’s, the underappreciated mid-major; Duke, the overseeded and perpetually despised power; and Baylor, the overachieving newbies -- no one is carrying a gouge quite like Purdue.
Since Robbie Hummel went down with his knee injury, the Boilermakers have been left for dead. Even the president went against them.
They were classic first-round upset picks against Siena and given no chance to beat Texas A&M.
Now up against top-seeded Duke, a team that blew the doors off Purdue a season ago, the Boilers might as well pack up and go home if conventional wisdom has any say so.
“I know we’re tired of hearing it,’’ Grant said. “They talk about it on CBS, on ESPN, in the newspapers. You kind of get used to it but we’re also sick of it.’’
The fact is, the doubting is nothing new for Purdue. The Boilermakers have been told what they can’t do for years now. As freshmen this crew wasn’t supposed to beat Arizona in the NCAA tournament. They did. As sophomores, conventional wisdom deemed the Boilers as upset material for Baylor. Didn’t happen. In their junior season, Northern Iowa was supposed to get them. Nope.
And then it was the end of Hummel, an injury that certainly left Purdue momentarily stunned, evidenced by the 11 first-half points they mustered against Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament.
“Oh, they blinked, they definitely blinked,’’ Matt Painter said. “We just don’t have a 6-8, 220-pound guy waiting in the wings.’’
But the Boilers licked their wounds and regrouped, turning the negative energy spinning against them in their favor.
“I think all of the doubt, it definitely sat with them,’’ Painter said. “Nobody believed in them except the guys in that locker room. They know that.’’