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Indiana-Purdue miscellany, and other thoughts on the season.

IU has a few days to rest before hosting Illinois on Thursday night. In light of that, a few random thoughts:

  • As hoosierdaddynow pointed out in the comments, I can't believe I was remiss in failing to mention Will Sheehey's block of a Lewis Jackson layup attempt. What can I say, I was writing my recap surrounded by screaming kids. It was, without a doubt, the crucial play of the game. Purdue had pulled to within four with about 2 minutes to play, but Sheehey's out-of-nowhere block prevented the game from getting very dicey. From that point forward, IU scored the final 13 points of the game.
  • What do we make of the Tom Crean/Matt Painter issues at the end? I got the sense, based on nothing more than watching the game, that Crean wasn't happy that Purdue kept fouling so late, and that Painter wasn't happy about the late timeout that Crean called, with 13 seconds remaining, to get a couple of walk-ons onto the court. Were they yelling at each other on the sideline? I really couldn't tell, but it looked possible. Crean gave Painter the blow-by handshake when Painter seemed to be trying to say something to him. On the other hand, they seem to have resolved the issue pretty well. I don't believe Painter commented on it after the game, and Crean said he had talked about it with Painter in the hallway. Frankly, particularly given recruiting issues, it's unlikely that the coaches at Indiana and Purdue can be good friends. Crean's lively demeanor does tend to rub people the wrong way, which is fine with me, and Painter hasn't done himself any favors over the years with complaining about the on-court demeanor of opposing players publicly (Michigan State's Branden Dawson most recently; Earl Calloway of IU a few years ago). Of course, it was noted in ESPN's hit piece on IU and the A-HOPE organization that Crean suspected Purdue of shoveling dirt, and I imagine we've all heard the rumors of Painter berating kids who have spurned him for other schools. Perhaps it's a step forward for Painter that if he was unhappy, he kept it to himself rather than ranting in the press conference. He is a protege of both Gene Keady and Bruce Weber, so it's really a miracle that he doesn't suck on a pacifier on the sideline.
  • Speaking of whiners, next up on the schedule is Illinois. This is a pretty big game for both programs. First, the series is currently tied at 83-83. Last season, IU managed to prevent falling behind in the all-time series by winning at home, but the Illini won their home game. This year, the only meeting is in Bloomington. If IU can hold serve in the next two home games (Northwestern is after Illinois, although the Hoosiers are off this coming weekend), then it becomes very difficult to imagine a scenario in which IU could fail to make the NCAA Tournament. The Illini are .500 in the conference as well, but they play five of their final eight on the road, while IU plays four of six at home (plus the North Carolina Central game). Illinois fans seemed to have turned on Bruce Weber, but his teams always create a tough matchup for the Hoosiers. No program has been tougher on the Hoosiers over the last 15 years than Illinois. Since Lou Henson retired in 1996, IU is 10-21 against the Illini. It's time to do something about that.
  • I hate to even mention the NCAA Tournament at this point, but if the Hoosiers do make it, they stand an excellent chance of playing their early round games closer to home than in any tournament since 1993, when the #1 Hoosiers beat Wright State and Xavier in Indianapolis. Since then, IU has played in DC (twice), Boise, Orlando (twice), Winston-Salem, Buffalo, San Diego, Sacramento (twice), Boston, Salt Lake City, and Raleigh. This year, four of the venues for the rounds of 64 and 32--Columbus, Louisville, Nashville, and Pittsburgh--are closer to Bloomington than any of IU's post 1993 venues. Of course, IU would need a very strong finish to get a the top 4 seed that is required for preferential placement under the pod system. But the mere luck of the draw would give IU a 50 percent shot of playing close to home.