Naysayer Says: Get Off Caleb Swanigan’s Back
Let’s look at Denzel Valentine. He’s the man for Michigan State. He’s the dude who will handle the ball and either feed (no-look, alley-oop while falling down for slam-dunk) or take the big shot (pause mid-shot, adjust to let defensive player Raphael Davis fly by, then shoot) and make it. No doubt in anyone’s mind who will take that role for the Spartans.
Purdue, with senior leadership galore, doesn’t have the man. Freshman Caleb Swanigan wanted to hit the big shot in the big game to possibly propel his team to the championship and be the man. I get it and I applaud Swanigan for having the kahoonies to step up and apply to be the man for Purdue.
Every kid, boy or girl, who shoots in the backyard dreams of being the man. The clock counts down, the shot is up—swish—the buzzer sounds and your team wins the NCAA title. I get it. Swanigan seized that moment and shot—the execution and form doomed this shot from the get-go and it was lucky to draw iron, but nevertheless he stepped up, and that is exactly what the Boilers need—now and in the future. Only next time, he has to make the shot. An important trait when applying to be the man.
Look back during the many close games Purdue lost, and a common thread was the Boilers’ lack of the man. These games were all filled with flawed late-game offensive and defensive execution while players ran around like deer caught in headlights with looks of fear in their eyes at the prospect of taking a meaningful shot. Then, when somebody had to shoot, more times than not the shot would be hurried, errant, and come without a rebound.
If Swanigan returns next year, he will be that leader for Purdue. The Boilers will have the man. Just wait until Biggie’s body and coordination catch up with his talent and ability. The former Boiler great Melvin McCants comes to mind, and if he played and improves every year like McCants, that would be very good for the Boilers. At least for one more year, that is.
The senior leadership that Purdue should possess disappeared late in the second half of Sunday’s Big Ten Championship tilt. A.J. Hammons looked early in the game like he wanted to impress NBA scouts with his mid-range shooting, but his failed fade-away jumpers not only missed (sometimes badly) but took him out of rebounding position, and his futility with these shots appeared to frustrate him, taking him mentally out of the game. He would reappear briefly in the second half, but disappear again during crunch time. Davis was invisible while guarding Valentine in the second half. I say, if Swanigan wants the role, let him be the man because nobody else is stepping up.
Among Other Things
My gosh, move the selection committee out of Indy and look what happens to the Big Ten. No respect. None. Also to the selection committee: Good job on leaking the brackets, that way we didn’t have to watch the two-hour selection show, which was about an hour and 45 minutes too long. Nothing was ever leaked while the selection process was in Indy. Why was it moved, anyway?
I’m pretty sure Indiana and Purdue are Top 20 teams. And I’m pretty sure Michigan State should be a 1. Oregon a 1? Please. The final season rankings and these tournament seedings don’t jive. Which are we to believe in the future?
We got ripped off
Indiana should have had six teams in the field of 68. But because of some early exits from conference tournaments, these schools paid the biggest price. There were several head-scratching teams invited to the dance that really have no business being in. The first is Michigan. Even in a play-in game, the Wolverines are an NIT team at best. But by taking the Wolverines, a team that should be in the field, like, say, a Valparaiso, got the boot. There is no comparison between the quality play put up by the Crusaders all year, and then to lose in the first round of the conference tournament and not even get in? Same applies for Indiana State. Syracuse is another head-scratcher. Really?
The Gene Team
Former Purdue coach Gene Keady has four former players coaching in this year’s NCAA: Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings, California’s Cuonzo Martin, Green Bay’s Linc Darner along with Matt Painter.
I’m just going to say this once, is CBS’s Jim Nantz on the Visit Indy payroll? If not, he should be. Nantz sprinkled his commentary with many glowing references to Indy’s great ability to host a national event. We all know that. It just lends credence to keeping the tournament here. Maybe the Big East would be interested?
How about California as a dark horse? Martin has three NBA lottery picks on this team led by senior Tyrone Wallace. Although Utah’s last-second shot in overtime knocked Cal out of the conference tourney, these Bears are primed for a deep tournament run, and might pull it off as a 4 seed.