Purdue has Off-Court Distractions as they Begin NCAA Tournament

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This March Madness, the Purdue Boilermakers, the No. 3 seed in the Southwest Region, will face No. 14 seed Saint Peter’s on Friday in second-round NCAA Tournament action. (TNT 7:20 p.m. ET) They’ll do so without sophomore guard Kelsey Barlow has been suspended for the remainder of the 2010-11 season for conduct detrimental to the team, head coach Matt Painter announced on Tuesday.

Barlow’s numbers may not jump out on you, but he’s a great defender. And his absence is just one of three off-the-court stories in the media this week which may or may not distract the Boilers away from the game.

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“It’s a huge loss. I mean, just the talent that he is and what he brings to the table. But I think the best thing also about this team, we have guys that know they can step up and replace him and that one guy doesn’t feel they have to do it by themself. We’re going to do it by committee. So the guys a little further behind him on the bench know it’s their opportunity to come in and really make an impact,” guard Lewis Jackson said.

Second came the rumors about Ryne Smith’s injury.

“I mean, I think more sort of to us it was more comical because you hear what people make up and just kind of the conclusions they come to. We kind of just laughed about it and stayed inside the family and kept working and not really worried about those rumors,” Lewis Jackson said.

Third, and perhaps most important of all, is yesterday’s USA Today article dealing with the Academic Progress Rates (APR) of the men’s basketball teams selected for this year’s NCAA Tournament. An excerpt:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says schools not on track to graduate at least half of their basketball players should not be allowed to compete in the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments.

If such a standard were in place now, three women’s teams and 10 men’s teams, including traditional powers Syracuse and Purdue, would not be in the tournaments.

Duncan said in an interview with USA TODAY that the NCAA should use its own Academic Progress Rate as the metric to measure tournament teams. He proposes bans for teams with a score lower than 925, which predicts a graduation rate of roughly 50% of a team’s players.

And the University posted a response

Coach Painter was asked about it today, and gave a very long response. an excerpt:

“It’s a tough deal. It’s not one of those blanket-type of things when you go in transition. But some of the things that happen in transition when you take over a job — is there going to be some guys in your program that don’t want to play for you? There’s nothing wrong with that. And they can leave. It happens all across the country.

But the thing that really happened — and it’s my — I guess it’s my downfall. You’re the head coach. You’ve got to take the blame for it is I recruited some guys I didn’t have a relationship with because, when I recruited at Southern Illinois, the guys I recruited at Southern Illinois, you go to Purdue and say, now I need a little better player playing in the Big Ten at Purdue. I need a more athletic guy. I need a quicker guy.

So you take over, and it was a great position for me because you can really get a gauge because I was an assistant coach for a year, and you try to really figure some things out. The one thing that jumped out to me in that first year was we need to get better players.

The one thing I didn’t have with some of the guys I recruited, I didn’t have that two, three-year relationship. That’s so important. It really taught me a valuable lesson because some of the kids we took were gone in a year. It’s something you have to have in your program that really doesn’t fit the APR, and that’s discipline. And that’s something that’s not brought up in anything.

You know, we’re going to have some order at Purdue,” Painter said.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com

You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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