Purdue Basketball Fired Up for Virginia Rematch, Visit from Champions


All games are equal in importance but some contests are a lot more equal than others. Or something like that. The #23rd ranked Purdue basketball program welcomes #11 and reigning national champion Virginia to Mackey Arena on Wednesday, December 4th for a rematch of the two sides’ instant classic 2019 NCAA Tournament South Regional final.

Virginia, albeit in very controversial fashion, won that Elite 8 game 80-75 in overtime. It gave the Cavaliers their first Final Four berth since 1984 and it denied the first Purdue basketball appearance in the Final Four since 1980. The Boilermakers, making their first Elite Eight appearance since 2000, might have advanced had the restart of the clock in Louisville that evening been more friendly to them.

However, now it’s a new season, and the rematch comes in a different competitive format, the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The atmosphere at Mackey Arena will be electric, it will definitely be on par with, if not greater, than two recent headliner pre-conference games.

The 66-57 win over Louisville in the 2017 challenge, in the wake of the UL prostitution scandal, comes to mind. The other is the 79-76 loss to then #1 ranked and defending national champion Villanova, in the 2016 Gavitt Games.

The extremely entertaining nature of that game was a welcome distraction for those of us still in pain  from the election result a few days prior.

While Virginia is a “circle the date” kind of affair, the Boilermakers have a few games of high interest before the Cavs come calling. The 2019-20 season begins at home versus Green Bay on Wednesday night.

Texas comes in on November 9, there’s a trip to Marquette in the Gavitt Games and the Emerald Coast Classic over Thanksgiving.

“We have a very difficult schedule,” said Purdue basketball coach Matt Painter at Media Day.

“But to be able to play a program like Virginia who won the National Championship the next year after we had a tough loss to them, to go to the Final Four, it is a big challenge.”

“But it’s also — we play Texas at home and we play at Marquette. We play VCU in Destin, and then we either play Florida State or Tennessee in Destin before we play them. So we have so many challenges before them.”

Junior center Matt Haarms looks at the loss that ended Purdue’s season as a very teachable moment going forward.

“You got to put it in the rearview mirror, but sometimes you have to look back,” said Haarms.

“You got to realize why you lost that game. You can’t just say we lost on a last second shot- there are reasons we got to that point. Mistakes were made, we weren’t as detailed as we needed to be.”

“It showed me that to get to the Final Four, to win a national championship, you can’t make mistakes, basically. You can’t give yourself room for error. You got to hold yourself to a very high standard- it’s been useful in that way.”

Yes, UVA loses a lot from last year’s team, likewise with Purdue. However, those key missing pieces will be replaced and this will be a match-up of two top 25 sides. The Purdue basketball team is going to be really fired up for this one; as will Purdue basketball fans.

“It’s going to be fun, every home game at Mackey is special,” added Haarms.

“Our fans bring it every single game, no matter who it is, so I’m sure they’ll bring it that night, and maybe a little something extra.”

Added junior guard Nojel Eastern: “can’t wait for that game. It’s going to be exciting…one thing about a team like that, you can have Xs and Os all day but if you don’t compete, you won’t have a chance of winning that game.”

We can’t wait either.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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