Building Confidence

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In my humble opinion, the most not-talked about sports achivement from all of last year was Connecticut's run to the national title. We heard a lot about the Uconn women's team's winning streak, about the unlikely appearance of VCU and Butler in the Final Four and how the Cardinals won the World Series.

This about this: Connecticut won 11 - yes, 11 - elimination games in the span of about three weeks. The Huskies won five games in five days to win the Big East Tournament as a No. 8 seed. In my mind, what they accomplished is one of the greatest college basketball achievements ever.

Yet, to be honest, very little has been said about it. It's true that there were probably as many as 10 teams better than Uconn, but that's not how it works. Who's left standing gets to hang the banner, and Jim Calhoun and company did just that.

The reason I focus on that point is the thought that certain teams are better prepared to hit the tournament trail based on late-season results. We always hear the refrain that teams are peaking at the right time. History says other things.

Last year, VCU was hammered in its last home game before the CAA Tournament. The Rams started playing their best basketball in the NCAA Tournament.

In my opinion, where you're seeded, where you play and what time of day you play has as much relevance to whether you play good or bad as does how you're playing coming into any game.

For example, we can all agree that Purdue is playing its best basketball of the season, but what does that mean if the team they play is also playing its best basketball of the season?

Playing well does do one positive thing: it builds your confidence. All season long, Purdue has been pretty good away from home, if you throw out the Michigan State and Penn State games. Many of us who cover the team felt Purdue could play with Michigan, which proved to be true. I think the same is true about Sunday's game in Bloomington.

IU has been a beast at home, with one slip up to Minnesota. History says the Hoosiers have a huge homecourt advantage.

I can't argue that, but I do feel we have a shot if we continue to share the ball, limit turnovers and make hustle plays. Without a doubt, IU made more hustle plays in their win at Mackey Arena.

What happens if those things don't go your way? Forget about it and move on to the next game, which in this case is the Big Ten Tournament. Purdue has enough skill to bother anyone in the country. The question all season has been consistency. I think that question still needs to be answered.

I would like to congratulate Lewis Jackson, Ryne Smith and Robbie Hummel for their great contributions to Purdue basketball. All will be remembered in a very fond way. How Jackson and Hummel have both managed their injuries over time is something special.

In Hummel's case, I can't imaging rehabbing for 20 months and then going at it again. His play of late has been better than all-conference, it's been All-American.

I don't have a clue who will win the Big Ten Tournament. Truthfully, there isn't a clear-cut favorite. Remember how MSU was playing so well? That ended with a thud at Indiana. Ohio State looks mortal, as does Michigan. Wisconsin? Don't know. It's been that kind of a season, and should be a terrific tournament.

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