Purdue hopes to make home-state Final Four in Indy

Oct 21, 2009 - 8:05 AM By CLIFF BRUNT AP Sports Writer

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.(AP) -- Purdue's players aren't hiding the fact that they'd love to play in the Final Four down the road in Indianapolis.

The Boilermakers hope to have a run similar to Michigan State's last season, when the Spartans reached the national title game in Detroit before losing to North Carolina.

Purdue has advanced past the first round of the NCAA tournament in three straight seasons, winning 74 games in that span, but hasn't reached the regional finals.

This Boilermakers squad expects more.

"We've been to the Sweet 16," forward Robbie Hummel said during media day on Tuesday. "It's great to get there. At this point, we feel we want to take the next step and go to the Final Four."

Purdue returns its entire starting lineup from last year's team that lost to Connecticut in the Sweet 16. The top three scorers, Hummel, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, are all back.

Defensive stopper Chris Kramer, point guard Lewis Jackson and 3-point shooter Keaton Grant also return.

Kramer said the fact that the Final Four will be played 65 miles from campus is something the players think about.

"It's every team's dream, and with the Final Four being in Indianapolis, it's that much more motivation to get there," Kramer said.

Even Coach Matt Painter acknowledged the significance.

"It's great that the Final Four is in Indianapolis, and we've got some good pieces and some guys that are hungry and want to get there, but we also have to keep things in perspective and stay on edge," he said.

Painter hasn't always fielded questions about the Final Four; Purdue went 9-19 in 2005-06, his first year with the team. Perhaps that's why he's a bit more reserved about the team's goals than his players.

"We haven't won our league," Painter said. "I think that's probably the number one goal for us because of the order it's in."

Before that, the Boilermakers must avoid falling flat again in important non-conference games.

"I thought last year we had some consistency, but when it came to a big game - against an Oklahoma or against a Duke - we have to be able to win those games," Painter said. "We have to be able to step up and show we've made those improvements and that we can rebound better, and we've got more maturity and we're tougher."

The Boilermakers said they learned from the 72-60 Sweet 16 loss to UConn, which outrebounded the Boilermakers 48-33.

"The biggest thing we carried over is how strong and physical they were, and how dominant they were on the glass," Kramer said. "When you don't make shots, you've got to be able to win games. We didn't rebound enough, so everybody hit the weight room, and everybody got stronger."

Getting stronger is one reason the Boilermakers dare to dream of ending their season at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"It definitely would be like a home game," Moore said. "All our fans would be there."

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