No one was mentioned more than the guy who won’t play.
Second place went to someone who might not play.
Third place? The President of the United States.
Thirteenth-seeded Siena (27-6) will finally face No. 4 Purdue (27-5) on the court at 2:30 p.m. EDT today at Spokane Arena, ending a week of hype in which the Boilermakers’ Robbie Hummel was the hottest topic, despite the fact that he was lost for the season three weeks ago.
A fresher topic has been Clarence Jackson’s sprained left ankle, and the signs weren’t encouraging on Thursday that Siena’s starting shooting guard would be able to do much, if anything, for the team in the first round of the South Region.
The loss of Hummel, who tore his right ACL, coupled with Barack Obama’s selection of Siena to pull the upset in his televised bracket picks, have turned Purdue into a more determined opponent for the Saints, who, despite their seed, have gained national respect and renown for beating fourth-seeded Vanderbilt in 2008, and Ohio State last year before giving No. 1 Louisville a scare.
Is there such a thing as reverse-reverse psychology?
If there is, Siena was exercising it on Thursday, claiming that they need to use Purdue’s perceived lack of respect as a call to ramp up their own bunker mentality.
Just who is the underdog here, anyway?
If the teams fight for a victory as hard as they’ve been fighting over that label, it should be a terrific game.
“We know they’re probably hearing that and are sick and tired of it and will come out with tremendous energy,” Siena senior power forward Alex Franklin said. “We try not to read anything into that, we know we’re playing a really great team, and it’s not going to be handed to us.”
“We watched Selection Show, all those things,” Purdue guard Chris Kramer said. “We saw as soon as our name came up and Seth Davis said, ‘Oh, well, this might be the only 4-13 game where the No. 4 is the underdog. And Barack — our president — picked against us, everyone is picking against us.
“So the only thing we can do is go out there and win games. Everyone on our team has to raise their level and play with that kind of chip on their shoulder.”
For the second day in a row, Jackson participated in Siena’s light 40-minute workout.
He wore a thick black brace around his left ankle, which he hurt in practice on Saturday and has been treating and icing ever since.
He was able to jog and cut and jump during the public workout, but the nature of the session was nowhere close to game speed or intensity.
Jackson, Siena’s fourth-leading scorer and most dangerous three-point threat, wasn’t optimistic that he’d have the explosiveness he needs to be an effective player.
Asked what his status was for the game, he said, “50 percent.”
“It’s tough, because I really don’t define my game as three-point shooting,” he said. “I do a lot of stuff off the dribble, moving and a lot of jumping. That’s kind of what hurts me a little bit. I’m just trying to be smart about it. I don’t want to do anything to put my team at risk. I’m going to be honest with them, and I’m going to be honest with the coaching staff. If I feel like I’m ready to go, then I’ll go. If not, then I’ll just sit on the side and cheer on my team.”
Head coach Fran McCaffery said Jackson was “still questionable, I would say. Bordering on doubtful.”
If Jackson can’t play, sophomore Kyle Downey, who has successfully recovered from a broken foot he suffered on Jan. 19, will start.
Before he was hurt, Downey, who doesn’t have big numbers but seems to contribute a little bit of everything, had established himself as the best player off the bench, and he has averaged 14.6 minutes per game this season.
“I think I’m always in that mindset, it’s the same kind of preparation every game, whether you’re playing 40 minutes or four minutes,” Downey said. “I don’t know if it changes our team. It’s just different personnel. There’s been a couple games where he didn’t play as well or hasn’t played as much, and either me or Owen [Wignot] or Kyle Griffin has stepped up.”
“Right now, I’m trying to evaluate myself, basically, every hour,” Jackson said. “I don’t have any intentions of going out there and starting. I just want to see how much movement I can do.”
The Boilermakers have had to adjust to the loss of Hummel, their second-leading scorer and rebounder, and start a lineup of four guards and wiry 6-foot-10 JaJuan Johnson.
“He’s a great player, he shoots the ball like he’s a guard, he’s got a great turnaround, a great 17-footer,” Siena junior center Ryan Rossiter said. “He’s an extremely athletic player who does a great job on the offensive glass, keeps a lot of balls active.”
E’Twaun Moore is averaging 16.6 points per game.
Purdue is known for its in-your-face defense, featuring Kramer, a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
“You can’t be looking to the officials to bail you out,” McCaffery said. “You’ve got to make cuts, you’ve got to catch, turn and face, and you’ve got to make aggressive moves. You can’t be lazy with the basketball.”
“They try to turn you over, they don’t let you run anything smoothly and have some scrappy guys that get after you the whole game,” Siena senior Edwin Ubiles said.
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