Purdue feels the pressure in tough NCAA bracket

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Brad Miller remembers Purdue’s No. 1 NCAA seeding a year ago. He also remembers the pressure that came with it, something the young Boilermakers are glad to do without this time.
After winning the Big Ten championship three years in a row, Purdue slipped to a second-place tie this season. The Boilermakers won only half of their first 14 games, then earned another NCAA bid by winning 10 of their final 14.
Purdue, seeded eighth, in the NCAA Southeast, opens against No. 9 seed Rhode Island on Thursday at Memphis, Tenn.
“After the way was started the season, we’re happy to get in,” said the 6-foot-11 Miller, the team’s rebound leader (8.3) and second-leading scorer (13.7). “We can’t expect any more (higher seed) than we got.
“Being so young, we weren’t sure we would make the NIT after the pre-conference season. But there’s a lot more pressure when you’re seeded No. 1 because you have to go and beat everybody you are supposed to. This is a lot less pressure, and we can play worry-free.”
Purdue was a No. 1 seed twice in the past three years, losing in the regional championship to Duke in 1994 and in the second round to Georgia last year. In 1993, the Boilermakers were stunned by Rhode Island in the first round.
“I’m sure the coaches remember the last game against Rhode Island,” Miller said. “I’ve seen Rhode Island play a couple of times on TV and knew they had a couple of guys who played at Maine Central.”
Both Miller and guard Chad Austin, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, also prepped at Maine Central in 1993-94 before enrolling at Purdue.
The winner of Thursday’s game will advance to Saturday’s second round and a likely matchup with No. 1 Kansas.
“We have to try to win game by game and not look ahead,” Miller said. “Last year, looking ahead, we almost got beat by the 16th seed, Western Carolina. You just have to play the best basketball you can play for 40 minutes. The tournament is entirely different, and you have to be ready to play.”
This is Purdue’s fifth straight NCAA appearance and 13th in 17 years under coach Gene Keady. The Boilermakers reached the Final Four twice, losing both times to UCLA in the championship game in 1969 and in the semifinals in 1980.
Besides the 1993 loss to Rhode Island, Purdue’s only other game against the Rams was an NIT victory in Keady’s first season as coach in 1981.