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Brackets set: Purdue’s road to the Final Four comes through Indy

Can Matt Painter end the Final Four drought?

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The brackets are set, and the Indianapolis matchups locked in. For the second straight year, the Purdue Boilermakers will enter March Madness as the No. 1-seed in the Midwest.

“We have fought like hell to get in this position, and now we know we have to play better,” said head coach Matt Painter. “We have to coach better, execute better,”.

Purdue will play the Midwest’s 16-seed, which will be decided by a play-in game between Grambling State and Montana State. That game tips at 7:25 p.m. ET Friday. If Purdue were to get past that team, they’ll play either 8-seed Utah State or 9-seed TCU (who play at 9:55 p.m. ET Friday) Sunday. That second round will also be played in Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

The Boilers have had their eyes set on March since last year when 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson shockingly knocked out Purdue in the first round in Columbus. That heartbreak has fueled Purdue, who retained nearly 90% of their scoring from last season.

“When you get in a situation that you had last year, you can run from it or you can embrace it,” Painter said. “A lot of times, the best medicine is to be able to sit in that adversity, but you can’t fix something if you don’t own it.”

Led by National Player of the Year frontrunner Zach Edey, the Boilers have dominated their way to the NCAA Tournament, finishing the season 29-4. Edey became Purdue’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder this season.

Edey is one of four Boilers averaging double-figures. The 7-foot-4 Canadian is having his best season with 24.4 points a game. Add to that 11.7 rebounds a game, and Edey’s once again been a dominant presence inside for the Boilers. Braden Smith (12.5), Lance Jones (12.2) and Fletcher Loyer (10.4) are all scoring over 10 points a game as well.

The Boilers’ quest for back-to-back Big Ten Tournament titles ended in the semi-finals when the tournament’s fifth-seed Wisconsin beat them 76-75 in overtime.

Including Purdue, six Big Ten teams are going dancing. Illinois, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Nebraska, and Michigan State join the Boilers in the bracket.

Left out of the bracket was Indiana State. The Sycamores were one of the first four out after losing to Drake 84-80 in the Missouri Valley Conference final. Indiana State was the highest net ranked team to not make the NCAA Tournament.

Indianapolis will also host the first and second rounds for part of the South Region. Two-seed Marquette will face 15-seed Western Kentucky at 2 p.m ET. On the other side of the bracket, 7-seed Florida will play either Boise State or Colorado as a 10-seed at 4:30 p.m. ET.