So, it's not what we wanted. Despite a 13th rank in the last week of the regular season, and continuously being in the top 16 for most of the season, Purdue draws what appears to be the top 5 seed. Joining them in the Midwest region is Michigan State who probably has the biggest gripe in the tournament. Despite being the #2 ranked team in the nation and winning their conference tournament with back to back wins over teams that have been ranked in the top ten this year, MSU is given the 2 seed instead of one of the four number 1's.
Despite this, both teams will probably be pretty happy with their draw. The obvious thing to be happy about - their sweet 16 games will happen in Chicago. This means short travel for both teams that have historically traveled well.
But to get a sense of what to expect from Purdue's draw, we're going to take a look into all 16 teams that made the Midwest bracket. We'll do it in reverse order. I haven't seen a lot of these teams, so we'll rely on Kenpom to get a sense of their style of play and threats.
#16 Hampton (21-10), Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 222
Off. Efficiency: 99.9 - 245th in nation
Def. Efficiency: 104.8 - 191st in nation
Adj. Tempo: 72.2 - 43rd in nation
Opponent: #1 Virginia
We're not going to waste time here. Maybe some day a 16th seed will pull off an upset, but when it happens I'm sure of one thing - It will not be logical. There's no smart way to look at this match-up and think Goliath is going to lose.
#15 Middle Tennessee State (24-9), Conference USA:
Kenpom Rating: 124
Off. Efficiency: 102.2 - 198th
Def. Efficiency: 99 - 71st
Adj. Tempo: 68.3 - 204
Opponent: #2 Michigan State
Same thing applies here that applies with the 1 vs. 16 game, there's just no logic for drama here. Coach Izzo has taken his team to seven final fours - they don't lose early in the tournament to Middle Tennesssee State's. They're one of a handful of teams that could have a case for best team in the country. What's interesting is if they do win out, and meet Purdue for the third time. Each team now holds a win over the other with MSU's neutral court win holding a little more stock because of venue, but the teams seem pretty evenly matched. Both games came down to the last second. What we have seen is that MSU's big men give Hammons and company as much trouble as anyone in the country and Denzell Valentine is the best player in the country.
#14 Fresno State (25-9), Mountain West Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 105th
Off. Efficiency: 106.2 - 124th
Def. Efficiency: 100.3 - 100th
Adj. Tempo: 69.7 - 129th
Utah is a very good team. Three of their 8 losses has come at the hands of number one seed Oregon. However, there's two things that goes in Fresno State's favor and makes them a danger in the tournament - they don't turn the ball over while forcing the other team to turn the ball over. They have the 13 best turnover % in the nation and force turnovers at the 37th best percentage. Utah's defense just does not force turnovers. They're 327 in the nation on forcing turnovers and outside of the top 100 in protecting it. Of course, for Purdue, any team that can force turnovers should scare them, but Fresno would have to put on a couple pairs of Cinderella shoes to get all the way to the Boilermakers.
#13 Iona (22-10), Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 73rd
Off. Efficiency: 110.4 - 60th
Def. Efficiency: 101.2 - 120th
Adj. Tempo: 72.2 - 44th
Opponent: Iowa State
The winner of this match-up will be playing the Boilers if they win, which means Iona has the potential to be the Cinderella second in the way of Purdue. Iona plays fast and nowadays that's just another way of saying they take a lot of threes. Their the 55th most efficient team behind the arc this year, connecting on 37.2 percent of them. If you want to upset someone, it's a good idea to hit a lot of shots from distance and Iowa State has been susceptible to allowing a lot of 3's. Iowa State doesn't get to the line and relies on 3 point shooting for their scoring as well, so the recipe for an upset will be pretty simple - Iona gets hot and Iowa State struggles to match. Either way, the winner of this game will challenge Purdue's ability to guard the three point line - a weakness for Purdue.
#12 Arkansas Little Rock (29-4), Sun Belt Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 47th
Off. Efficiency: 108.3 - 85th
Def. Efficiency: 96.1 - 35th
Adj. Tempo: 64 - 345th
There's a pretty obvious flaw in Purdue - turnovers. Little rock is the 20th best team in the country at forcing turnovers. They average a forced turnover once every five possessions. That's their blue print. They are by far the highest rated 12 seed in the tournament. Purdue has reason to gripe here. There's more to worry about here though because Little Rock also shoots the shit out of the ball - the 22nd most efficient 3 point shooting team in the country. They play really slow and will grind us, but Purdue's edge in height might be too much to overcome. Little Rock only has 2 players that play major minutes that are taller than 6'9", but both of them can shoot from deep and stretch the floor. This might be one of the best games of the first round - which is not what you want to hear if you're a Boiler fan.
#11 Gonzaga (26-7), West Coast Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 27th
Off. Efficiency: 114.6 - 24th
Def. Efficiency: 97.8 - 55th
Adj. Tempo: 68 - 223
Opponent: Seton Hall
Gonzaga should be very angry. Despite a 27th rating in the kenpom and some really good losses, they get a Seton Hall team that can flat out play. Gonzaga is an offensive juggernaut with a defense that plays it very safe and conservative which allows them a top 10 defense against the 3 point shot. They're going to struggle against a really talented Seton Hall team that's picked to be one of the biggest challenges to the Spartans in the bracket, but they do have size though and one of the best big men in the country in Sabonis. Their average height is 8th in the nation making them an intriguing match-up against Purdue if they're able to get by a guard-laden Seton Hall team fresh off a big run through the Big East Conference Tournament. This game is a must watch and an interesting contrast of styles.
#10 Syracuse (19-13), Atlantic Coast Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 41st
Off. Efficiency: 109.4 - 75th
Def. Efficiency: 96.4 - 38th
Adj. Tempo: 65.7 - 321
Despite the giant exasperated sigh and eye roll that their selection into the tournament gave all of us, the Orange things are a talented team that could cause some havoc in the tournament. Their style of zone can throw a wrench against team's who aren't familiar with it. That said, Syracuse has just not looked like a good team this year. They've lost 13 games!!! Their defense has remained strong, but they struggle to shoot the ball from inside and out and Dayton is a top 15 defensive team this year. Syracuse is going to struggle to score. As for a match-up with Purdue - we have more shooters now, but the zone - particularly one implemented well - can still give us fits without a guy that can steadily disintegrate it with penetration.
#9 Butler (21-10), Big East Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 40th
Off. Efficiency: 115.6 - 19th
Def. Efficiency: 101.8 - 131st
Adj. Tempo: 68.9 - 166
Opponent: Texas Tech
Ah, our buddies down south. Butler started the season scorching, securing a win against Purdue on a neutral court, and then struggled mightily in conference play including a one game exit in the Big East tournament after a loss to Providence. Their weaknesses are pretty obvious - they lack elite athleticism and struggle to contain teams on the defensive end. Their match-up with Texas Tech will be an all offense game - both teams have top 30 offenses and defenses that fall out of the top 100. Butler's advantage might simply be the culture that's been cultivated there. The Raiders are a rebuilding team, but the Bulldogs have a history of post season success. Texas Tech is a sloppy team that struggles to rebound and despite the higher seed, is probably outmatched if Butler can find their early season rhythm again. A rematch would be welcomed, mostly because that would mean Butler pulled off another big upset and knocked off the #1 seed.
#8 Texas Tech (19-12), Big 12 Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 42nd
Off. Efficiency: 113.5 - 28th
Def. Efficiency: 100.1 - 93rd
Adj. Tempo: 66.7 - 286th
Texas Tech is a really good offensive team, but they struggle to stop people from scoring and rebounding the basketball. Tubby Smith has brought the program back to the tournament but they are still not there. They have a signature win over Kansas, but also lost 7 of 8 games in conference play. It's a little remarkable they made it into the tournament at all without cracking 20 wins, but their dangers lie in their ability to get to the line. Something a Butler has struggled with this year. Expect a lot of points, but Tech seems a little ahead of schedule.
#7 Dayton (25-7), Atlantic 10 Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 54th
Off. Efficiency: 104.7 - 160th
Def. Efficiency: 93.8 - 14th
Adj. Tempo: 68.8 - 175th
Dayton is a rugged team who has bounced back from a couple really bad losses earlier in the season to Chattanooga and La Salle. They made it to the A10 semi-final before losing to St. Joseph's by 3. Defense is their calling card obviously with a top 15 defense in the nation. Syracuse has been a bad offensive team all year, but Dayton's given up good looks from beyond while struggling to connect on their end. This is going to be a rock fight. Dayton only has only two deep threats in Charles Cooke (57-139) and Scoochie Smith(45-119) and Syracuse is one of the best defenses against the 3 ball. Look for Dayton to really struggle on offense, and despite Syracuse's questionable merit to get in the tournament, an upset could be easy to see.
#6 Seton Hall(25-8), Big East Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 26th
Off. Efficiency: 110.7 - 55th
Def. Efficiency: 94 - 17th
Adj. Tempo: 70.3 - 104th
Seton Hall is really good. They're already anointed the most likely to challenge the Spartans in the Midwest Region, and for good reason. They defend like hell and have the kind of guards that can absolutely push a team deep into the tournament. They hold to an effective FG% of 45.3% which is good enough for 23rd best in the country. Their achille's heel is depth - they don't play many bodies and with the first round happening in Denver this could very well become an issue. They've also pulled a very tough draw in Gonzaga. Not many teams are as well rounded and capable of challenging teams inside and out. Seton Hall is also very young, with just one senior and the rest of their players being sophomores and freshman. Isiah Whitehead is the real deal, only failing to score in double figures 3 times all year, but Seton Hall willl be giving up a lot of size to the Zags. Despite the story that they're potential bracket busters, I'm smelling upset here.
#5 Purdue (26-8), Big Ten Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 10th
Off. Efficiency: 115.3 - 21st
Def. Efficiency: 94.5 - 18th
Adj. Tempo: 68.3 - 203
Opponent: Arkansas Little-Rock
The Big Ten got the shaft, is the popular opinion, and I can go with that, but despite a tough 12-5 matchup to start, this is not the worst draw Purdue could have hoped for. They had to win against MSU to have any chance of a 3 seed, so avoiding the #1 seed of a bracket was very unlikely. Little-Rock is going to make it a game, but the Boilers size should wear them down. Our depth should anchor us in the Mile High air, and we'll need all that depth against a tough Iowa State matchup. Still, you look at some of the other 4 seeds - sorry IU - and you've got to feel pretty good about Purdue's chances to test their grit against a similarly minded Virginia team in the Sweet Sixteen in Chicago.
#4 Iowa State (21-11), Big 12 Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 18th
Off. Efficiency: 120.5 - 3rd
Def. Efficiency: 100.3 - 101st
Adj. Tempo: 71.8 - 54th
Iowa State should be able to outscore Iona, setting up a second round match-up against the Boilers. As the 3rd ranked offense, it's not hard to see the strength on strength part of the match-up. Georges Niang is Kenpom's sixth best player of the year, and Monte Morris is one of the best point guards in the country. Purdue will have their hands full. Purdue has one of the best defenses in the nation, but they've struggled to contain perimeter shooting and the Cyclones are going to chuck, chuck, and chuck the ball some more. But opponents are shooting almost 50% inside the arc against Iowa State this year and their tallest player is 6'9". They have a lot of guys that can score, but they'll struggle to stop Purdue's bigs. The key will be can Purdue knock down enough shots to keep up with Iowa State's full stock of scorers. Iowa State doesn't have anywhere close to a bad loss, and a lot of good wins. This will be a war.
#3 Utah (26-8), Pac-12 Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 29th
Off. Efficiency: 113.7 - 27th
Def. Efficiency: 97.5 - 51st
Adj. Tempo: 66.5 - 294th
Opponent: Fresno St.
Despite Utah's dismantling in the Pac 12 championship game at the hands of number 1 seed Oregon, they're an experienced players with one of the best centers in the country. They have the 15th highest effective FG% in the country, and they do their damage almost exclusively inside the three point line. On defense, they don't foul and they don't allow easy buckets at the basket. That combination makes them tough for most offenses to crack. Jakob Poeltl is in line with Hammons as best center in college basketball, and is one of the best rebounders in basketball while shooting 65% from the floor. Utah is a deep team with a lot of different pieces, they'll be challenged by a frenetic Fresno St. team, but Utah has the talent, depth, and experience to make it deep enough to have a head to head match with the best two centers in the country.
#2 Michigan State (29-5), Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 3rd
Off. Efficiency: 121.3 - 2nd
Def. Efficiency: 94.8 - 19th
Adj. Tempo: 67.4 - 253rd
Opponent: Middle Tennessee St.
Friday, March 25th, Chicago - MSU vs PU Rubber Match.
#1 Virginia (26-7), Atlantic Coast Conference Conference:
Kenpom Rating: 2nd
Off. Efficiency: 118.3 - 9th
Def. Efficiency: 91.9 - 4th
Adj. Tempo: 61.4 - 351st
Virginia is going to play slow. They haven't played a game where one team scored 80 points or more since December 19th when they beat Villanova. Malcom Brogdon is the second best player in the region - a do everying 6'5" senior who is a few free throws away from the 50-40-90 club. They are deep. They are experienced. They are patient. They wear down their opponents on both ends. They take good shots and make them. They are absolutely overlooked. They have the 5th best block rate in the country. Their record becomes even more impressive when you consider they had the fourth toughest schedule in the country. They have a gigantic body in Mike Tobey to anchor the middle or they can slide Brogdon to the four and play small. They're versatile and will be a tough out for anybody. Michigan State might be the best team in the bracket, but Virginia might be Purdue's toughest match-up.