It has been awhile since Purdue has had a higher seed in the NCAA tournament, but now that the Boilers are, many people are picking Purdue to be upset. In 2009 Many people felt Northern Iowa would beat Purdue in the First Round, mostly because of Purdue's perceived youth. Never mind that Purdue had just won the Big Ten Tournament, It was a 12/5 game and Northern Iowa had just won the Missouri Valley tournament.
Purdue won 61-56 and went on to the Sweet 16.
A year later Purdue was a 4 seed playing in Spokane. Despite having two excellent players in JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, the narrative was that Robbie Hummel was injured, so Purdue had no idea how to play basketball. Siena was expected to not only beat the Boilers, but win easily.
Purdue won 72-64 and again, went on to the Sweet 16.
This is before I mention that Purdue has won at least one game in every NCAA tournament appearance since 1993 except last year, and that took a last-second shot to send it to overtime to lose.
Under Matt Painter you can almost lock Purdue to play exactly to their seed:
Purdue record under Matt Painter as higher seed: 5-1
Purdue record under Matt Painter as lower seed: 3-6
Painter's one loss as a higher seed was against VCU. His wins as a lower seed came in the usual toss-up games: as a 9 over 8 seeded Arizona in 2007, as a 5 over 4 seeded Washington in 2009, and as a 10 over 7 seeded St. Mary's in 2012. Of Painter's seven NCAA Tournament losses, five of those teams went on to the Final Four (2007 Florida, 2009 Connecticut, 2010 Duke, 2011 VCU, 2012 Kansas). Xaiver in 2007 reached the Elite 8. So basically, if you're picking a team to beat Purdue, you had better expect them to make the Final Four or come damned close.
So who is picking against Purdue?
23. Arkansas-Little Rock beating Purdue
Because it's going to happen.
The Trojans are a tough matchup for No. 5 Purdue after Sunday afternoon's heartbreak in Indianapolis.
The Trojans were dominant in the Sun Belt, going 17-3 in league play. They have wins over one tournament team in Tulsa and a near-tournament team in San Diego State, and there are a lot of things stylistically that make them a strong upset possibility. They slow the game down, 345th of 351 Division I teams in tempo, they drill threes, hitting 38.7 percent from deep. Even their big men, Liz Shoshi and Mareik Isom, can drill threes. That could mess with a Purdue team that depends on interior dominance.
Little Rock also has a great story, as Chris Beard has completely transformed this program in his first season as a Division I coach. He's was coaching a semipro team in 2012, but spent a few years as a Division II coach and this year took over a struggling program that went 13-18 last year. He has them play a style that actually fits them, and now they're dancing for the second time in the past 25 years.
The Trojans will probably struggle inside a Purdue team with several star big men, but if they can limit possessions and hit threes on those possessions, they've still got a chance of winning. If I had to pick one upset in the field, this would be it.
No. 5 Purdue vs. No. 12 Little Rock
Another case where turnovers might make a huge difference in an early-round matchup. Little Rock keeps their turnovers down on offense (15.9 turnover percentage) while maximizing them on defense (21.4 percent, 20th best in nation). Purdue, meanwhile, is one of the worst teams at creating defensive turnovers (13.8 percent). Only University of Central Florida, Delaware and George Mason â all non-tournament teams â were worse.
Chance of an upset: 32.0 percent
Jay Williams - ESPN
The problem for Purdue is contrast. The Boilermakers love to win the battle on the glass and in the paint, but Little Rock comes into the game with a guard-heavy approach capable of giving opponents fits.
Josh Hagins, who averages 12.8 points and 4.7 assists per game, might be one of the most underrated players in the tournament. Forwards who can shoot will clear the lane and let Hagins penetrate, dishing to the high-percentage shooters from deep. Little Rock's defense should shine, too, as two of Purdue's top three scorers happen to average more than two turnovers per game.
Shooting and turnover-minded defense will propel Little Rock to a win.
Prediction: Little Rock 65, Purdue 63
COME ON, BLEACHER REPORT!!! I THOUGHT WE WERE COOL!
That's okay. Early tomorrow evening we can just run this: