This is a bit of an oddly placed game for us. We’re coming off of a very nice road win at Marquette and preparing to go back on the road with a trip to the Bahamas for a ridiculously tough 3-game tournament. In the middle is a buy game with Fairfield, a team that most fans probably think is similar to SIU-Edwardsville and Chicago State.
This could be a minor trap game, however.
Sure, I expect to win, but it will be a tougher challenge than the previous two home games. This team hales from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, whose champion almost always causes some consternation in March. They’re one of the better teams from that league, too.
From: Fairfield, Connecticut
Game Location: Mackey Arena (14,240)
Date: November 18, 2017
Time: 7pm ET
TV: BTN Plus
Radio: Boilermaker Sports Network
Odds: No Line yet
2016-17 Record: 16-15, 11-9 MAAC
2017-18 Record: 2-0, 0-0
Record vs. Purdue: First Meeting
Last Purdue win: None
Last Fairfield win: None
Blog Representation: Message Board
NCAA Tournament History: 3 appearance, last in 1997.
Coach: Sydney Johnson (92-108 in 7th year at Fairfield, 158-161 overall.
There are a few interesting notes from the first two games for Fairfield. They opened the season at home on Saturday with an 80-72 win over Penn, a perennial contender in the Ivy League. They followed that up on Tuesday with a 64-52 win over Loyola-MD. That same Loyola team gave a ranked Northwestern squad all it could handle in the season opener before falling 79-75. Because Fairfield had a little easier time with Loyola than Northwestern (a really good team) it does give me pause for some concern here.
Of course, that just means this will probably be a little more competitive than Chicago State and SIU-Edwardsville. In the preseason Mid-Major Madness was high on the Stags as one of the better teams in the MAAC:
Last season: 16-15 (11-9)
Although they’re listed at fourth place, the Stags fit the bill for the MAAC’s surprise team of the year.
Fairfield returns all five starters from last season, including one of the MAAC’s best players — if not, the best — in guard Tyler Nelson. During last year’s campaign, Nelson averaged 19.1 points per game, scored in double figures in all but one game and had one the best offensive performances in conference play with a 38-point outburst against Rider. Yet despite these numbers, he often played second-fiddle to sophomore guard Curtis Cobb, who transferred to UMass in the offseason.
More likely than not, Stags will have a third-straight CIT appearance with an uninspiring non-conference slate. But because of their roster consistency, solid three-point defense and the likely preseason MAAC player of the year, Fairfield has the potential to make a different postseason tournament with a solid run in the MAAC Tournament.
Projected Starting Lineup: Tyler Nelson, Jerome Segura, Jonathan Kasibabu
They later had more to say on Nelson:
Most Likely to be a Postseason Hero: Tyler Nelson (Senior, Fairfield)
Imagine averaging close to 20 points per game and being the secondary option on offense. In some ways, this is what Tyler Nelson's junior season entailed. This year, however, Nelson will carry the bulk of the Stags’ offense, as guard Curtis Cobb transferred to UMass at the end of last season.
Taken at face value, his stats from last season were stellar: In his junior campaign, the first-team All-MAAC selection averaged 19.5 points per game on 44.3 percent field goal shooting — including a 39.1 percent clip from beyond the arc. On the national scale, his 1.13 points per possession ranked No. 61 in offensive efficiency, per KenPom.
Last season, he was responsible for several of the MAAC’s best offensive performances, including a 38-point explosion at Rider.
Long story short, Nelson is definitely someone to double team in a close game (or throughout the game, for that matter). Speaking of close games, Nelson is definitely someone Fairfield fans want to see on the free throw line in crunch time: His 85.6 percent mark from the stripe was No. 80 in the NCAA, per KenPom.
For these reasons, Nelson will be the most lethal player in the MAAC Tournament. His high-volume scoring and propensity to hit big shots on the free throw line or from anywhere on the floor make him a potential one-man wrecking machine in the close confines of a conference tournament.
Nelson has been excellent so far, averaging 21 points per game. Matija Milin is averaging 13.5 per game as well. Unfortunately, they are going to have the same problem Marquette had against us: they lack the size on the interior to defend Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms. Milin is their tallest rotation player at 6’9”, but he has a European game and can play away from the basket. That’s bad for Haas, but good for Haarms.
Purdue should still win this game, but don’t be surprised if Fairfield is able to keep this close for at least a little while. Nelson is a great pure scorer and this is a team that has some hopes of stealing an automatic bid in March because of him. Purdue 92, Fairfield 72