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2018 NCAA Tournament Round 2: Purdue vs. Butler Preview

We saw them in the Crossroads Classic, but the Isaac Haas injury changes things.

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round: Butler Bulldogs vs Arkansas Razorbacks Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

What if?

Unless Purdue wins the next five games to win the national championship those two words, like in 2010, will be the definition of the season. There are only 32 teams left. 31 of them will lose and end their season. No matter when it happens now (if it happens) there will always be the “What if” should Purdue lose because of Isaac Haas’ injury. He is that much of a difference maker. I think Purdue is still a very good team. I think it can still reach a Final Four and, if things break well, win it all. We’re going to need that luck a lot more now, but we still have a chance. We’re going to have to shift on the fly, but we have the tools to still make a very good run in this tournament.

Unless we win it allthough, there will always be the “what if” question, and it only fades slightly with each successive round of the tournament.

The loss of Haas does make that tougher. You don’t lose a 7’2” 290 pound monster in the middle who can get you a basket 5 out of every 8 times he shoots and get better. We have had games where we have won convincingly where he has done little. The win at Iowa and at home over Wisconsin are examples. He presents a match up that few teams in America can match, and that matchup is now lost, even if his defensive deficiencies are now also not a factor.

As I often say though, you can either piss and moan about it or move on. I trust these guys to move on, and that means looking forward to playing Butler tomorrow in Round Two.

From: Indianapolis, Indiana

Date : Sunday, March 18, 2018

Tip Time: 12:10pm

Location: Detroit, MI

Arena: Little Caesar’s Arena (20,491)

Television: CBS

Online: March Madness On Demand

Hulu All Access

(subject to regional availability)


Radio: Purdue Radio Network

SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)

Live Stats:

Odds: No Line Yet

KenPom: 23

RPI: 41

2015-16 Record: 25-9, 12-6 Big East (Lost to North Carolina 92-80 in Sweet 16)

2016-17 Record: 21-13

Opponent Blog: Butler Hoops

Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 38-19

Last Butler Win: 74-68 in Indianapolis (Crossroads Classic) on 12/19/2015

Last Purdue Win: 82-67 in Indianapolis (Crossroads Classic) on 12/16/2017

NCAA History: 16 Appearances, 2x NCAA Runner-up (14 appearances in last 20 years)

Coach: LaVall Jordan (21-13 in First Season)

So let’s answer the obvious question first. Isaac Haas had 15 points the first time around and Purdue won by 15. He had 15 points in only 16 minutes as it was one of the few games where he had foul trouble. He 5 of 7 from the floor and 5 of 7 from the line with four rebounds. It was a good, but not great night that only stands out because of his limited time on the floor.

Matt Haarms, who is very likely to draw the start in Haas’ absence, had only 2 points in 27 minutes. He had 5 rebounds and 3 blocks though. How Matt Painter divides the 23.6 minutes suddenly available will be the biggest question going forward. Haarms playing 27 minutes is probably his limit. The 27 minutes played against Butler was his season high and he had no other games over 22 minutes.

The two players most likely to benefit are Nojel Eastern and Ryan Cline. That can help Purdue, too. Some interesting options come by throwing another shooter of Cline’s caliber on the floor. Eastern has been a solid defender and rebounder too. He brings some size and athleticism that is desperately needed. He played just 8 minutes in the Crossroads game and I would bet he doubles that tomorrow. I am also betting that Jacquil Taylor sees some important action. He has struggled to get off the bench this year, but he showed in the World University Games he can be a solid run/rebound/defend guy. He is also 5 of 14 from three in his career in very limited action. He at least presents a different look, and if he can contribute 5-7 minutes it will help greatly, even if it is in relief of Haarms.

As for Butler, they were pretty much on their averages the first time around. Kelan Martin averages 20.8 per game and 6.2 rebounds. For the first time in years we have to concern ourselves with how to defend a bruising post player as opposed to imposing our will with one. Martin had 17 and 6 the first time around.

Kamar Baldwin (15.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg) had 17 and 6 with 3 steals. Paul Jorgensen (10.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.6 apg) came back from an ankle injury and had a 15-8-2. Tyler Wideman (9.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg) had a 7 and 6. As you can see, among their big guns they got pretty much what you would expect. The only outlier was Aaron Thompson, who averages 4.3 per game and he had 10. That was offset by Sean McDermott, who was scoreless but he averages 7.3 per game.

Butler is going to want to get up and down the floor as they average 79 points per game. Without Haas I expect Purdue to speed things up too. We have done well in transition this year and it only makes sense to get a little faster and spread the floor even more. Do we see some Vince Edwards at the 5 with Cline, Dakota Mathias, Carsen Edwards, and P.J. Thompson outside? I could see it.

Adjusting on the fly will obviously be critical. We have the tools to get out and run. We can look different as opposed to being the post-oriented team we have been with Haas and A.J. Hammons for 6 straight years. We have to adjust in 48 hours though. If we can do it, we’re fully capable of making a big run. I know Haas’ injury will draw comparisons to Robbie Hummel, but Hummel was a better rebounder, better defender, and more versatile scorer than Haas. I love Isaac as a player, but he is an old school center as basketball is evolving away from it. We have the pieces for the newer style, but this is the ultimate test to see if we can make them work. If we put it together we can move on. If not, we’re done and we begin wondering “What if”.

FTR, I think we do it. I think we rally together and carry this thing on for at least one more game. Purdue 75, Butler 70