At Purdue, simply making the tournament should be the bare minimum expectation each season. Our program has grown to the point that it can recruit enough talent to reach the NCAA Tournament every year. In those special years, a Sweet 16 appearance becomes the next expectations. Once you are there anything can happen. You could luck out like Kentucky, with a completely broken bracket. You could get another team’s “bad game”. Sometimes it takes equal parts good basketball and luck to get this far. Last year we played to our seed, got this far, and got blasted.
This year is different. We earned a higher seed and with it comes higher expectations. Our 2 seed means we get to dodge a No. 1 seed for an extra round, something we have been unable to do in our previous three Sweet 16 trips. Of course, there are no guarantees, but we’re in a better position, even without Isaac Haas, than we were a year ago or in 2009 or 2010.
Getting back this far and getting another shot at something more was the goal from the start of the year. We did everything we needed to do to out ourselves in a position to go even further. It is time to do it.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
From: Lubbock, Texas
Date : Friday, march 23, 2018
Tip Time: 9:57pm
Location: Boston, MA
Arena: TD Garden (19,580)
Online: March Madness On Demand
(subject to regional availability)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
2016-17 Record: 18-14, 6-12 Big 12
2017-18 Record: 26-9, 11-7 Big 12
Opponent Blog: Viva the Matadors
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 2-0
Last Texas Tech Win: None
Last Purdue Win: 63-54 at Texas Tech on 12/1/1988
NCAA History: 16 Appearances, Sweet 16 in 6 times
Coach: Chris Beard (44-23 in second season at Texas Tech, 74-28 in 3rd Division I season)
A lot is going to be made of the fact we’re facing Chris Beard. While Purdue hasn’t played Texas Tech in 30 years, we’re very familiar with Beard. He was the head coach of Little Rock, who orchestrated the amazing comeback two seasons ago against Purdue in our double overtime round 1 loss. That game will go down as one of Purdue’s largest chokes in its NCAA Tournament history, so there is definitely a thought of revenge.
This Texas Tech team plays a similar style, too. They are 4th in the nation in adjusted defense according to KenPom and 15th in points allowed at 64.6 points per game. By comparison, Purdue is 32nd in adjusted defense on KenPom. Our offense rates second, behind only Villanova. Texas Tech’s adjusted offensive rate is 48th, so it is strength going against strength.
The biggest concern for this game is their big, athletic guards of the type that have given us trouble all season. Keenan Evans leads them at 17.8 points per game as a 6’3” senior guard that likes to get to the basket. Jarrett Culver is a 6’5” freshman guard that averages 11.5 points per game and Zhaire Smith is a 6’5” freshman guard that averages 11.3 points per game. All three can shoot the three, but they are much more likely to use their size to drive to the basket.
Matt Haarms will have a size advantage in the post. Tommy Hamilton IV is their tallest player at 6’10”, but with all the driving they will be doing it is imperative that he stays out of foul trouble. Getting 7-10 minutes out of Jacquil Taylor will also be critical. Zach Smith at 6’8” is their next tallest rotation player, but this is a team that will rotate bodies at us. The rotation goes 10 deep and while Evans, Culver, and Zhaire Smith do most of their scoring, the rest of the rotation players average between 3 and 7 points per game.
Where I am concerned is having P.J. Thompson defend their guards. This will be a game where Nojel Eastern’s improved defense will be critical. In a perfect world with a healthy Haas I would love to be able to hockey line change Haas and Thompson on offense and Haarms and Eastern on defense. P.J. has been excellent offensively in this tournament, but we need Nojel’s defense.
Purdue has shot 200 more three-pointers than Tech, so it is a much larger part of our offense. Haas could feast on them offensively (as long as we could get him the ball), but this is a strong defensive team. We will have our work cut out for us.
In both tournament games the Red Raiders trailed for large stretches before coming on late. This is a team that gets stronger at the end of games, which is a concern given Purdue’s history at holding leads. Florida missed two attempts to tie in the last 10 seconds and Stephen F. Austin was up 58-57 with 4:21 left before going cold at the end.
This is going to be a hard fought game. We’re going to need another solid game from Vince Edwards and we need Carsen Edwards to shake out of his funk that he was in vs. Butler. It will take another complete team effort, but both of these teams are fairly evenly matched even without Haas. That makes for a late night and a lot of anxiety.