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2019 NCAA Tournament Round 3: Purdue vs. Tennessee Preview

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Can Purdue finally break through and win a Sweet 16 game?

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Purdue vs Tennessee Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

To hear some talk, there is no point in watching this game. All we have heard for years is that Matt Painter’s ceiling is the Sweet 16. That means there is absolutely no way Purdue will win. It is a solid fact in some people’s minds that Purdue under Painter cannot advance past the Sweet 16 and he Must Be Held Accountable as a result. I even saw it on Facebook where one of the more negative commenters was called out after the Villanova win. His response was that the game plan was the same as always, only Purdue made shots.

I prefer to believe that each Sweet 16 is merely a chance to finally break through. This is the fifth time Purdue has made it this far under Painter. In 2009 Purdue wasn’t ready. It faced a No. 1 seed in Connecticut and made a game of it, but the experience of the Huskies prevailed over Purdue’s youth. In 2010 Purdue drew Duke while shorthanded. The Robbie Hummel injury dropped Purdue from a likely No. 1 seed in its own right to a 4 seed, and Duke pulled away in the second half to eventually win the national title.

Fast forward to 2017 and Purdue played No. 1 seed Kansas. It was a 2-point game early in the second half and Purdue had the ball. Ryan Cline missed an open three and from that point forward the Jayhawks went thermonuclear to win by 32. Then there was last season. Finally, Purdue was not playing a No. 1 seed, but the Isaac Haas injury was a factor in a loss to Texas Tech.

Four Sweet 16s, four defeats. It has been 19 years since Purdue has won a Sweet 16 game. This year is another chance, and if Purdue can replicate its play from Saturday night it has an excellent chance to move on.

Tennessee Volunteers

From: Knoxville, TN

Date: Thursday, March 28, 2018

Tip Time: 7:27pm

Location: Louisville, KY

Arena: KFC Yum Center (22,090)

Television: TBS

Online: March Madness On Demand

Radio: Purdue Radio Network

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

Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats

Odds: Tennessee by 1

KenPom: 10

NET: 5

2017-18 Record: 26-9, 13-5 SEC (Lost to Loyola-Chicago in 63-62 in NCAA Second Round)

2018-19 Record: 31-5, 15-3 SEC

Opponent Blog: Rocky Top Talk

Series with Purdue: Series Tied 2-2

Last Tennessee Win: 78-75 (OT) in Nassau, Bahamas on 11/22/2017

Last Purdue Win: 73-72 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands on 11/23/2009

NCAA Tournament History: 22 appearances, reached 2010 Elite Eight

Coach: Rick Barnes (88-49 in fourth season at Tennessee, 692-363 overall)

We’re pretty familiar with Tennessee, having played them last season in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Purdue was leading late 63-60 when Lamonte Turner hit a tying three-pointer. After a Purdue timeout Carsen Edwards missed the game-winner at the end of regulation. The overtime was back-and-forth with Purdue taking a five-point lead on two occasions. It was 73-68 Purdue when Grant Williams scored on an offensive rebound with 2:11 left. Williams later put the Volunteers in front for good at 76-75 with 14 seconds left. Purdue missed a shot and turned the ball over after a pair of free throws as Tennessee won 78-75.

That win pushed the Volunteers into a solid run where they have now won 57 games in two seasons. Their top five scorers, all averaging in double figures, all played significant minutes in that games last season. Williams is their leading scorer at 18.8 points per game and he had 22 against us. Admiral Schofield is next at 16.4 points per game and he had 10 points and 7 rebounds. Jordan Bone averages 13.6 points and 5.9 assists and Purdue held him to 4 points. Turner averages 10.8 points but he had 17 off the bench last year. Finally, Jordan Bowden averages 10.5 points and Purdue held them to four.

Their best big is Kyle Alexander, a 6’11” forward that averages 7.3 points and 6.6 rebounds. He gave us fits last season with 13 points and 11 rebounds. As for returning Purdue players from last year’s game, Carsen led us with 21 points, but the only other returning scorers were two points each from Haarms and Grady Eifert.

Tennessee reminds me a bit of Purdue’s team last year because they retuned a ton of experience and they had a great run to start the season. They have been No. 1 for a few weeks this season and boast of wins over Gonzaga, Louisville, Memphis, and Kentucky (twice). Their only losses were to Kansas (in overtime), Kentucky, LSU (also in overtime), and Auburn (twice). They have an impressive 10 wins against the NET Quad 1 compared to Purdue’s 8. They’ve had success against a very tough schedule and they’ve been together for a while. Their experience is much like our own a season ago.

They are also a team full of athletic wings that can attack the basket as well as shoot. Schofield is shooting 41.5% from three and even Alexander can step outside and shoot it like Matt Haarms. Their offense is extremely efficient, ranking third nationally on KenPom to our fifth. Defensively they are slightly worse than us (33rd to our 27th). They also play at a faster tempo, but it is not significantly faster. They have better athletes than we do, and the size of their wings concerns me. Everyone is 6’2” or better.

Purdue should have an advantage inside, but only if Trevion Williams can play better than he did against Villanova. It may come down to a battle of fouls between Haarms and Alexander. Even then, we have more depth in the post than they do. They are still averaging better than 80 points per game and they are six points better than us per game.

These two teams are still very close in almost every category, so it is hard to make a call. It may just come down to who is playing better. Purdue absolutely blew out a pretty good Villanova team in round two. Tennessee nearly fell victim to an unbelievable collapse against Iowa as they blew a 25-point lead and were taken to overtime. Most of their losses did occur within the past month, too. Losses to Kentucky, LSU, and Auburn are hardly bad losses, however.

This should be a close game. If Purdue plays like it did against Villanova I really like our chances, but there are no guarantees. This team is also a bit like Texas Tech last season with their athleticism and that caused us problems. I think that gives them an advantage unless we can play the game at a slower pace.