The Purdue Boilermakers are headed straight for what’s likely to be back to back ranked opponents as part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. We’ll jump into a preview of Saturday’s game against #18 North Carolina in a few paragraphs, but I wanted to take this time to direct you to DraftKings National Championship odds for a second.
Purdue is a +1400 favorite to win the National Championship. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
I’m telling you this because they’re about to play North Carolina(+4000) and the winner/loser of Villanova(+1400) and Tennessee(+5500).
While Purdue has beaten three team handedly to start the year - You’re 2-0 if you’ve followed my line advice to this point - it hasn’t played a team that raises their platform. At the current moment Purdue is the #6 ranked team in the country, but teams all around them, particularly in the B10, are falling. That means, if Purdue has the success I think they will in the Tip-Off Tournament, this will be the last time you will have anything close to those future odds for their NCAA Tournament success.
And yes, I get it. It’s Purdue in March and that’s terrifying. But we’re watching a Coach Painter squad going 9 deep about to get a starter from last year back, and something is brewing in West Lafayette. In most games, Purdue’s likely to have the three best players. Zach Edey has stepped into the paint and no one can dislodge. Tre Williams is finding his groove off the bench. Jaden Ivey hasn’t even started playing well yet.
This isn’t your father’s Boilers. Grab those odds and clutch that ticket in celebration later.
Battling with the Blue Blood
Purdue’s handled three non conference games against not the best competition easily. They’ve won every game by at least twenty, covering easily twice.
North Carolina has also won their first three games. They’ve also played mostly easy competition. They have yet to win a game by 20 points, including a single-digit victory over Brown for their second game of the season. Their other victories were against Loyola MD and Charleston. None of these teams are world-beaters, in fact, none of them are in kenpom’s top 200 teams.
Purdue and North Carolina should be a showdown of some of the country’s best offense. Purdue comes in with the second most efficient offense in the country - a modern day mastery of high quality shots. They’re shooting above 60% inside the arc, using their extreme height and size in the paint to create easy shots at the rim. But this dedication of establishing the block and Painter’s motion offense is also freeing up Painter’s bevy of shooters. The Boilers are also shooting above 40% from beyond the arc.
North Carolina has also bullied inside. Their shooting at a similar clip from inside the arc and just below 40% from three. They’ve been one of the more efficient teams in the country, but there’s a large truth that most teams are going to have to reckon with this year. Their big men are big, but they’re not Zach Edey big.
Purdue’s ability to play an All-American center for the entire forty minutes is not something even the Tar Heels can manage. That is to say, Williams came into the season with the honor, but if the first three games are any indication, he’s one of two All American centers on the squad. Edey’s play has been nothing short of dominating. Edey’s two-way play has been as good as anyone in the nation at this point. He’s the nations most impactful rebounder and a premier shot blocker all while shooting over 70% from the floor and making his free throws.
This is a problem for North Carolina. Especially considering that North Carolina has been borderline bad on defense, 105th according to KenPom, while Purdue has a top 20 defense.
The edge clearly goes to Purdue on this end, thanks in part to Purdue’s length and depth everywhere on the court. This will be the first real test for either team, but the Tar Heels have given up 80 plus points in back to back games. Their biggest weakness is Purdue’s biggest strength. (One of their biggest strengths? There’s a lot of strengths.)
North Carolina has given up an offensive rebound on 20% of misses through their first three games. Purdue is the fifth best offensive rebounding team in the country. Purdue is grabbing 46.5% of their misses.
In other words, Purdue is the 13th most efficient team in the country shooting to begin with. When they do miss though, they grab their own rebound nearly half the time. If Purdue wins or even controls this game, this will be the reason why. Tar Heels just won’t have an answer for the Caleb Furst, Trevion Williams, and Zach Edey inside.
But the Tar Heels do have stars and 6’10” big man Armand Bacot and guard Caleb Love are the best duo they’ve faced this season by a considerable amount.
But it’s cliche to say that Purdue will have to adjust to the Tar Heels talent and athleticism. The Tar Heels are talented but a limited squad, stuck to a 7 man rotation this early in the season, and Purdue has shown they go a legitimate 9 deep with threats every on the floor. Their athleticism and size stands up and over most teams in the country.
Look for Purdue to dominate inside, hold the glass, and advance to play the winner of Villanova and Tennessee on Sunday.