Tournament time is here and for the sixth straight tournament, Purdue is in the field. In fact, it has now been a top 4 seed in four consecutive tournament, thus we’re expected to hang around for a while. Our last three trips saw us reach the second weekend of the tournament, and expectations are once again that high. On paper at least, Purdue has a very favorable path. It has a 13 seed that was a bit of an upset winner in their conference, then either a small conference power or a solid Big East team facing some injury issues.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Let’s first look at our opening round opponent and worry about Villanova or Winthrop later.
North Texas Mean Green
From: Denton, TX
Date: Friday, March 19, 2021
Tip Time: 7:25 p.m. ET
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Arena: Lucas Oil Stadium (70,000
Streaming: March Madness On Demand (The greatest invention in the history of Mankind).
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: Purdue by 8
Blog Representation: Mean Green Nation
2019-20 Record: 10-11, 14-4 Conference USA (Regular Season Champion)
2020-21 Record: 17-9, 9-5 Conference USA
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 1-0
Last Purdue win: 90-73 at Purdue on 12/10/1970
Last North Texas win: None
NCAA Tournament History: 3 previous appearances, last in 2010. 0-3 all-time.
Coach: Grant McCasland (78-50 in 4th season at North Texas, 153-74 overall)
North Texas is one of many teams that was a bit robbed with the cancellation of last season’s NCAA Tournament. They were the regular season Conference USA champion and No. 1 seed in the league tourney when everything was shut down. They had a legit shock of making the field. They started slow at 4-7 against a challenging slate that featured VCU, Arkansas, Utah State, Oklahoma, and Dayton, but played extremely well the rest of the way.
This year was somewhat similar. They were 1-3 in their first four games, losing to Arkansas, Mississippi State, and West Virginia. They also lost to Loyola Chicago as another tournament team. They came into the conference tournament on a three game losing streak, but then ripped off wins over Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech, and Western Kentucky to get the bid they were denied a year ago. Mardrez McBride tied it with a three with 23 seconds left in regulation as the Mean Green came back from down 7 with less than three minutes left against the Hilltoppers. Javion Hamlet’s jumper with 16 seconds left in OT them put them in front for good.
Hamlet is their go to guy. He averages 15 points and 4.5 assists as their facilitator. He is a senior that has been around and he shoots 36% from three. Backcourt mate James Reese also averages 10.8 points per game. Zachary Simmons has the assignment in the post to battle with our bigs. The 6’10 senior averages 10.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting 66% from the field. 6’6” senior Thomas Bell is their fourth player averaging in double figures at 10.3 ppg, and he shoots just under 40% from three.
We should be concerned because this is a hungry team. They have six seniors on the roster and all four of their top scorers are seniors. They missed their chance to do damage in last year’s tournament and have a shot at redemption this year. As a team they shoot a respectable 37.6% from three, but rebounding is an issue. They are 300th in the nation at 33.3 rebounds per game.
Expect North Texas to play at a deliberate pace. KenPom has them at 350th in adjusted tempo out of 357 Division I teams. That is positively glacial, while Purdue is 274th. If you want a comparison, Virginia is dead last in tempo, but they are definitely effective.
This won’t be an easy game. North Texas has unfinished business after they were robbed of last year’s tournament. They held their own against the better teams on the schedule and will limit their possessions. They can get reckless with the ball, however, as they average more than 13 turnovers per game.
It seems key how well Simmons fares inside with Trevion Williams and Zach Edey. Abou Ousmane can spell him as another 6’10” guy, but he only averages 3 points in 8 minutes per game. That’s not as good as what Edey gives off the bench. This is a game where Purdue should win, but it will be close throughout unless it is a “Purdue hits threes” game. That is the toughest Purdue to beat.
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