Purdue enters the PK-85 Championship Game winning three games in a row versus high major programs in Marquette, West Virginia, and Gonzaga. That may be the best three game stretch for any program up to this point in the season with a chance to put an exclamation point on their non-conference season with a victory over the Duke Blue Devils.
Zach Edey has lived up to the billing so far this season averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds but has shown an increased ability to alter and block shots in the middle. That may have more to do with the players around him being better in on ball screen defense than anything but his presence in the middle can’t be overstated. Edey will be a mismatch for every team Purdue faces this season when he can get touches on the block inside of 10 feet.
The biggest question coming into the season was going to be the ability of Purdue’s young guards to get used to high major basketball and they seem to have taken to it quicker than expected. Fletcher Loyer has proven he can carry over his shooting abilities from deep but has the ability to be even better shooting just 33% so far (he is far better than that percentage). The biggest surpsie for Loyer has been his ability to put the ball on the floor in situations to keep his defender off balance. Braden Smith, on the other hand, has been a total surprise to those outside of the program. He is averaging 11 points, 4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.8 steals per game at a position that Purdue has lacked play making ability and poise for quite some time.
The bench for the Boilers brings a unique advantage over most other programs where they continue to bring starter caliber players onto the floor in David Jenkins Jr., Caleb Furst, Brandon Newman, and Trey Kaufman-Renn. These four bench players total to average 23.4 points and 13.9 rebounds but have the capabilities to provide more on a given night when others aren’t scoring. Specifically, Brandon Newman and David Jenkins Jr. can quickly hit a couple of shots from behind the arc.
Duke Blue Devils:
Duke, under first year head coach Jon Scheyer, brought in the #1 rated recruiting class and a majority of that freshman class make up the starters for the Blue Devils. Those freshman account for 607% of 72.9 points per game that Duke scores placing them around average for scoring in the country. Where the Blue Devils appear to excel is playing defense with their length where they give up an average of 54.4 points per game that ranks them 11th in all of division 1.
Kyle Filipowski is one of the best players in the country who is able to step out behind the arc and shoot at 34.5% while also getting into double digits with 10 rebounds per game. More than that Filipowski is able to be a matchup issue that opponents struggle with that leads to mismatches elsewhere on the court. Filipowski is the highest rated freshman according to Kenpom.com just ahead of Alabama freshman Brandon Miller.
Alongside Filipowski, Duke is led by Mark Mitchell’s 10.7 points per game and Jeremy Roach’s 12.7 points per game. Roach is an outstanding guard and will be the best Purdue will have faced up to this point in the season. He is able to frequently setup others and averages nearly 4 assists per game while also shooting 35.3% from behind the arc. Mitchell has shown an ability to consistently shoot from behind the arc where he is nearly 45% on the season but on somewhat limited attempts (6/14) but the threat there does prevent defenders from sagging off to help inside on Filipowski and their other bigs.
Duke will play a deep bench where nine players average 10 or more minutes per game but nobody over 27 minutes other than guard Jeremy Roach. Duke is one of the youngest teams in the country and can be led to mistakes or experience long droughts in scoring.
Purdue Wins If...
Purdue can 100% win this game if they continue to play the way they have in Portland. The offense has looked wonderful and the defense looks cohesive as a unit but this Duke team is easily the most talented and physically imposing team Purdue will likely face all season. Purdue will again need to limit turnovers and find scorers to compliment Edey inside but most important may be to get to the foul line where Purdue has shot well as a team so far this season at 77.6%. Getting Duke into foul trouble early in each half and getting 15 or more free throws would be a big advantage.
Duke Wins If...
Duke will need to do something nobody else has done yet this season: Get Zach Edey into foul trouble. Edey is too good of a player to hold down for an entire 40 minute game but if you can limit his effectiveness by putting him on the bench with fouls that might be a formula for success for Duke. Duke will also need to limit their fouls to prevent Purdue from getting to the foul line along with getting Purdue to turn the ball over and get fast break points.
This might actually be one of the best early season matchups and a chance for Zach Edey to really plant the flag of All American and B1G POY possibilities against another nationally prominent team. This has been an all time Boilermaker weekend with Purdue beating WVU and Gonzaga, Iowa losing to Nebraska, and the football team winning the West Division. I’m all for the Boilers making this a weekend we can all tell our grandkids about!
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