Purdue is back in the NCAA Tournament. That means it is one of 68 teams that still has a chance at winning a national championship. Sometimes that is all you need. It even has one of the 12 best seeds, which is another boost. Purdue will not have to play a No. 1 seed until the last possible moment, and if it just plays to its seed it will reach the Sweet 16, where again, you at least have a chance and anything can happen.
The opening opponent will be the Yale Bulldogs out of the Ivy League. Purdue is 9-2 all-time against the league, with the losses coming to Columbia by four in 1968 and Penn by one in 1964. A win over Cornell in the 1996-97 season is the only time Purdue has played an Ivy opponent in the last 50 years.
As for Yale itself, Purdue is 2-0 all time against the Bulldogs. Purdue’s media guide lists a 67-10 victory waaaaaaaay back in 1902 and a 76-66 win on December 27, 1962. That 1902 game is so far back it is listed as only the 28th game in Purdue program history, and at the time Purdue had played “Lafayette YMCA” twice, “Lafayette HS” three times, and something called “Logansport C.C”.
The drought was not supposed to be that long, however. Purdue was originally scheduled to host Yale on December 29, 2020 during the first release of the 2020-21 schedule, but COVID lingered, Yale and the Ivy League did not play any sports in 2020-21, and the game was cancelled.
Yale has been pretty good of late, too. Before the COVID shutdown they had won four Ivy league regular season titles in six years and made the 2016 and 2019 NCAA Tournaments. They were a tough out each time, too. In 2016 they made their first appearance since 1962 and even pulled off a 12 over 5 upset of Baylor 79-75 before falling to Duke 71-64. In 2019 the gave LSU all they could handle as a 14 seed in a 79-74 loss.
In the 2019-20 season they came into the Ivy Tournament at an impressive 23-7 with the regular season title at 11-3, but obviously that tournament never happened. They were the favorite to win the Ivy tournament and get the automatic bid, and their computer numbers were strong enough that they had an outside shot at an at large bid. They had a major conference win at Clemson, lost by two to a very good Penn State team, and lost by 3 at North Carolina.
Yale has not been quite as good this year. They come in at 19-11 with one of their wins over non-Division I Vassar.
So Yale opened the season with a win over Vassar. pic.twitter.com/2MUQHjT8sT— Travis Miller (@JustTMill) March 14, 2022
In terms of games against NCAA Tournament teams they lost to Seton Hall by 36, Vermont by 8, Auburn by 22, and St. Mary’s by 27. They also lost to Iona, a borderline NCAA team that ended up in the NIT, by 14. Their best win statistically was at Princeton, and that was the only win they had in the top two tiers. They also beat Massachusetts by 20, and UMass beat Rutgers and Penn State.
They rate 147th on KenPom with the No. 203 offense and #103 defense. By comparison, Purdue slipped to third offensively, but improves to 100 defensively yesterday. They play at a decent tempo, rating 86th, while Purdue is 248th. They are a different team than North Texas, who played at a glacial pace (350th out of 357) last year. That should benefit Purdue. One of the reasons North Texas won last year is because they extended possessions, worked the clock, got good looks, and simply took Purdue possessions away by taking their time.
Senior guard Azar Swain leads them in scoring at 19.2 points per game. He is a 38% three-point shooter for his career, but is a smaller guard at 6’. His backcourt mate in Jalen Gabbidon is the only other player in double figures at 11.6 per game. The team itself is not strong from three, just 33%, but they average 72.3 points per game.
Where Purdue has a huge advantage is in the post. We should benefit great in getting away from the Big Ten and its plethora of big men. Yale’s tallest rotation player is Isaiah Kelly at 6’7”. EJ Jarvis is their leading rebounder at only 4.7 per game. Their biggest advantage is a senior backcourt that has a lot of playing time together. Swain, Gabbidon, and Matthue Cotton each have over 100 three point attempts, but no one else on the team has more than 60. By comparison, Purdue has six players with at least 60 three point attempts, and Sasha Stefanovic has more than 200.
On paper this is a game where Purdue should have a significantly easier time than against most of its Big Ten opponents. Yale simply does not have the size to match up with Zach Edey and Trevion Williams. They should feast, especially if they are guarded one-on-one. They are going to demand a double team on every possession, so Purdue should have open shooters.
I’ll be honest: It is a fireable offense is Purdue loses this game. We have a tremendous size advantage in the post, shooters to take advantage of double teams, and a lottery pick at guard. These are advantage that, if we fail to use them, something is seriously wrong. There is no valid excuse to lose.