Purdue is a -3.5 favorite against Texas still this morning according to Draftkings. It’s the closest line of the remaining round of 32 games.
So let’s take a look at some of the key points that will swing the game.
Who wins the whistle?
Purdue plays a style of defense that’s designed to not give up free throws. They don’t force turnovers, their perimeter defense is very middle of the pack. Their starting lineup plays one plus defender, one capable but often casual defender in Jaden Ivey, and Sasha Stefanovic who has been played off the court in multiple NCAA Tournament games because of his defense.
Texas on the other hand, is one of the best defensive teams in the country. Coach Chris Beard has taken a no middle approach to defense. They force the ball to sidelines, trap, double, and change up their coverage from there and draw a lot of turnovers from it. Purdue’s losses this year usually have one thing in common: they turn over the ball.
But Texas has no real post presence. Tre Mitchell left the team and now they’re left with Dylan Disu as the only player above 6’8”. That’s a problem when you’re about to go up against a 7’4” Zach Edey and All-American Trevion Williams in the post. Each guy will have at least 30 lbs. on their defender. Will Beard double and triple team right away? Will he have to just to avoid foul trouble? Edey is the 4th best player in the country at fouls drawn per forty. Williams and guard Jaden Ivey are both in the top 60. What does Beard’s lineup look like, how do they rebound if Disu and Christian Bishop can’t stay on the floor?
Can Purdue dominate the glass?
Purdue has two of the best rebounders in the country. Zach Edey is the best offensive rebounder in the country. Texas is a middling rebound team. They have good size on the wings, but again, their post is severely lacking with height. Purdue will turn the ball over. They will miss shots. Their guards will struggle to get space.
But how much will that matter if Purdue can gain a major edge in possession from grabbing offensive boards. Edey has had 5 offensive rebounds at least in the last three games. Trevion Williams has grabbed double digit rebounds in each of the last two games. Both players play only half a game. Caleb Furst, Purdue’s back up four, is 6’10” 230 lbs, bigger than anyone on Texas’s roster and just had the best game of his career against Yale.
If Texas has to double in the post, there will be even more space for Purdue to crash the offensive glass. Texas doesn’t normally play a fast pace on offense, they’re the 338th fastest team in the country. If Texas is looking to push the ball does Purdue decide to fully crash the boards? Do they even need to or will Mason Gillis and Caleb Furst both be able to feast on the offensive glass when Williams and Edey are attracting doubles.
Whose game gets played?
Texas wants to throttle their opponents. They want to force turnovers. They want to limit possessions. They want it ugly.
Purdue needs to play in space with Ivey in transition and their bigs getting one on one looks in the paint. Purdue is the 4th best three point shooting team in the country. Texas doesn’t shoot the ball well. The more possessions, the more likely Purdue gets to play its game and knock down shots and draw fouls. Texas wants a chance to apply pressure late and get into Purdue. They just have to keep it close and they’re going to feel confident they can force the game late.
Purdue’s offense is more varied than its ever been. Sasha Stefanovic works off ball, Ivey runs around screens at full speed, Edey and Tre dominate the post, and Eric Hunter Jr. has really found his offensive game between all of Purdue’s high usage players.
If Coach Beard has his way, the bigs might get theirs, but Stefanovic definitely won’t. He’ll try to deny Ivey, too. Force him into trying to beat Texas one on one while getting pushed baseline and into bad decisions. Beard does have the defenders to try to do that.
On the other end, Texas will want to work Purdue’s defense. They’re not a dynamic pick and roll team, but Marcus Carr has burned Purdue before. Look for him to be the physically imposing guard attacking Purdue and forcing rotations. Texas will rely on Timmy Allen making just enough shots to stay close and just ahead of Purdue.
Harry’s might have the Go Ugly Early trademark, but Texas will try to emulate it and stay ugly late, too.
Purdue’s success will depend on how much they can keep looking like Purdue. Twice Coach Beard’s teams have taken that away from them. Let’s see if it’s third time’s the charm for Matt Painter and a much different Boilermaker squad.