The Purdue Boilermakers will start off the bulk of their conference season in the new year against the Rutgers Scarlett Knights at home in Mackey Arena. The Scarlett Knights come in with a 9-4 record overall and 1-1 in conference play with a win against Indiana and a loss to Ohio State. The Boilers will come into the matchup 13-0 the features wins against Nebraska and Minnesota to start off the conference slate.
This is a matchup that the Boilers have not fared well in the last few seasons with Purdue losing 4 of the last 5 meetings, however Rutgers does not enjoy the perks of having Ron Harper Jr. or Geo Baker who seemed to be able to break Purdue’s defense down and hit shots in big moments in their careers. Rutgers is currently rated 18th in Kenpom with an adjusted offensive efficiency of 130th while having one of the better defenses in the country with an adjusted defensive efficiency of 3rd. Purdue will come into the contest rated 6th in Kenpom with an adjusted offensive efficiency of 5th and an adjusted defensive efficiency of 25th.
Now, let’s get into some key matchups for this B1G conference matchup:
1 | Zach Edey vs. Cliff Omoruyi
This is one of the better early season battles in a league that has many of the country’s best big men. Edey’s stats speak for themselves as he is averaging 21.9 points per game (8th), 13.6 rebounds (2nd), and has shown an increased ability to block shots this season with an average of 2.2 per game. Zach is also shooting 72.6% from the free throw line and 63.4% from the field while also playing 31 minutes per game. This may be the most athletic big that Zach goes up against all season who will be able to his 6’11 and 240 pound frame to defend him one on one on the inside. My gut tells me Rutgers will use Cliff and another player outside of McConnell to double Edey. McConnell likely will be used Loyer and Newman on the perimeter and possibly Braden Smith if he gets going as he has shown at times. Cliff is a defensive player of the year caliber player in his own right but if the outside shooters can make shots to force him to defend Edey one on one, that’s an advantage against every post in the country this season for Purdue.
Omoruyi has steadily improved in his time at Rutgers and is averaging 15 points per game, 10.1 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks. He may not get the notoriety nationwide having to share the conference with Edey, Trevion Williams, TJD, and Hunter Dickinson but he is putting together an all conference type of season for the Scarlett Knights. He will try to get up and down the floor quickly to make Edey chase him for easy buckets but Purdue can nullify that by taking good shots in the half course and preventing runouts and transition opportunities. If Purdue can make Omoruyi play Edey in the half court on both ends, I just think Edey is the better player.
2 | Purdue Limiting Turnovers vs. Rutgers Creating Turnovers
Rutgers comes into this game as one of the best teams in the country at forcing turnovers where they average a conference best of 17.31 per game which comes out to 25% which is good for 11th in the country according to Kenpom. Rutgers also comes in at 11th in the country with 10.2 steals per game which allows Rutgers to grab extra possessions for a team that does tend to struggle offensively this season without Geo Baker and Ron Harper Jr.
Purdue, on the other hand, comes into this game with one of the lowest turnover rates per game in the country averaging only 10.2 turnovers per game and a 15.3% turnover percentage rate (15th). This is largely due to the steady force of the young backcourt of Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer who will be tested by Rutgers length in the backcourt along with their pressure. Up to this point, however, the young guards have been up to the challenge averaging only 2.4 turnovers per game between the two of them.
3 | Who Defends the 3pt Arc Better
This is going to be a battle for two of the better defensive teams at defending the arc in the B1G as Purdue comes in ranked 16th allowing opponents to shoot just 27.7% while Rutgers comes in at 3rd allowing just 24.6%. Both offenses have struggled to shoot the ball well from behind the arc but when your defense doesn’t allow opponents to take advantage on the other side of the ball, then your advantages inside can be taken.
For Rutgers, Cam Spencer is a consistent threat behind the arc shooting 43.3% but no other player for them shoots above 33%. McConnell and Mulcahy are both at 33% on limited shots but the other volume shooters from three are just 29.3% (Hyatt) and 27.6% (Simpson). The best guess is we will see Morton and Newman guarding Spencer when he is on the floor and if someone else gets hot CMP will try to quickly put them out using those two as well.
For Purdue, the best guess will be that Caleb McConnell will be used to defend Fletcher Loyer to prevent Purdue’s best overall scorer from being able to have clear looks from deep and from getting into the lane. The key may end up being not Purdue having one guy shooting lights out but having the entire team shoot well so that McConnell can’t be used in a similar fashion as Morton has this year when an opponent gets hot.