The Boilermakers travel the Minnesota for another important matchup against the Golden Gophers as Purdue looks to improve on their 6-1 conference record to remain atop the standings. Minnesota currently sits at 1-5 and are looking to get going after a tough start to the 2022-2023 season and Ben Johnson’s second year overall.
Purdue is being led by Zach Edey who is largely considered the clear front runner for national player of the year along with the freshman duo of Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith in the backcourt. Minnesota is led by UNC transfer Dawson Garcia (15.6 points/6.6 rebounds) and Jamison Battle (12.9 points) but lack help from really anywhere else on the floor.
Let’s get into the important matchups heading into the game.
1 | Ta’Lon Cooper vs. Purdue Guards
Cooper doesn’t take a whole lot of threes averaging only 2.8 per game but he is hitting them at a 55.6%. Had Cooper registered enough attempts at that percentage he would be the best shooter in the country by a wide margin. In a game where the opponent is overmatched and a lack of focus can lead to problems on the road in the B1G, allowing Cooper to get loose and hit a number of threes can lead Purdue down a bad road.
Purdue has experience allowing an overmatched team to have a guy start hitting threes in Keisei Tominaga from Nebraska and what that can do for a team. Minnesota has two guys in Battle and Garcia who can be matchup nightmares for opposing teams but allowing a team to have a third scorer hurting them from the outside could spell trouble for the Boilers in Minnesota. Purdue needs to limit Cooper’s clean looks and keep him in check.
2 | Who Guards Zach Edey?
Minnesota really lacks a clear-cut big man in the middle to effectively guard most big men in the B1G but that issue is highlighted even more when it is Zach Edey. I’m not sure Minnesota is going to want to put Garcia in the post against Edey often in one-on-one situations but with how well Smith, Loyer, and Furst have been shooting the ball over the last two weeks they may not have much of a choice. Payne may be an option again as he has some bulk in his 6’9 frame but one-on-one where he gives up 7 inches doesn’t bode well.
Minnesota went with Garcia in the first matchup at times along with 6’7 true freshmen Joshua Ola-Joseph and 6’9 Pharrel Payne. The issue with that was that Edey burned them for 31 points. If Minnesota wants to try that again and hope he has an off night but not give any space to the wings, then it’s likely to end in Edey with another big night. My best guess is Minnesota doubles Edey more this time and that frees up the wings to shoot more. Let’s hope they can get to that magic 35% that seems to be where they need to be for effectiveness from behind the arc.
3 | Purdue Offensive Rebounding
Purdue is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country and that is largely due to the effectiveness of having a 7’4 big man eating up space and being able to tap rebounds out when he isn’t able to secure them himself. Purdue is ranked as the #1 offensive rebounding percentage team in the country according to Kenpom at 39.1% while Minnesota ranks 13th in the conference with just 25.1 defensive rebounds per game. Minnesota also ranks low on their defensive rebounding percentage at 32.6 which places them 308th in the country. Plainly put, Purdue is an elite rebounding team and Minnesota is not.
Coach Painter often states that shooting may not travel but effort and defense does. This team has shown throughout this season that those two aspects have been strengths of this team and rebounding is really mostly effort based. If Purdue comes out and gives poor effort and allows Minnesota to get multiple chances on offense and can’t get second chance points themselves, it may be a very long game for the Boilers in a place most Purdue fans want the games to be as short as possible with the team on the plane immediately back to West Lafayette.
Minnesota has some nice pieces in Battle and Garcia but plainly put they don’t have the depth or the high level pieces that Purdue has overall. This is a Thursday night game in Minnesota and a road game at any point in the B1G is never a layup but this is Purdue’s easiest game according to every metric. If this team wants to take the next step they need to find the gas pedal at some point and start running some teams out of the gym early on and then not letting them back into the game.