Purdue has yet to be challenged in the NCAA Tournament with two double-digit wins, while it’s been the opposite for Tennessee, which needed overtime against Iowa and only beat Colgate by seven points. Even with that being the case, the Volunteers still opened as small -1 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
These teams actually met early last year and Tennessee won in overtime, and while Purdue’s team is a lot different, it still runs the same kind of offense. The biggest statistical outlier between these teams may be Tennessee’s three-point defense, which ranked 10th in the SEC. Purdue loves to shoot and ranked first in the Big Ten at 36.3% in Conference Games. Otherwise, there isn’t one true advantage between these teams with Tennessee the third-most efficient offense and Purdue the fifth-most efficient in the country.
Tennessee’s biggest task will be dealing with Carsen Edwards, who is coming off a huge 42-point Game against Villanova. That was helped by a ridiculous 9-for-16 from three and that’s clearly something the Vols can’t allow. The best thing for the Volunteers is that they have three guards in Jordan Bone, LAmonte Turner and Jordan Bowden that can all defend well on the perimeter even if the numbers don’t show it. They’re all fairly active and that could cause problems for Edwards or sharpshooter Ryan Cline. To win this Game, Purdue will need to get continued production from Matt Haarms, who has suddenly become an offensive force late in the season. In the last Four Games, Haarms is averaging almost 15 points per Game on 25-for-34 shooting. Per usual, he’ll have the size and length advantage on the block against Kyle Alexander or Grant Williams, so it’ll be up to him to put the ball in the basket. The positive for Tennessee is that it’s one of the best in the country at defending two-point shots, allowing less than 45% from inside the arc.
since Purdue can’t rely on Edwards to go off again, it will be on everyone else to step up, which has been the case almost all season. Cline is the shooter and Haarms has become viable as a big man, but it’s a little more of a mystery with others. Nojel Eastern and Grady Eifert can have moments, but that’s usually a bonus.
On the other end, Grant Williams and Admiral SChofield lead the way, but all three of their guards can Scorewhen needed. The biggest bonus for the Vols would be if Williams could get Haarms into early foul trouble, or at the least, Scoreconsistently against his length. If Haarms isn’t tasked with Williams, the Boilers will likely have an issue defending both Williams and SChofield, who should body up whoever is against them. That could mean Eastern or Eifert, but also freshman Aaron Wheeler off the bench. The Boilers have often put Eastern on opposing team’s best players, but that doesn’t work against a team that has five guys that can score.
Both teams will have advantages on the offensive end and that’s nothing new for either one, hence their numbers. If Haarms is too much for Williams, that would force Tennessee to play Kyle Alexander a little more, though he stepped up in 33 minutes against Iowa. The Volunteers maybe have the better overall team, but if their ugly three-point defense shows up, they’ll be at a major disadvantage. On the other end of that, if the shots aren’t falling for Edwards, the other guys need to step up for Purdue. And as seen all season, Edwards isn’t the most efficient player against better defenses, and a scoring drought is always possible.
Our Pick – Purdue +1