Purdue will start its 2018 NCAA Tournament run as a No. 2 seed in the East Region against Cal State Fullerton in Detroit on Friday.
Purdue is one of four Big Ten teams in the field, joining Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State. None of those selections came as a surprise, as Nebraska and Penn State’s chances at getting off the bubble ended last week in the Big Ten Tournament.
This is Purdue’s fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in a row, and 10th in 12 seasons under coach Matt Painter. The Boilermakers made the Sweet Sixteen last year before falling to Kansas.
Purdue ended its season in somewhat lackluster fashion, but it still has an intriguing March recipe
In some ways, Purdue’s roster looks made for March Madness. The Boilermakers start four seniors and one standout sophomore, a recipe of talent and experience that could prove vital in the tournament. Purdue doesn’t rely on one star, but Carsen Edwards (that standout sophomore) and Vince Edwards (no relation, but also good at basketball) are both able to carry the team at times.
Purdue does shoot the lights out on 3-pointers, which can often be a double-edged sword in the Big Dance. The theory goes that teams what rely on threes to win only need one bad performance to see their season end. But while Purdue shoots the second-best 3-point percentage in Division I, there are signs the Boilermakers don’t only rely on threes to sustain their offense. The Boilermakers only rank 99th in 3-point attempt rate, a sign that they aren’t just a 3-point shooting team.
But Purdue suffered a three-game losing streak near the end of the season, dropping from No. 3 in the AP Top 25 to No. 10 after losses to Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin. The Boilermakers got their groove back though, beating Penn State, Illinois and Minnesota to end the regular season and advancing to the Big Ten Tournament final with wins over Rutgers and Penn State.
Purdue’s bread-and-butter offense involves daring defenses to double center Isaac Haas down low while surrounding him with four shooters in Dakota Mathias, P.J. Thompson and the two Edwardses. That formula works more often than not, but it also simplifies Purdue’s offense more than coach Matt Painter would probably like. In a last-second loss to Michigan State on Feb. 10, Haas went 12-for-22 as the Spartans declined to double him down low. Purdue only had one other double-digit scorer in the game, and had one of its worst shooting performances of the season.
But while NCAA Tournament teams will try to replicate that formula, few have the same personnel MSU has. That should give Purdue fans some comfort heading into what might be their team’s best March Madness shot in years.