Game 35 – No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 Purdue: Preview and Prediction

For the second straight season the No. 1 seeded Kansas Jayhawks (30-4, 16-2 Big 12) find themselves back in the Sweet 16. Last year, the Jayhawks took down Maryland, 79-63. This time KU will square off with another Big Ten opponent, the Purdue Boilermakers (27-7, 14-4 Big Ten).

The Jayhawks fought off Michigan State in their Round of 32 game last Sunday, cruising late to a 90-70 victory. Frank Mason, Josh Jackson and an emerging Devonte’ Graham all played outstanding in the first weekend of the tournament. KU will surely need those three to keep up their hot play in order to keep this run going.

The Big Ten champion Boilermakers come in off First and Second round victories over Vermont and Iowa State. Against the latter, Purdue led big midway through the second half before ISU stormed back to take the lead. Nevertheless, the Boilers fended off ISU’s late comeback and won 80-76.

Purdue is led by National Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan. He had a massive performance against Iowa State, pouring in 18 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Purdue has two very good front court players in Swanigan and 7’2″ Isaac Hass, so the Jayhawks’ bigs will be tested.

Game Notes

  • Kansas leads the all-time series, 3-2.
  • The two schools have met three times in tournament play. KU is 2-1 in those games, mostly recently coming away victorious, 63-60, in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
  • Bill Self is 5-2 all-time vs. Purdue.
  • KU now owns a 102-44 record in the NCAA tournament.
  • KU is 33-7 all-time at the Sprint Center, including a 3-1 mark this season.
  • Through two games of the NCAA tournament, senior guard Frank Mason is averaging 21 points, 6.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and six free throw attempts.
  • In KU’s 90-70 victory over MSU, Mason failed to record a made three-pointer for the first time since the Duke game back in November. He still is shooting 47% from beyond the arc.
  • In NCAA action, junior guard Devonte’ Graham is averaging 17 points, four assists and three rebounds. He’s also shooting 61% from long range.
  • Freshman Josh Jackson is averaging 20 points, five rebounds and 1.5 blocks through the first two tourney games. He’s also shooting 60% from the field and 50% from three-point range.
  • Over the last 15 games, Jackson is shooting 52% from three-point land.
  • Senior Landen Lucas recorded his third straight double-double in the win over Michigan State. He’s averaging 11.5 points and 11 rebounds in tournament action.
  • A win would give KU 31 wins for the second straight season and the 12th time in program history, seven of those seasons have come under Bill Self.
  • VegasInsider.com has Kansas as the favorite at -4.5.

When: Thursday, March 23, 2017, approx. 8:40pm CT

Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO

How to Watch: CBS or March Madness App

How to Listen: Jayhawk Radio Network

Purdue Boilermakers (27-7, 14-4 Big Ten)

Purdue fans had thoughts of last year’s early exit dance in their heads during their first round game against Vermont. The Catamounts played Purdue close for most of the game, but the Boilermakers eventually pulled away in the in the latter part of the second half.

In their second round game against Iowa State, it looked smooth sailing for the Boilers as the held a 18 point second half lead. Monte Morris and Deonte Burton would not go quietly though, and they staged a comeback and eventually took a 72-71 lead with a little over three minutes left. Purdue would end the game on a 9-4 run though, capped off by a clutch three and then steal by junior guard P.J. Thompson.

Everyone knows about Purdue’s size with Swanigan and Haas, but there is more to their success than that. They have three capable guards in Thompson, Carsen Edwards and Spike Albrecht. Head coach Matt Painter also has some shooters with Ryan Cline and Dakota Mathias, with the latter being an All-Big Ten defensive player as well.

The guy who might be the most important key, the “x-factor” if you will, is junior wing Vincent Edwards. I say that because, if you look at his box scores in wins compared to losses, you’ll see a massive drop off in results. In Purdue’s seven losses this season, Edwards is averaging just nine points, 3.6 rebounds and is shooting 31% from the floor. In their 27 wins though, he’s averaging 13.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and is shooting 53% from the field. There’s no question Purdue is a better team when Edwards is playing well. Edwards has come on strong here in the tournament, averaging 21 points, five rebounds and is shooting better than 63% from the floor. KU should matchup well with him though with Josh Jackson.

At first glance, they reminds me a little of KU’s 2016 Sweet 16 opponent, Maryland. That Maryland team had good guards with Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon. They also had some size in the front court with Diamond Stone and Robert Carter, not to mention three point threat Jake Laymen.

This Purdue team is a rather complete one. They score, shoot and defend at elite levels. The Jayhawks will have to bring their “A-Game” on Thursday night.

Strengths/Weaknesses

Strength – Sharing the Wealth: Purdue is the second best team in the country in assists per game. In their second round win over Iowa State, the Boilers had 27 assists on 31 made baskets.

Strength – Three-Point Shooting: Purdue is just two spots back of Kansas at sixth in the national rankings for three-point percentage. The Boilermakers are shooting better than 40% from three this season. Swanigan, Edwards, Cline, Mathias and Thompson all shoot over 40% from distance.

Strength – Three-Point Defense: Purdue is top 50 in opponents three-point percentage, teams are shooting just over 32% against them this season. That being said, Purdue surrenders over 20 three-point attempts per game.

Strength – Transition Defense: The Boilers are among the best in preventing and defending transition opportunities. They rank top 100 in opponents FG% in transition.

Strength – Discipline: Purdue is among the elite in fewest personal fouls per game, as well as fewest opponents free-throw attempts per game. The Jayhawks averaged 17.5 FTs in the first and second round. That may be tough against a team as disciplined as Purdue. Although, UC Davis and MSU had trouble staying in front of Frank Mason on drives last week. It’s quite likely Purdue hasn’t seen a guard as quick off the dribble as Mason this season.

Strength – Rebounding: When you have guys like Swanigan and Haas, you better be a dang good rebounding team. They are in the top half in offensive rebounding percentage and top 10 in defensive rebounding percentage.


Weakness – Rim Protection: Its funny, you think with Swanigan and Haas Purdue would be a pretty good shot blocking team. That is not the case, however. They rank 270th in blocked shots per game, and 288th in block percentage.

Weakness – Low Post Defense: This stat could easily be a strength and a weakness. They do a great job at preventing shots at the rim (25 NCAA), but when their opponent gets to the rim, its good night. Purdue ranks 338th out of 351 D1 teams in opponents FG% at the rim.

Weakness – Low Post Offense: Again, this is another stat that could be both. Purdue is nearly automatic, one of the best in the nation, when they get to the rim. In fact, they rank third nationally in FG% at the rim, as they shoot 71%. That being said, they don’t get those chances nearly enough, ranking 330th in that department.

Weakness – Forcing Turnovers: This might be hard against KU’s guards even if Purdue forced a ton of TOs. Purdue is forcing a smidge under 12 TOs per game, which ranks 270th nationally.

Weakness – Transition Offense: Purdue does not get out and run too often. They rank 202nd this season in transition opportunities.

Boilermakers to Watch

Caleb Swanigan – 6’9″, Forward, Sophomore

  • National Player of the Year finalist
  • Big Ten Player of the Year
  • Averaging 18.3 points, 12.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game
  • Leads the nation in double-doubles with 28
  • Great passer for a big man, which makes double teams not work as well against him
  • Capable of knocking down the three — shoots 42% (35-81)
  • Almost automatic at the rim — shoots 79% there. You think he’d get more of those opportunities though, only 30% of his shots have came at the basket this season
  • Can fall in love with his jumper — 69.6% of his shots this season have been either two or three-point jump shots
  • Can get carless with the ball — leads the team with 3.3 TOs per game
  • Not an elite defender. Struggles with guys quicker than him
  • Not going to create for himself

Isaac Haas – 7’2″, Center, Junior

  • Possesses great size
  • Averaging 12.6 PPG and 5.1 RPG
  • Not the best rebounder, considering his size
  • Can get soft with the ball — 2.2 TOs per game
  • Almost needs perfect positioning every time to score on offense
  • Offensively a non-factor if he’s out side the paint
  • Can be foul prone at times
  • Like Swanigan, struggles with guys quicker with him

Vince Edwards – 6’8″, Wing, Junior

  • Averaging 12.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 3.2 APG
  • Exceptional three-point shooter at 42%
  • One of the few main offensive threats that can create for himself
  • Has been known to go M.I.A. in the past
  • X-factor to Purdue’s success

Carsen Edwards – 6’0″, Guard, Freshman

  • Spark plug off the bench for the Boilermakers
  • Quick off the dribble, can get to the rack
  • Might be the only guy to keep up with Mason
  • Capable three-point shooter (35% 3PT)
  • Not the best distributor — only has 62 assists (1.8 per game)
  • Hucks up his fair share of shots. Second on the team in FGAs, but probably third or fourth scoring option

Three Keys

  • Get out and RUN: KU tried to do it against Michigan State, while the Spartans did a decent job of getting back in time, the one thing it did do was speed up the pace — something Purdue doesn’t want to see on Thursday. Purdue has an advantage down low, but I don’t know if its as big as an advantage as KU has in the backcourt. I don’t know if Purdue’s guards can run with the likes of Mason, Graham and Jackson for a full 40 minutes. If they can…God bless ’em.
  • Simply Put, Gotta Make Shots: Kansas has shot the ball exceptionally well through the first two games, specifically against a pretty darn good defensive team in Michigan State, as they shot 53% from the field and 40% from three. Percentage wise, Purdue does a good job of defending the three point line. But if they allow KU to get 20-22 three-point attempts, I think the Jayhawks will gladly take that.
  • Limit the Role Players: You know Swanigan is going to get his, I mean when hasn’t he this season? The trick here is limiting the damage guys like Edwards, Mathias and Thompson do. It’s hard to double Swanigan because he’s such a good passer. Last game against MSU, Bill Self told Josh Jackson “hey Miles Bridges is yours, and yours only. No one is going to help you.” They may need to take a similar approach with Swanigan here, whether that is giving Landen Lucas, Josh Jackson, Carlton Bragg or Dwight Coleby sole responsibility of guarding him.

Prediction

Kansas 84, Purdue 78

It feels as if this matchup is going under the radar this weekend. I think this will sneakily be one of the better games of the Sweet 16.

Purdue is a solid team all-around, and thats why I think they’ll put up a fight. At the end of the day though, guard play wins in the tournament and I love Kansas’ guards. I think Purdue’s are slightly better than Michigan State’s, but thats still not on KU’s level. Frank Mason has played at an exceptionally high level since day one. Devonte’ Graham seems to be catching fire at just the right time, and then theres the difference maker — Josh Jackson. Jackson is so versatile offensively that I don’t know how well Purdue will matchup with him. Vince Edwards seems like the logical choice.

Deonte Burton tore up Swanigan in the second half of Purdue’s victory over Iowa State. Swanigan could just not keep up with him in insolation situations. If the Jayhawks can get Jackson into situations like that against Swanigan or Haas, he’ll be very tough to stop.  The key for Jackson though is to not get so sped up. He did early against the Spartans, but quickly found his way.

A lot of the national pundits are speculating that KU is going to have some problems with Purdue’s size. That may be true, but I don’t think it will be bad as some are making it out to be. Yes, Swanigan and Haas are behemoths down low, but behind them the pickins are slim. This is not like the 2015 Kentucky team where they are running waves of seven footers out there. On top of that, they rarely play each guy at the same time, and if they do against KU, look for the Jayhawks to run and gun.

More importantly though, I think a lot of people are overlooking the play of Landen Lucas. He’s a great post defender, as he does a good job of walling up his opponents. The other thing is that he’s done a superb job of rebounding, specifically on the offensive boards. Lucas has gone toe-to-toe with some of the best bigs in the nation this year namely, Jonathan Motley of Baylor, Amile Jefferson of Duke and Bam Adebayo of Kentucky. Lucas has held his own in nearly every meeting. If Lucas and Co. can hold Swanigan to his averages or slightly below them, KU will take that every time. Ultimately though, the key here is keeping Lucas out of foul trouble.

Lastly, with this game being in Kansas City expect a pro-KU crowd. I think they can and will play a factor, just like what we saw in Tulsa last weekend. I don’t know if it will be as uneven of a split as Sunday’s game, but nevertheless expect a loud and intense crowd.

Bobby Norell

My name is Bobby Norell. I'm from a small town in northern Indiana. I grew up a Notre Dame fan, as many of my family members graduated from there. I attend every home football game, and my fair share of basketball games. My Kansas fandom is something I brought upon myself when I was little. Around the time I was in first grade, Kirk Hinrich was leading Kansas to back-to-back Final Fours. I loved Hinrich those KU teams, and ever since they I've been hooked on Kansas basketball. I recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Sport Communication. Even though my diploma says I'm a Hoosier, my love for the Jayhawks has never wavered. They'll always come No.1. I'm excited for the opportunity here at Rock Chalk Blog. I hope to provide you with some thoughtful and informational analysis. Aside from my work here, you can catch some of my work at OneFootDown.com on SB Nation. There I cover Notre Dame football and basketball, as well as a little recruiting.