NCAA Tournament Preview: Purdue vs. North Texas

NCAA TOURNAMENT: #4 PURDUE (18-9) vs. #13 NORTH TEXAS (17-9)

ABOUT THIS GAME

Purdue opens this Indianapolis-centric NCAA Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium, site of the Boilermakers’ first postseason game, an overtime loss to Ohio State at the Big Ten Tournament. The Boilermakers are the 4 seed in the South Region. North Texas made the tournament as a 13 seed by winning the Conference-USA Tournament, winning four games in four days, the last three of them against three of the best teams in C-USA, including top-seeded Western Kentucky in overtime in the final. This is Purdue’s second straight NCAA opener against a Conference-USA team, Old Dominion being the one prior.

NUMBERS AND SUCH

* VegasInsider Consensus

ABOUT PURDUE

Not counting last year’s cancelation, this is the Boilermakers’ sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. … Prior to the Big Ten Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium, Purdue’s last game in a football facility came in 2010 against Duke in Houston. … Purdue has played North Texas just once in its history, winning 90-73 in 1970 in West Lafayette. … The Boilermakers have advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend each of their past three appearances. … This is not that abnormal this season because of last year’s circumstances, but Purdue has just four players who’ve played in an NCAA Tournament. Juniors Eric Hunter, Trevion Williams, Sasha Stefanovic and Aaron Wheeler were each freshmen for the Boilermakers’ Elite Eight team two seasons ago. … This is Matt Painter’s 12th NCAA Tournament appearance at Purdue. He’s 10-2 in first-round games; Purdue’s all-time first-round record stands at 22-7. … Under Painter, Purdue’s won 15 NCAA Tournament games. He’s just three shy of the top five in Big Ten history, as he’s just two behind sixth-place Gene Keady and three behind fifth-place Thad Matta.

BEST-GUESS STARTERS

C — 50 TREVION WILLIAMS (6-10, 265, Junior)

15.6 PPG • 9.0 RPG • 2.2 APG • 52.7% FG

The first-team All-Big Ten big man erupted in the second half against Ohio State, perhaps a sign of building momentum heading into the most important games. He will need to be ready for anything from opposing defenses.

F — 0 MASON GILLIS (6-6, 230, Redshirt Freshman)

5.1 PPG • 3.9 RPG • 34.6% 3-PT • 82.5% FT

Purdue has been a little leaky on the defensive glass lately, and would like to shore that up. Gillis can obviously be a big part of that solution, not that he’s necessarily been part of the problem. The value of his physical nature and penchant for little things may be amplified on this stage, where possessions matter so much more.

G — 2 ERIC HUNTER JR. (6-4, 170, Junior)

8.8 PPG • 28.6% 3-PT • 2.8 APG • 80.9% FT • 25 STL

Snubbed for the Big Ten’s All-Defense team, Hunter says that didn’t bother him. But here’s a chance for him to remind everyone how deserving he was, against North Texas standout Javion Hamlet. His presence offensively must be a steady one, as well. Experienced guard play matters even more now.

G — 55 SASHA STEFANOVIC (6-5, 200, Junior)

9.3 PPG • 2.7 RPG • 2.6 APG • 40.2% 3-PT • 83% FT

It would really raise Purdue’s ceiling this month if it could build up some positive momentum from beyond the arc. Here’s your prime candidate. And his experience matters, too.

G — 23 JADEN IVEY (6-4, 200, Freshman)

10.5 PPG • 3.4 RPG • 2.0 AST • 17 STL • 14 BLK

Ivey’s becoming a star and his emergence as a playmaker is a big, big deal for Purdue heading into this NCAA Tournament. This is a great opportunity for him to make a name for himself nationally and help the Boilermakers win some games.

ROTATION

C — 15 ZACH EDEY (7-4, 285, Freshman)

9.0 PPG • 4.5 RPG • 60.5% FG • 28 BLK

The freshman’s a one-of-a-kind player at this event. North Texas has surely never seen anything like him, and preparing for him on film and dealing with him in real life are probably two very different things. He closed the regular season on a tear.

G — 5 BRANDON NEWMAN (6-5, 195, Redshirt Freshman)

8.3 PPG • 3.6 RPG • 38.6% 3-PT • 93.8% FT • 21 STL

Newman’s acclimating to his new role coming off the bench. Obviously, he can be a shotmaker, but he can really help his team, too, by just providing defensive energy and taking care of the basketball.

G — 11 ISAIAH THOMPSON (6-1, 160, Sophomore)

4.0 PPG • 37.7% 3-PT

Thompson’s given solid minutes off the bench behind Hunter and will do so the rest of the season. Having not gotten consistent shots all season, he’s given Purdue some punch.

F — 1 AARON WHEELER (6-9, 205, Junior)

4.0 PPG • 4.6 RPG • 17 STL • 13 BLK

Wheeler ended the regular season playing outstanding before struggling some against Ohio State. He’s one of those guys that Purdue needs to play to his experience level now, same for all the juniors.

G — 25 ETHAN MORTON (6-6, 215, Freshman)

C — 4 EMMANUEL DOWUONA (6-10, 245, Sophomore) (O)

Javion Hamlet was the C-USA Player-of-the-Year last season. (USA Today Sports)

ABOUT NORTH TEXAS

North Texas was just 13-9 during a regular season riddled with postponements and cancelations but obviously got hot at the right time, ousting Middle Tennessee, then Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky — the last three of which finished ahead of the Mean Green in the regular season standings — at the conference tournament. … The North Texas campus in Denton is actually hosting NIT games while its own team plays in Indy. … Valuable freshman guard Rubin Jones is out with an injury, has been since before the C-USA Tournament. He’s a 41-percent three-point shooter and important defensive player. … North Texas has shot a terrific 37.6 percent from three-point range as a team this season. … The Mean Green defense is both very good and quite unpredictable, Matt Painter says.

BEST GUESS STARTERS

F — 13 THOMAS BELL (6-6, 190, Senior)

10.3 PPG • 5.8 RPG • 41.2% 3-PT • 1.8 BLK

Bell might represent another of those small-ball matchup headaches as North Texas’ 4. He has guard skills and athleticism and he’s a 40-percent three-point shooter, so Gillis and Wheeler will have to be attentive to him all over the floor, and be more physical than him on the glass.

F — 24 ZACHARY SIMMONS (6-10, 238, Senior)

10.3 PPG • 6.2 RPG • 65.6% FG

Simmons is a productive big man who Purdue is going to want to make work on the defensive end, obviously.

G— 3 JAVION HAMLET (6-4, 193, Senior)

14.4 PPG • 2.8 RPG • 4.1 AST • 49.1% FG • 33.3% 3-PT

North Texas’ star, Hamlet was the C-USA Player-of-the-Year last year, a crafty scorer and playmaker with great size and a respectable threat from long range. Purdue’s track record at neutralizing great guards is pretty good, and they’ll want to keep it up here.

G — 0 JAMES REESE (6-4, 167, Senior)

11.3 PPG • 4.3 RPG • 34.8% 3-PT

Purdue typically helps off someone from the perimeter, but all of North Texas’ guards and wings — at least among the starters — are credible threats from three-point range, Reese included.

G — 1 MARDREZ MCBRIDE (6-2, 178, Junior)

6.7 PPG • 5.5 RPG • 36.6% 3-PT

The North Texas guard was 11-of-21 from three-point range in the conference tournament.

ROTATION

G – 11 JJ MURRAY (6-1, 195, Senior)

2.8 PPG

F — 33 ABOU OUSMANE (6-10, 250, Freshman)

3.2 PPG • 2.4 RPG

PREDICTION: PURDUE 72, NORTH TEXAS 63

Purdue may benefit from its disastrous first-half against Ohio State if it sharpens the Boilermakers’ focus on its defensive chemistry. North Texas is on a roll, but should be hard-pressed to match up on the interior. The Boilermakers are used to Big Ten basketball, and if the Mean Green will try to win a slowed-down, defensive battle, Purdue has experience doing just that.

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Published: 2021-03-19 05:40:32

Tags: #NCAA #Tournament #Preview #Purdue #North #Texas

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