Texas advanced to this game by beating a red-hot Virginia Tech team in their opening-round matchup. They scored 81 points against the Hokies, a rare offensive explosion from the Longhorns. The Boilermakers got by Yale with ease in their first-round contest. It was nice to see them not play down to the competition.
Throughout the season, the Longhorns have proved to be one of the best defensive teams in the country. Playing in the Big 12, they have certainly faced big-time competition, but even teams like Kansas and Baylor do not play with as much size as the Boilermakers. In their win against Virginia Tech, they started a lineup with no player over 6-foot-7, which is a tough way to try to contain Purdue.
The Boilermakers might not have scored as many points as I thought they would against Yale, but they still took it to the smaller Bulldogs. The Boilermakers went to the free-throw line 33 times and made 28. By comparison, Yale made only six free throws, and when there is a discrepancy like that it is tough to make things up elsewhere. They are going to have lots of advantages they can exploit against Texas too.
Texas Longhorns (22-11) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (28-7)
Sunday, March 20, 2022
8:40 p.m. ET
Spread: Longhorns +3.5 (-110), Boilermakers -3.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Longhorns +135, Boilermakers -165
The Longhorns are not going to be intimidated by the size of the Boilermakers. That doesn’t mean they have a plan to match up with it, though.
Purdue guard Jaden Ivey is likely to have a hard time against Texas’ strong perimeter defense, but as long as he does not try to do too much, Purdue should win and advance. Even if he does, he often finds a way to the rim with his superlative athleticism.
The keys to the game for Purdue might be the more unsung players like guard Eric Hunter and wing shooter Sasha Stefanovic, a couple of perimeter players who should see plenty of open looks with the defense focused on Ivey and Zach Edey. Stefanovic made only 2-of-8 from deep against Yale, but he has proved throughout his career that he can make shots, especially the dagger kind. Usually, the bigger the game the more you can count on him.
Also, even if the Longhorns can find a way to slow the 7-foot-4 Edey down, I am doubtful they can also have success against the Boilermakers’ other big, Trevion Williams. He gives Purdue a different kind of look inside and is such a good passer that sometimes the offense is better with him on the floor even though Edey is one of the most efficient offensive players in the country.
Purdue has its defensive lapses, but Texas is a great opponent for them because they rarely get things going on offense. After a game where Texas’ offense actually had some flow, it is hard to expect another strong offensive game against a high-quality team like Purdue.
The Boilermakers’ late-season struggles make them a buy-low candidate right now. All of the early tournament chaos makes them a nice futures play too. The Longhorns got the win to avoid disappointment but, it looks like their season is done.