#4 Purdue Boilermakers vs # 13 Vermont Catamounts
Midwest Region 1st Round
Thursday 7:27 p.m. ET, TruTV
25-7, (14-4 Big Ten)
Player to Watch: Caleb Swanigan (18.5 ppg, 12.6 rpg)
Purdue enters NCAA Tournament play as the regular season champions of the Big Ten Conference, and the Boilermakers were clearly the class of the conference throughout the season. Led by National Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan, Purdue boasts one of the most talented frontcourts in all of college basketball.
On the court, the Boilermaker guards must continue to play at a high level. This includes taking care of the ball, making sound decisions, and knocking down open shots. From a mental perspective, Purdue needs to shake off the demons of the past couple NCAA Tournament performances that resulted in heartbreaking overtime defeats.
29-5, (16-0 America East)
Player to Watch: Anthony Lamb (12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
Vermont walks into its matchup with Purdue riding a 21-game winning streak, and is one of, if not the hottest team in college basketball, having won every last one of its conference games. The Catamounts are flying high and playing with plenty of confidence, led by their impressive junior class.
To complete an upset of the Boilermakers, Vermont must receive quality production from its forwards. The Catamounts shoot three pointers at a 37 percent clip, and will likely need to make several shots from deep in order to offset Purdue’s size advantage in the post.
Match-Up to Watch
How will the frontcourt of Vermont attempt to deal with the obvious mismatch against Purdue’s big men? The Catamounts boast exactly zero players taller than 6 feet 8 inches. Look for the Boilermaker frontcourt to enjoy a productive night.
Purdue is ranked 21st in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio, and the Boilermakers assist on the vast majority of their field goals. Coach Matt Painter’s team must avoid turning the ball over and enabling Vermont to score in transition.
Prediction: Purdue 81, Vermont 64
You can expect Vermont to come out swinging, as the America East Conference champions almost certainly will not fear Purdue. The Catamounts are playing with all the confidence in the world and have not lost since December. Purdue will look to utilize its obvious size advantage and score from inside the paint.
In the end, Purdue’s big men will overwhelm the Catamount frontcourt and Caleb Swanigan will carry Purdue into a second round matchup versus Iowa State or Nevada.