#1 Kansas vs #4 Purdue
Storyline: Purdue’s big men vs. Kansas’ back court
At least in the top half of the Midwest Region chalk ruled with a typical one seed vs. four seed matchup. Kansas dominated Michigan State down the stretch to reach this point, while Purdue held on against Iowa State. It is a great matchup of regular season conference champions, with Kansas ruling the Big 12 as usual and Purdue winning the Big 10.
The big storyline I see heading into this one is a front court vs. back court battle. When one thinks of Purdue these past two years, they mainly think of the big men that have came through the program. A.J. Hammons last year was great, and Caleb Swanigan had a solid freshman campaign. However, Swanigan has gone to an absolutely new level this season, averaging 18.5 PPG and 12.6 RPG throughout the year. He had numerous 20-20 games, and also managed to get almost 3 assists per game. There is no doubt that this team is his, and he will have to have a big game for Purdue to compete. Along with that, Vincent Edwards is a very solid piece of the Boilermaker front court. He has played well in the NCAA Tournament so far, and he will be pivotal in stopping sensational freshman Josh Jackson on the other side of the ball.
As for the Jayhawks, they make their money from the outside. Frank Mason is probably the leader for National Player of the Year right now, and is one of the more dynamic players in the country. He averages 20.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 5.2 APG, while also serving as his team’s emotional leader. It would be tough to find another player who has such a balanced stat line, let alone an undersized guard who has defied all odds and obstacles. His back court mate, Devonte Graham, does a great job of taking some of the scoring load with an average of over 13 points per game.
Overall, these are two teams that boast dynamic attacks centered around different types of pieces. In my opinion, this game will come down to three-point shooting. Both teams rank in the top ten in the country in three-point shooting percentage, and both teams need to get going from the start. In the end, I think Kansas just has too many weapons for Purdue to shut down as they grind out a win down the stretch.
Prediction: Kansas 86, Purdue 80