Two Big Ten teams are in action on Thursday as the NCAA Round of 64 tips off. Indiana and Purdue will both tip off Thursday as favorites in their respective 5 vs. 12 match-ups.
In past NCAA Tournaments, the 12-seed has had its fair share of success against the 5-seed. With a combined 27-9 record in the Big Ten, the Boilermakers and Hoosiers will try to avoid being upset by their mid-major opponents on Thursday.
Let’s take a look at Thursday’s action.
Purdue Boilermakers (5) vs. Arkansas Little Rock Trojans (12) 4:30 (TBS)
Purdue will get things started for the Big Ten in the round of 64 against Arkansas Little Rock. The Trojans only win in the NCAA Tournament was back in 1986, but don’t let that fool you; they’re for real.
Arkansas Little Rock won both their conference regular season and postseason tournament. A 29-4 overall record included wins on the road at San Diego State and Tulsa. The Trojans also played Texas Tech in the non-conference schedule and lost by 10.
Purdue, on the other hand, makes their second straight tournament appearance. The Boilermakers will be hungry to revenge their one point opening round overtime loss against Cincinnati last year.
Look for Purdue to try to use their advantage in the paint early and often against the Trojans. While Purdue averaged 41 rebounds per game and is one of the best rebounding teams in the NCAA, Arkansas Little Rock is ranked 63rd out of the 68 tournament teams in rebounding (33.8). Look for Purdue to set the tone with AJ Hammons, Isaac Haas, andCaleb Swanigan scoring down low.
On the defensive side of the ball, Purdue will need to play well on the perimeter to keep the Trojans from getting hot. Senior point guard Josh Hagins runs the show as he averages 12.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. Marcus Johnson is right behind Hagins with 12.7 points per game and can be deadly from deep. The junior guard shoots better than 46% from deep and 81% from the line. At just 6’1’’ and 5’11’’ respectively, Hagins and Johnson can be contained with a lengthy guard chasing them like Rapheal Davis.
Overall, this is a good matchup for Matt Painter’s squad. While Little Rock statistically has a great defense (allowing under 60 points per game), Purdue has the size to score down low against the Trojans. The Boilermakers should also be able to harass Arkansas Little Rock’s playmakers, forcing turnovers and avoiding the upset.
Indiana Hoosiers (5) vs. Chattanooga Mocs (12) 7:10 CBS
Since taking over in 2008, Tom Crean is 4-3 in the NCAA Tournament. The Hoosiers will look to improve on that record as they take on Chattanooga in the round of 64. The Mocs will be a good test for the Big Ten regular season champs as they finished with a 29-5 (15-3) record winning the Southern Conference regular season and tournament.
One of the keys for Indiana will be taking care of the ball. The Mocs are long and athletic and like to press opponents, trapping after they cross half-court. Forcing mistakes and getting out in transition is how the Mocs’ offense can get going.
Chattanooga averages 8 steals per game and in non-conference wins over Georgia and Illinois forced 21 and 16 turnovers respectively. The Mocs also took down Dayton before starting their Southern Conference schedule.
The good news for Indiana is they have veterans handling the ball. Yogi Ferrell will be looking to attack Chattanooga’s aggressive defense. The Hoosiers shoot great from outside the arc and will try to force the Mocs out of their pressure defense.
Another key for Indiana will be limiting Tre’ McLean. The junior forward has a solid all around game as he averages 12.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. He also shoots 48% from the field and 78% from the line. Freshman centerThomas Bryant will also have his hands full with Justin Tuoyo as the 6’10’’ junior averages 11.1 points on 53% shooting for the Mocs.
Overall, Indiana lives and dies by the three point shot. If the Hoosiers can make Chattanooga pay for their high risk defense and get open looks, they have the ability to make this a one-sided game. The Mocs on the other hand will look to force Indiana in to turnovers and win the game scoring in transition.