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2017 NCAA Tournament Preview: #4 Purdue vs. #13 Vermont

The Purdue Boilermakers are looking to get out of the first round, and the Vermont Catamounts stand in their way.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Purdue Boilermakers have been eliminated from the last two NCAA Tournaments far sooner than their coaches, players and fans would have liked. This year, however, they look to remove some of the sour taste of two consecutive first round losses from their mouths.

In order to do that, however, they’ll have to overcome the Vermont Catamounts, who certainly aren’t to be overlooked.

Below is a preview of the first round NCAA Tournament game between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Vermont Catamounts, with betting odds being provided by Covers.

- #4 Purdue Boilermakers vs. #13 Vermont Catamounts

  • Time/TV: 7:27pm E.T. TruTV
  • Covers spread: Purdue (-9)

1. Can the Purdue Boilermakers get over the mental roadblock?

The team, from the coaches to the players, will without a doubt tell you that the previous two years will have no effect on the team when the Boilermakers take the court on Thursday night. Anyone who has ever played a sport, though, knows that it’s nearly impossible to not bring past years into memory.

In some ways, remembering what has happened the past two years might even help the Boilermakers stay focused and keep in mind that this is March Madness for a reason, no team is ever out of the game.

There have been people throughout the year, myself included at times, who have questioned the focus level of this Purdue Boilermakers team, and in the NCAA Tournament a lack of focus is a great way to see yourself bounced from the event in the first round yet again.

2. Which team can be more efficient?

These two teams played in 2015, with Purdue blowing out Vermont 107-79 while setting the school record with 18 made three pointers. That kind of shooting night can make it difficult to really catch on to what Vermont does well and what they don’t do well, and it’s hard to imagine Purdue making 18 threes and blowing the game wide open again.

The Vermont Catamounts want to slow the game down, playing one of the slowest paces in the country this season. According to KenPom, the Catamounts average only 64 possessions per 40 minutes, which places them 303rd in the country in pace of play. While the Boilermakers aren’t your run and gun style offense that looks to score 100 points, they place a considerably faster pace, averaging 68 possessions per 40 minutes.

While neither team plays a scorching pace, both are very efficient. Vermont boasts a top-20 effective field goal percentage according to KenPom, 55.4% places them at 19th best in the country. Purdue, meanwhile, sits at 55.7% which is 16th best in the country.

Where the separation really comes in terms of efficiency is the three point line. Purdue comes in as the 4th best three point shooting team in America at 40.6% from behind the line. Vermont is ranked 90th in the country at 36.7%.

3. Can Purdue impose their will physically?

While the three point shooting is a huge key for the Boilers, everyone knows that the offense for Matt Painter starts and ends with Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas. Their presence on the interior opens up so many opportunities for shooters to get open and convert their chances.

While there are ways around dealing with massive size that the Boilermakers have, it will certainly be difficult to come up with a plan for a Vermont team without a player over 6’8”. With Caleb Swanigan at 6’9” and the giant that is Isaac Haas at 7’2”, 290 pounds, it is without a doubt the biggest challenge for the Catamounts.

Teams with a stretch four or five man can limit some of the advantage by bringing Isaac Haas on the perimeter defensively and make it almost impossible for Painter to keep him in the game due to the defensive liability he can be on the perimeter defensively.

While the Catamounts are an efficient team, they are not a team that’s especially dangerous from beyond the arc, so it would seem that the Boilermakers would be safe to play Swanigan and Haas for the deadly high-low connection they can be.

Overall:

The Boilermakers won’t face an easy task in dealing with Vermont Catamounts on Thursday night, but it certainly seems that this match-up could favor them pretty handily.

However, Purdue fans will tell you that they should have won the previous two years and were bounced early, so it’s a wait and see attitude from a big portion of the fan base.

Despite the previous two years, expect the Boilermakers to handle their business on Thursday in Milwaukee and move on to face the winner of the Iowa State-Nevada game.

  • Pick Against the Spread: Purdue