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Matchup to Watch: Purdue Boilermakers vs. Iowa State Cyclones

Can Iowa State contain the Purdue front court?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Milwaukee Practice Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Although it’s hard for a large group of people to share an attitude, there are special occasions when it occurs. It happened for Ohio State’s football team in 2015 and some of the Big Ten’s best basketball teams of the last decade.

Now, another Big Ten name is overcoming the odds and conquering everything, or, more appropriately, everyone.

Caleb Swanigan against the world.

At this point, it’s probably beating a dead horse, but Swanigan is the driving force behind the Purdue Boilermakers making an extended run through the postseason. He’s a double-double machine, Player of the Year candidate and, frankly, just a nightmare for opposing coaches and defenders.

That’s especially true in the Boilermakers’ second-round matchup with the Iowa State Cyclones Saturday.

Swanigan is a load in the paint. He’s 6-foot-9 and a nimble 250 pounds. Calling 250 pounds nimble isn’t trying to poke fun at the big man, either. Dude can move.

He averages 18.4 points and 12.6 rebounds per game, so his 16 and 14 night against Vermont in the opening round was just another day at the office. He played all but two minutes, and, at this point, all opposing defenses can hope to do is contain him below his averages — although that still didn’t work for Vermont.

That’s a steep challenge for a guard-heavy Iowa State team. And heavy is, no pun intended, putting it lightly.

The Cyclones backcourt is a nightmare and could cause problems for Purdue, for sure. But if the Boilers can control the tempo, slow things down and abuse the post, it could be a long night for Iowa State.

The Cyclones start four guards — 6-foot-3, 6-4, 6-5 and 6-5. Their lone starting forward, Soloman Young, is a sturdy 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds. The problem is, he only averages 4.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Defensively, he doesn’t even cap a block a game.

Now, the freshman forward is expected to slow down the runaway Big Ten Player of the Year.

Iowa State runs almost exclusively with it’s starting five, too.

In the Cyclones’ opening round matchup with Nevada — a fairly up-and-down affair — all five Iowa State starters played at least 31 minutes. Only three reserves came off the bench, two of them guards.

So, eight players saw the floor, six of them were guards. And now they’re only on a day’s rest.

Oh, and behind Swanigan is 7-foot-2, 290-pound Isaac Haas, who looks more like a character from Game of Thrones than a college junior. And he’s Purdue’s second-leading scorer and rebounder.

Iowa State’s backup big man? Six-foot-8 senior Darrell Bowie, who weighs a whopping 218 pounds (program weight).

If Purdue goes with both Swanigan and Haas in the post, which they often do, and surely will against the much smaller Cyclones, Bowie is going to be in charge of guarding Swanigan.

Iowa State has one player taller than 6-8 who’s seen the floor this year, 6-10 senior Stuat Nezlek, played just 2.3 minutes per game and is out for the year with a shoulder injury.

Basically, Iowa State has two undersized forwards who are going to have to play much, much taller against the monsters Purdue packs into the paint.

If the Boilermakers’ guards can slow down the speedy backcourt of the Cyclones, Swanigan and Haas could have a field day and send Purdue to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010.

It will be a good test for the Purdue guards, as a potential Sweet 16 matchup with Kansas would heavily favor the Boilers in the paint and the Jayhawks in the backcourt.

The last thing any potential opponent wants is for Haas and especially Swanigan to gain any momentum moving forward. If Iowa State can’t prevent that, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers will be packing their bags for Kansas City, while the Cyclones pack up their lockers.

Saturday’s Sweet 16 matchup between 4-seed Purdue and 5-seed Iowa State is tentatively scheduled to tip off at 9:40 p.m. ET in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.