The 2-seeded Boilermakers are looking for a run to San Antonio over the next couple weeks but must get by the Big West champions first. There have been only six instances of a 15 beating a 2, most recently coming in 2016 with Michigan State faltering against Middle Tennessee State.
All things considered, the Boilermakers should handle the Titans, but there are things they will need to look out for. Let’s take a look at the Boilermakers will need to slow down to advance on to the second round.
The Cal State Fullerton Backcourt vs. The Purdue Backcourt
46 percent of Cal State Fullerton’s points come from two players - juniors Kyle Allman and Khalil Ahmad. The backcourt has some size - Allman is 6-foot-3 and Ahmad 6-foot-4 - so that could give the smaller backcourt of the Boilermakers some issues. Similar issues the Boilermakers saw against Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament. Take a look at some highlights of Allman below.
Allman led the Big West conference this season averaging 19.4 points per game. He gets to the line nearly eight times a game and shoots 43 percent from three. In games against Power 5 competition this season, Allman put up 34 against Georgia and 30 against Cal. He could be tough to handle for the Boilermakers. Given that Allman plays point in CS Fullerton’s system, the defensive assignment for the Boilermakers could go to PJ Thompson. That could be tough for the 5-foot-8 senior. Boilermaker freshman Nojel Eastern could be called upon to corral Allman, and has the 6-foot-6 frame to do it, but will need to keep from fouling. His defense against Tony Carr in the Big Ten Tournament was masterful, so he’s made major strides during the last month of the season.
The Boilermakers also have another guard from Cal State Fullerton to deal with. Take a look at some highlights from Khalil Ahmad. He is number 14 in the video.
Ahmad is somewhat different from Allman. He does not shoot from three as well (32 percent on the season), but like Allman, he is at his best when he uses his size and physicality to drive at the basket and draw fouls (he is an 83 percent free throw shooter).
Ahmad is not nearly as efficient as Allman and struggles sometimes in settling for three-pointers and long two’s. Veteran defender Dakota Mathias will try and force Ahmad to settle for those shots and keep him out of the lane where he is a decent rebounder.
It should also be mentioned that outside of this backcourt matchup between the teams, Purdue holds a massive advantage underneath. Cal State Fullerton has only three players taller than 6-foot-7 and isn’t a particularly good rebounding team. The Boilers may be able to offset any possible heroics from Allman and Ahmad by getting the ball to Haas and drawing fouls. Purdue’s defensive length from Eastern, Haas and Matt Haarms will be disruptions that Cal State Fullerton has not seen all season.
The Boilermakers should get by Cal State Fullerton in their first matchup of the NCAA Tournament. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a cakewalk. The Titans have some ability in the backcourt, and Purdue will need to respond by not fouling and forcing inefficient shots. That, coupled with its immense advantages in the paint and any Carsen Edwards daggers, should put the Boilers in second round play against either Arkansas or Butler.