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NCAA Tournament Preview: No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers vs. No. 15 Cal State Fullerton Titans

The Purdue Boilermakers will get their 2018 NCAA Tournament started against an upset-minded Titans team

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Detroit Practice Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, the Purdue Boilermakers should be and are clear favorites to move on to the weekend in the NCAA Tournament. As we’ve learned through the years, however, the probabilities mean almost nothing this time of year. The name on the front of your jersey does not guarantee anything but a target for schools without the same basketball background.

Purdue faces that danger on Friday afternoon against the 15 seed Cal State Fullerton Titans. Let’s take a look at how the teams match up before they face off in Detroit on Friday.

No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers vs. No. 15 Cal State Fullerton Titans

  • Time/TV: 12:40pm ET/TruTV
  • KenPom spread: Purdue (17)

1. Purdue has a major size advantage in the frontcourt

This has been a recurring theme throughout the season for the Purdue Boilermakers, as 7’2” Isaac Haas and 7’3” Matt Haarms are an absolute nightmare for teams to prepare for. The biggest player that sees regular playing time for the Titans is senior Arkim Robertson, who comes in at 6’9”, 230 pounds, but Robertson has only played in 38.9% of the teams minutes this season.

It’s likely that Cal State Fullerton will run with the same strategy that has allowed teams to play Purdue tough down the stretch of the season. Isaac Haas will likely see plenty of one-on-one coverage to prevent the Boilermakers from putting big runs together with a barrage from behind the arc. The Titans do have a 6’10” freshman Josh Pitts, though he has played in fewer than 10% of the teams minutes this season. Perhaps he will see some spot playing time here and there to add another body to defend the Purdue big men.

2. The Purdue backcourt has to be stout defensively

The strength of the Cal State Fullerton Titans can be found in the guard play. 6’3” junior guard Kyle Allman is a name that people should know headed into this game. He leads the team in scoring at 19.4 points and is shooting nearly 49%. Purdue switching 1-4 will force him to see plenty of bodies, but it’s important to defend Allman without fouling. Allman draws fouls at the 23rd highest rate in the country at 6.9%.

Being stout defensively in one-on-one situations should also lead to Purdue holding their own on the glass. Certainly, with the huge size difference, you would expect Purdue to have a rebounding advantage against the Titans. However, if the guards for Cal State Fullerton can get into the paint and force defensive rotations, it can complicate the work on the glass.

3. Vincent and Carsen Edwards need to get back to being themselves

Following an incredible sophomore season that saw him land on the All Big-Ten team along with a handful of other postseason, Edwards had a game in which he was just a shell of himself against Michigan in the Big Ten Championship game, scoring 12 points on 4-16 shooting.

Edwards has a special amount of confidence in his game that assures us that he’ll come out firing the same way he did against Illinois or Ohio State in an effort to put this game away early.

Vincent Edwards, meanwhile, has been dealing with an ankle injury that has kept him from being 100% for the better part of the last month that followed his bout with a stomach virus. When he is at his best, he provides a level of versatility offensively and defensively that makes him a nightmare for the opposing team to match up with. He can do everything on the offensive side, while being able to defend almost every position on the court.

Overall

Purdue has certainly had their own demons in the NCAA Tournament over the past decade, so it’s no surprise if fans are siding with caution this season. However, this is definitely a game that provides both a home court advantage with the game only hours away, and a favorable match-up on the court.

I would look for Purdue to flex their muscle in the post early, get the Titans in foul trouble and wear them out over the course of the game. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Purdue covers the spread.

Pick against the spread: Purdue