After what has truly been one of the craziest opening weekends in NCAA tournament history, we are down to only 16 teams left and two from the Big Ten are still alive. Purdue and Michigan are in the sweet 16 and one of the big questions that everyone has is whether one of these teams win it all.
There have been many upsets this year but the one region that has been predictable is the East, where the top 3 seeds are all still alive. No. 2 Purdue is taking on No. 3 Texas Tech and No. 1 Villanova is taking on No. 5 West Virginia.
Purdue, no doubt, has its work cut out, but that hardly means the team is down and out. They still have one of the better starting lineups in the tournament and can play defense with the best of them. Carsen and Vince Edwards are going to have to play at the top of their game on both sides of the ball.
However, the big question remains: Who is going to take over for Isaac Haas?
Haas fractured his elbow in their first round game and is unlikely to return to the tournament. The answer is simple. They are going to need their fiery freshman Matt Haarms to do a lot more. Haarms is 7-foot-3 and has the ability to do exactly what Haas gave the Boilermakers, except the experience. He played 29 minutes in the round of 32 against Butler, which is well over his season average of 17 minutes a game. He logged 7 points and 6 rebounds on 1-of-3 shooting and he was 5-for-8 from the free throw line.
Haarms is only averaging 4.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game but he is shooting over 59 percent from the field and averages 2.1 blocks per game, so he has proven that he can be effective. Texas Tech, Villanova and West Virginia are all incredibly talented and deep teams so they will need more productive minutes form Haarms. If he could focus on taking more high percentage shots and less on his hair, that would be great.
Also, Purdue will need Carsen Edwards to play more efficiently. In the first two tournament games, he is just 8-for-29 from the field and 4-for-14 from three. He is the team’s leading scorer on the year at over 18 points a game and he has had a good year shooting the ball at 45 percent so they will need him to get back to his normal self.
There is talk that Purdue’s engineering department is working on an elbow brace for Haas that can be approved by the NCAA. The one Haas wanted to use against Butler was not approved and Haas had to stay on the bench.
However, coach Matt Painter said that even if the department comes up with something that the NCAA will approve, that Haas is still highly unlikely to play. This is not a surprise due to when Haas tried to warm up against Butler and see how far he can go, he showed obvious signs of discomfort and could barely shoot the ball.
Purdue can still win the whole thing, but it’s going to be an uphill battle. All of the original starters plus Haarms are going to need to step up and play a level up and bench guys like Ryan Cline will need to provide valuable minutes as well.
Of course, as we have seen so far this month...anything is possible.