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2018 Big Ten Tournament Preview: No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions vs. No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers

The second semifinal features a rematch of two teams who played a tight contest earlier this season

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Ohio State vs Penn State Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Friday night, Penn State kept the conversation about their NCAA Tournament hopes alive by beating Ohio State for the third time this season. That victory earned them a chance to earn another victory, and they are welcomed with another chance to pick up a quadrant one win against a team that isn’t the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Meanwhile, the Purdue Boilermakers are a team that is experienced and motivated. It’s been a year of checking things off the list of accomplishments for the Boilers senior class. Among the list of things they haven’t yet accomplished: Win a Big Ten Tournament Championship.

In order to do that, they’ll have to get past a Penn State team that is playing for their NCAA Tournament hopes.

No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions at No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers

  • Time/TV: 4:30pm ET, CBS

Penn State and Purdue have faced off once this season. Purdue came away with a hard fought victory at home against a Nittany Lions team that played a healthy portion of the game without Mike Watkins, due to foul trouble. Saturday afternoon, they’ll again be facing the Boilermakers without Watkins due to his knee injury.

Purdue won the first meeting 76-73 as a Tony Carr desperation heave missed at the buzzer. The Nittany Lions will be looking to run everything through their All Big-Ten guard Carr, who can take advantage of isolation situations against just about any individual defender.

Simply, Purdue will have to force him to take tough shots. If they can force Carr, Lamar Stevens and Joshua Reaves into tough shots from the perimeter, then the key becomes rebounding the basketball. The rebounding woes have been well documented for a Purdue team with an average height of nearly 6’6”. Against Rutgers, Purdue gave up 17 offensive rebounds. That could very easily spell disaster for the Boilermakers against the Nittany Lions.

Purdue will certainly look to feed the post without Watkins on the floor for the Nittany Lions and try to get Isaac Haas as many good looks near the basket as possible. It’s likely they’ll try to establish Haas early and then get the perimeter guys going as the game goes on. If Carsen Edwards and Vincent Edwards can be as efficient and effective as they were against Rutgers, Purdue will be fine offensively.

Rutgers made a lot of tough shots against Purdue to keep themselves in it, which should provide confidence to the Boilermakers going into the Saturday meeting with Penn State. However, Penn State has a handful of guys who excel at making tough shots. Guys like Carr, Reaves, Stevens and Shep Garner are tough shot makers. That’s a tough way to produce consistent offense, but Penn State has been getting what they want when they’ve needed it most so far in this tournament, so it’ll be interesting to see how that develops.

With that being said, it seems that Purdue has gotten their offensive issues of a few weeks ago under control, and their versatility and firepower could prove too much for Penn State. If Penn State wins, they’ll almost certainly find themselves in the NCAA Tournament, but it’s so tough to bet against this Purdue senior class when they’re focused.

Pick: Purdue Boilermakers