Often in the NCAA Tournament, a barrage of first round upsets prevents us from the clash of big-name programs in the Round of 32. This year, that was not the case.

With only a handful of upsets, we are now left with marquee matchups up and down the weekend slate. One such game is Purdue vs. Iowa State. As promised, we will look into both teams and give our reasoning for how each can win. We’ll start with Purdue.

kenpom

PURDUE WINS BECAUSE… 

I thought my answer would be: the big boys up front impose their will on Iowa State. But the statistics tell a slightly different story (see the above chart from Ken Pomeroy’s magical website).

Iowa State is far more reliant on the three-ball than I realized – and Purdue defends the arc very well. Over a third of opponents’ field goal attempts against the Boilermakers come from deep – but only 29.7% of their points (201st nationally). That means teams are strategically trying to avoid dealing with the Purdue bigs in the paint, but over the course of the season, Purdue’s guards defend the three point line better than the frontcourt defends the interior. Purdue wins this game if Iowa State settles for threes.

Another reason to think Iowa State won’t attack the rim is that they rank 334th in FT attempts per FG attempts, meaning Iowa State does not get to the free throw line very often. For them to beat Purdue, it would help to get Caleb Swanigan and Isaac Haas in foul trouble. Ranking in the bottom 20 in the country in free throw rate does not make me think Iowa State will accomplish that.

The Iowa State offense vs. Purdue defense will decide this game – and I take defense over offense in March. Look here how Purdue gets into a bad matchup with Swanigan on Vermont guard Trae Bell-Haynes.

Caleb Swanigan welcomes the challenge, stays in front of Haynes, and forces a kick out. Dre Wills then takes the ball and drives inside at Isaac Haas, unsuccessfully. After a reset, Wills tries to get past Haas again, but Haas knocks the ball loose – leading to a Purdue fast break and Vincent Edwards open look for three.

If the Purdue frontcourt can stay in front of Monte Morris and Iowa State’s guards like that, LOOK. OUT. See you in Kansas City, Boilermakers!

(Joe Papandrea will post his reasons why Iowa State will win shortly)

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