Sweet 16 Preview: Texas Tech vs Purdue
Who: The 2 seed Purdue Boilermakers and the 3 seed Texas Tech Red Raiders
Where: TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts
When: Friday, March 23rd, Estimated Tip-off 8:57 p.m. (CST)
Where to watch: TBS
First things first, Purdue was a dangerous team during the regular season because they always had a seven-footer on the court. Senior Isaac Haas and redshirt freshman Matt Haarms played a combined 40 minutes per game this season, and both are towering seven footers.
During the first-round game in the NCAA Tournament against Cal State, Haas took a tumble and shattered his elbow. He returned to the game, but couldn't continue. Haas then missed the second round game against Butler.
Meanwhile, Haarms played a career high 26 minutes, but only scored seven points on 1-of-3 shooting from the floor. Compare that to the 23 minutes and 15 points that Haas averaged before the season, and Purdue takes a significant step back if Haas doesn't play against Texas Tech.
The initial thought after the Haas injury is that he would be out for the rest of the tournament. He tried to play against Butler and only set out because his brace was denied by the NCAA. After the Butler game, Purdue commissioned its top-tier engineering program to come up with an elbow brace that would fit the specifications of the NCAA.
This morning, SB Nation updated the story, saying: "It will be an upset if Haas plays another minute this season, but he's not the only guy in West Lafayette who's working hard to make it happen." So, I guess the Purdue engineers are still hard at work, though they are running out of time.
For now, we can safely assume that Haas won't be on the court against Texas Tech. This means the Purdue game plan will be similar to the Butler game, with Haarms getting the bulk of the work down low.
A week after a career high in minutes and the first games back-to-back, he's been asked to lead down low. Haarms will be a match-up to watch for the Red Raiders, who have plenty of depth to throw at him with Zach Smith, Norense Odiase and Tommy Hamilton.
The second important match-up is off the court. Coach Matt Painter of Purdue and Coach Chris Beard have met before. The most recent encounter was a double-overtime thriller, where Beard's Little Rock team upset the 5th seed Boilermakers in the NCAA tournament in 2016.
This time around, Chris Beard is in a new place with more talent. But he's still the underdog against Purdue, who has a 74 percent chance to win the game according to ESPN.com.
Coach Beard's past success is encouraging for Red Raider fans, but can also provide some extra motivation for Coach Painter who might be seeking some revenge this weekend.
The Haas/Haarms situation and the coaching battle are both important, but this game will come down to who can have the better game between Keenan Evans and the leading scorer for the Boilermakers, Carsen Edwards.
Just reading off the stat sheet, the production of Keenan Evans and Carson Edwards is nearly indistinguishable. Evans is two inches taller. Edwards weighs a little more. They both average right at 18 points per game, around three rebounds and assists. They're both from Texas. But that's where the similarities end.
Edwards is an aggressive scorer, but he plays a finesse style that relies on jump shots. Evans, on the other hand, is just plain aggressive. How aggressive? Evans went to the foul line 70 more times than Edwards despite playing 60 fewer minutes than the Purdue sophomore.
I'll take the Texas Tech senior in this one. He can minimize a bad shooting night by getting to the foul line.
Purdue, the higher seed, is favored by just 1.5 points. Give me Texas Tech, straight up.