#2 Purdue vs. #10 Butler NCAA Tournament Preview

By College Basketball

Villanova romped Alabama yesterday to advance to the Sweet Sixteen and run our NCAA Tournament record to 3–1 against the spread with one final day of the opening weekend to go.

Purdue won big over Cal State Fullerton on Friday but lost big when 7’2″ center Isaac Haas broke his elbow after he was thrown to the floor early in the second half. The senior’s collegiate career is over and Purdue has to make adjustments on the fly.

Butler blitzed Arkansas right off the opening tip and scored 21 of the game’s first 23 points before the Razorbacks battled back to take a brief lead. But all that exertion caught up with Arkansas in the second half and Butler made it a blowout.

This matchup may read a #2 vs. a #10 but it’s closer than that. Purdue is a 3.5-point favorite with a total of 143.5.

Free Pick

I believe this is anybody’s game, not because Purdue is playing without Haas, but because Butler is good enough to beat anybody with its two fearless scorers: Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin.

Martin will be the best player on the floor in this game, an NBA talent and a senior. He scores 21 points per game this season and can do a little bit of everything inside a sturdy 6’7″ frame; he gets to the line, knocks down the three and grabs over six rebounds per game, which often result in a one-man fast break.

Baldwin is one of my favorite players to watch in college basketball, a skinny lefty who can shoot it and finish in different ways at the rim. He’s just 6’1″ and 170 pounds but he rebounds and makes plays for his teammates. Baldwin scored 24 against Arkansas, with nine rebounds and five assists. I haven’t seen him play so many big games (he’s just a sophomore) but it seems apparent that he rises to such occasions.

Without Haas, Purdue will be without a guy who was scoring almost 15 points per game on close to 62 percent from the field but I believe there is an opportunity for the Boilermakers to play freer, faster and even potentially better without him.

Haas dominated the offensive end. It was Purdue’s objective every time down the floor to work the ball around the perimeter and give the big man a touch. And while that worked often, it also clogged the middle and took the initiative away from Carsen Edwards and Vincent Edwards (no relation). Despite being the secondary options, those two combine to average 33 points per game and are poised to up that to 40 or 50 this afternoon.

Then there’s the fact that Purdue can replace Haas with a 7’3″ freshman from the Netherlands named Matt Haarms. Haarms played a lot this season (over 18 minutes per game) and could have played more had Haas not stood in front of him on the depth chart; he has the better stamina of the two and, from what I’ve seen, is the more energetic, which makes him the better rebounder and defender. He can’t do what Haas can do in terms of isolated, back-to-the-basket scoring but that could end up playing in Purdue’s favor if the guards are making plays off the dribble and dishing to him when help steps in.

So I’m not convinced Purdue is in trouble because Haas is out; Butler can win this game because it has the talent. I am convinced, however, that Purdue will play faster and that games we’ve been used to seeing in the 60s and 70s may now end up in the 70s or 80s. With all the great guard play in this game and no big man to slow things down, this one is likely to go over.

Free Pick: Over 143.5

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