After Tennessee was able to claw their way through the overtime period to take down the 10-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes, they set their eyes on a new prize. Tennessee is looking to make their first Elite 8 since the Bruce Pearl era. It would only be the 2nd time in history the Volunteers made it that far in the Tournament.
This Tennessee squad has already stated on numerous occasions that their goal is to be the last team dancing, and cut down the nets in Minneapolis. Making the Elite 8 would be a very large step in achieving that goal, but one problem stands in Tennessee’s way — Carsen Edwards and the Purdue Boilermakers. Let’s take a look at the Vols next opponent in the Big Dance.
You can’t talk about Purdue without starting with Carsen Edwards. He is an elite player who can hang 20 points a game, and defend with an elite level of intensity and completely shut down the opponent. He is averaging 23 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3 assists, and is shooting 38.9% per game. However, in the Boilermakers 87-61 victory over Villanova, Edwards simply could not be stopped. He played 39 minutes and shot 57% from the field. He also scored a unbelievable 42 points (27 came from beyond the arc).
For Tennessee, you can’t shutdown Carsen Edwards, you can only hope to contain him. If Tennessee can cool off Edwards and hold him to his average in points, I think it will be enough to lift the Vols over Purdue. That being said, it will be easier said than done for Tennessee, as cooling off Carsen Edwards is going to be an incredibly difficult task.
Despite blowing past the defending National Champion, Purdue does have a few inconsistencies on their record. The Boilermakers have 2 head-scratching losses to Minnesota (both in March), a 70-56 loss at Maryland, a 88-80 loss to Notre Dame, a 72-68 loss to Texas, and 2 blow-out losses to Michigan and Michigan State. It’s worth noting that 4 out of 6 of those losses occurred when Carsen Edwards was held to 24 points or less. In addition, when I averaged all of the points Edwards scored together in these losses, he averaged roughly 23 points.
That being said, if Tennessee can hold Carsen Edwards to roughly 23 points, I would feel particularity confident about their odds to win the game.
In short, I think Purdue’s future is all in the hands of Carsen Edwards. Tennessee will take down the Boilermakers if they can slow him down and keep him at his average in points, but if they can’t their season will come to an end in Louisville. It will be a difficult task, but my bet is that UT will get it done, and dance their way to the Elite 8.