Here we are. The Sweet 16.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Can I get an amen?!
This was the ultimate goal once the SEC Men’s Tournament ended a couple of weeks ago. The Tennessee Volunteers’ incredible regular season would have taken a major blow if the team did not make it to this round.
It wasn’t easy, but that’s all in the past. However, the Vols next opponent, the Purdue Boilermakers, won’t be an easy task, either.
The Vols beat them in the Bahamas last year, essentially marking the team’s “coming out party”. While both teams are different this year, it’s almost certain that Purdue will be looking to avenge last season’s loss.
Conference Record and Standings
- Big Ten Conference
- 25-9 (16-4)
- 2nd Big Ten
- Won last two games
- G Carsen Edwards: 34.0 PPG, 43.2 FG%, 94.4 FT%, 46.4 3PT%, 6.5 REB, 2.5 AST, 3.0 TO, 1.0 STL, 39.5 MIN
If you thought the Vols had issues with Jordan Burns and Jordan Bohannon, just wait til they get a load of this guy.
Edwards is a dynamic player and the epitome of a volume shooter. The kid averaged 19 shots per game over the regular season and so far, he’s averaged 22 shots per game in the tournament.
That is sure to make Vols fans cringe. While Edwards may start off slowly, it’s almost a guarantee he will make plays down the stretch considering the amount of shots he takes and Tennessee’s lack of perimeter defense.
In the words of Samuel L. Jackson: “hold on to your butts”.
- C Matt Haarms: 15.5 PPG, 46.4 FG%, 66.7 FT%, 50.0 3PT%, 6.5 REB, 1.5 BLK, 1.0 AST, 2.5 TO, 32.5 MIN
Tennessee is awfully familiar with Haarms after facing off against him last season. He’s the first true center the Vols will face this year. At 7-foot-3, he’s quite possibly the largest player they’ve faced as well.
Haarms is the ultimate inside presence and if given a chance, he can hit shots from the outside, too.
Kyle Alexander must return to his early season form if the Vols want to contain Haarms.
- G Ryan Cline: 8.5 PPG, 28.5 FG%, N/A FT%, 38.5 3PT%, 5.5 REB, 4.0 AST, 0.5 TO, 0.5 STL, 32.5 MIN
Cline hasn’t had a very good tournament so far, but that’s to be expected from a shooter that lives and dies by the 3.
After going 1 of 11 from distance against Old Dominion, he seemed to have found his footing against the Wildcats, where he shot 4 of 8 from 3. A lot of that had to with Edwards’ presence, but the last thing any team wants is a confidence-building game for a sniper.
Frankly, Cline could have more of an impact than Edwards considering the fact that the Vols’ will be focusing on Edwards for most of the game.
**Please note these stats reflect NCAA Tournament stats**
The Boilermakers tamed the Villanova Wildcats with a 87-61 win in the Round of 32.
Edwards scored an insane (and tournament-high) 42 points on 12 of 21 shooting. He went 9 of 16 from beyond the arc. The rest of the team hit just seven shots from long range as a whole.
Purdue dominated the boards by a 43-24 margin and had 19 assists compared to Villanova’s seven. The Boilermakers shot 53.7 percent from the field, including 53.3 percent from 3. Villanova made just 34.5 percent of its shots on the night.
It was pure domination from Purdue’s standpoint. Edwards and Haarms had their team up 43-24 at halftime and never looked back.
It was the worst tournament loss in Wildcat history and the largest blowout of a defending champion in almost three decades.
Get ready for another dogfight.
While the previous two games shouldn’t have been as difficult, the Vols still struggled throughout large portions of both games. If they make the same mistakes against Purdue, then there is no chance they will win this game.
The Boilermakers are a nightmare-type matchup for the Vols. They have size in Haarms down low, and Edwards can make you pay from anywhere on the court.
The Vols have to avoid the stupid, costly turnovers that have haunted them over the past three or four games. They also have to be more effective with the inside game, because they cannot rely on 3-pt shooting to get the job done.
But to rely on the frontcourt will be easier said than done on Thursday. Purdue has all the right players to matchup with the Vols. Kyle Alexander will be one of the most important players in orange on the floor.
History is certainly on Tennessee’s side when it comes to Purdue’s performance under Matt Painter in the Sweet 16. The Boilermakers have reached the round four times, but have lost every single time.
It’s pretty obvious what the Vols need to do to win - limit turnovers and stop Purdue’s perimeter attack. The latter part features a team that boasts two players in Edwards and Ryan Cline who have each made over 100 treys on the season.
It’s hard to shake the uneasy feeling for the Vols entering this game based off their recent performances. If you’ve come to this preview looking for a pick, then you’ve come to the wrong place.
Actually, screw it. Vols by five. LET’S GOOOOOOOOO!