Thursday, March 26, 2009

Purdue vs. UConn Sweet 16 Preview

Why Purdue Can Win: Defense. The Boilermakers are one of the best defensive teams in the country. I don't say that because of stats, and I don't say that because hype, I say that from watching them play. There may not be a more fundamentally sound defensive team in the country than Purdue. There also may not be a coach better at putting together a game-plan defensively than Matt Painter. Every one on this team, especially the guys on the perimeter, can play lockdown defense. The best of the bunch is Chris Kramer, who was the Big Ten's defensive player of the year in '08 (and may have repeated this year had he not been injured). Among other impressive performances, he held Steph Curry to 5-26 shooting and 13 points in December. The only guy on UConn that can penetrate and create a shot is AJ Price. If Kramer can keep him in check, the Huskies may struggle to put points on the board.

Why UConn Can Win: Size and athleticism. Purdue is not all that big and not all that athletic, especially along their front line. The opposite is true for the Huskies. Stanley Robinson, Jeff Adrien, Hasheem Thabeet - these guys are big, they're strong, and they're aggressive going to the glass. Purdue gave up 14 offensive rebounds in both of their games with Michigan State, and the Huskies are bigger and more athletic than MSU. Purdue struggled down the stretch against an athletic Washington team, so JaJuan Johnson, Robbie Hummell, and Keaton Grant are going to need to play very big if they want to have a shot at springing the upset.

Key To The Game: You mean besides avoiding the distractions of yesterday's Yahoo! report? This game is going to be close. Yes, UConn has been blowing out opponent's so far in this tourney, but Purdue is just too good defensively to get run off the court like that. Anyone that watched the Cuse-UConn 6 OT thriller can attest to the fact that the Huskies struggle to get big baskets, especially against good defensive teams (the Orange didn't lead until the sixth OT, but UConn could not put them away). If this game is close down the stretch, UConn is going to have to find some way to score, especially if Kramer is hounding Price.

BIAH Pick: UConn. Their size is just going to be too much.

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