On the way to winning the national championship last season, the Virginia Cavaliers had to get a little help from fate in order to get past the Purdue Boilermakers and their hot shooting guard Carson Edwards. The respective casts for both of these teams have changed a little, but they are still well-coached and will be ready when tournament time comes.
Purdue has stumbled somewhat along the way, but Virginia is still stopping opponents cold. These two will meet up at the Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana at 7:15 PM ET on Wednesday. ESPN2 will televise the festivities, and if you are a BetAnySports customer, you can place wagers while the action is in progress using the facilities provided by Sports Betting Ultra.
Virginia is still playing slower than any other team in the country. And when you go up against them, points are going to be at a premium. So for they have held all but one opponent below 50, although it has not been the stiffest schedule. They did beat Syracuse 48-34 in the opener, and also hold a win over Arizona State. In their last game, a week ago, they limited Maine to a paltry 8-of-43 from the field in a 46-26 victory. Things get a little more difficult starting tonight, and then on Sunday the Cavaliers will play North Carolina.
Purdue has lost at home to Texas, on the road at Marquette, and on a “neutral” floor to Florida State. Their best win came over Virginia Commonwealth five days ago (59-56). They are currently ninth nationally in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, according to the metrics provided by KenPom.com.
In the college basketball betting odds posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, and including reduced juice, Purdue is the slight favorite at home:
Purdue Boilermakers -1 (-105)
Virginia Cavaliers +1 (-105)
Over 103 points (-105)
Under 103 points (-105)
These teams met in the Elite Eight last season, and Virginia escaped with an 80-75 victory in overtime. They were lucky to get there, as they had to overcome the hot hand of Edwards, who scored 42 points. Purdue made 14 of their 32 attempts from beyond the three-point line, which was what they had to do to beat Tony Bennett’s defense.
This season, Purdue does not have those long-range shooters. As a team, they’re hitting only 31% triples, and the biggest long-distance threat is Sasha Stefanovic (39.3%), who has not played a lot of minutes. Jahaad Proctor, who has provided a lot of the offense for this team after transferring over from High Point, is really not all that good a shooter (44% overall).
Virginia lost most of its leadership, including Kyle Guy, De’ Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome. But they are still playing Bennett’s Pack Line defense brilliantly. They are far and away the nation’s leaders in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, and they simply handcuff the opposition, no matter where they are shooting from. Virginia has allowed only 33.3% from INSIDE the arc, and teams are hitting just below 25% from downtown. Their shot-blocking percentage is the best in the country, as is the ratio of free-throw attempts to field goals. In other words, they keep their fouls down. They hit the defensive boards (top 10 in defensive rebounding percentage), and they are in the top 25 when it comes to creating turnovers. Their defensive scheme funnels shots from the outside, as the opponent has taken almost half its shots from there.
Clearly Purdue is going to have to do something on the inside, and theoretically they have the personnel to do it, when you consider the talents of 7-3 center Matt Haarms and his backup, 6-9 Trevion Williams. And that is where Virginia’s 7-1 center Jay Huff will loom large (pardon the pun). The junior out of Durham can block shots, and he’s going to keep Purdue’s pivot men on their toes, as he’s become more of an offensive threat, ranking in the top 20 nationally in Effective Field Goal Percentage. Between him and the Mamadi Diakite, Virginia is top returning player, they will make things rough for Purdue if they come into the lane. And when that happens, everyone collapses as well.
We truly wonder whether Purdue can shoot well enough to make the difference here. It is true that Virginia is no offensive machine, but that’s not really with this matchup is about. We’ve seen some vulnerability with the Boilermakers, and such a fundamentally sound contingent like the Cavaliers will be there to exploit it. Go with the underdog visitor.
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