Last Updated: 2019-03-27
A decent matchup will kick off the South Region portion of the Sweet 16 on Thursday when No. 2 Tennessee and No. 3 Purdue meet at the KFC Yum Center in Louisville. The Vols opened as 1-point favorites and the line has inched up to 1.5 with Tennessee getting 62% of the early wagers in the game, while the total has held steady at 146.5 with most of the wagers coming in on the over.
Tennessee hasn’t had an easy time in the tournament, but they have advanced this far, which is all that really matters. The Vols squandered a 16-point lead against Colgate to open the tournament and had to come back from a second-half deficit to defeat a vastly inferior team and they needed overtime to dispatch of Iowa last game out, scoring just 22 points in the second half and diddling away a 25-point lead.
Purdue has done what you want to see in the tournament, as they’ve handily won both games, taking care of Old Dominion 61-48 in the opener and clobbering a pretty good Villanova team in the second round, building a massive lead and then coasting to a convincing victory.
Tennessee: The Volunteers are a completely different team on the road than they are at home, so perhaps their struggles shouldn’t be all that surprising. Tennessee is solid offensively regardless of location, but there’s a huge drop-off in defense away from home. The Vols outscored foes 81.2-60.1 at home this season, but outscored teams 84.2-77.4 on the road, so while the offense is three points better, the defense allowed 17.3 more points per game.
The Volunteers scored 10.4 more points than their foes allowed over the course of the season, while holding teams to 4.3 fewer points than they averaged, while playing to a pretty average pace. The Vols are a solid shooting team, hitting 49.6% of their shots and are better than 75% from the foul line as a team.
Purdue: The Boilermakers are another team who doesn’t play nearly as good defense away from home, allowing 10.8 more points in their road games and like Tennessee, were undefeated at home this season and took all their losses away from home. Purdue averaged 8.2 more points than opponents allowed and gave up 5.9 fewer points than teams averaged.
Purdue isn’t a great shooting team, although they average a higher shooting percentage than their foes allowed during the season and were better at shooting the 3-pointer, averaging 36.8% on 3s and just 51.2% on 2-point attempts, so Purdue will likely live and die with the long range shot.
Game: Neither team really dictates the pace that much, with Purdue playing a slightly slower game, which probably has more to do with their conference than anything. Both teams are strong on each side of the ball and we shouldn’t see a lot of turnovers, as both squads have done a good job of protecting the ball.
Purdue will need its zone to keep the Vols from getting too many open shots, since Tennessee can knock down uncontested shots and rank in Ken Pomeroy’s top 20 in 2-point percentage.
Pick: Purdue +1.5
No question, this is a tough game to call, but the Boilermakers have several things going for them and the most obvious is that they’re playing well right now, while you can’t say the same for Tennessee, who needed overtime to beat an Iowa team Purdue beat by 16, while also struggling with Colgate.
The second reason is 3-point shooting, which is probably where the game will be decided as Purdue is going to launch plenty of shots from downtown and that is probably Tennessee’s most glaring weakness, as they allowed foes to shoot a higher percentage from downtown than they averaged. If Purdue can hit the 3-pointer, they should be able to take this one.
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