James Scully drops in with his feature game for Saturday as Villanova takes on Purdue!
[Saturday, March 23]
#6 Villanova vs #3 Purdue -4
Intriguing second-round match-up between conference champions. Purdue, who shared the Big Ten regular-season title with Michigan State, dominated most of the way, recording a 13-point victory over Old Dominion in the first round Thursday. Villanova, the defending national champions and winner of the Big East regular-season and conference tourney titles, exits a four-point triumph over St. Mary’s in which they seized control in the second half.
Purdue has the best player, Carsen Edwards, and an edge inside. Edwards dealt with back issues while struggling late in the season, shooting only 25 percent over the final three games. But, the time off in advance of the NCAA tourney did him good. The Big Ten’s leading scorer put up 26 points and also had seven rebounds and four assists against Old Dominion. He’s a difference-maker when in form, the type of player who can put a team on his back and carry them to victory, and could be poised for another big game against a less-than-stellar defensive team (Villanova ranks 136th in defensive efficiency).
The Boilermakers feature more size and have proven to be a significantly better rebounding team than their opponent. Villanova is ranked 120th nationally in offensive rebounds and really stunk Thursday night, failing to grab one until the second half, while being beaten 10-5 on the offensive glass by St. Mary’s.
Ryan Cline and Matt Haarms provide a nice complement to Edwards, and we can expect more from Nojel Eastern, one of the Big Ten’s best defensive players, who was limited to only 10 minutes Thursday. Cline, the second-leading scorer on the team, is eligible to bounce back after a 2-for-12 game in which he scored only five points. Capable big man Haarms will make buckets from inside and out.
Villanova wants to play up-tempo and shoot a lot of threes, but they play too inconsistent at times and nearly allowed a comfortable lead to slip away in the final minutes against St. Mary’s. The Wildcats certainly don’t bring the defensive intensity of recent years, which can be expected considering they won two of the last three national championships, and Purdue can take advantage.
Booth and Paschall remain quality players, and we expect Villanova to put up a fight, but they won’t have the firepower to match Purdue. The Boilermakers will take control in the second half and win comfortably in the end. Lay the points with Purdue!
South Region Free Pick – Purdue -4