#4 Villanova Wildcats (1-0) vs. #15 Purdue Boilermakers (1-0)
When: Monday, November 14, 2016, at 7 p.m.
Where: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Indiana
Coverage: Big Ten Network
KenPom Prediction: Villanova 76-73, (61%)
Purdue’s Previous Season Record: 26-9, Lost to Arkansas-Little Rock in Opening Round of NCAA Tournament
Key Players for Purdue: #50 Caleb Swanigan (6-9, 250) So., F, #44 Isaac Haas (7-2, 290) Jr., C, #12 Vince Edwards (6-8, 225) Jr. F
Scouting Report: Purdue had their season opener on Friday against McNeese State, and like Villanova, they ran their inferior opponents out of the gym. The effort was led by sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan‘s insane double-double performance. He racked up 23 points, 20 rebounds, and six assists. He wasn’t the only one to have a great game inside, as center Isaac Haas pulled his best A.J. Hammons‘ impression. Hammons, currently on the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, was a dominant force in the paint, earning All-America honors last season. Hammons averaged 2.5 blocks per game during his career at Purdue and was vital in Purdue’s last two tournament bids. Haas kept it going at the center position, posting 22 points and six rebounds in Friday’s win. Haas in particular should benefit from a greater role, taking over starting minutes at center. While he is an imposing physical force, he does have trouble with defensive discipline, being one of the most foul-prone players in the Big Ten last year. However, it’s looking like the Boilermakers are poised to make another tournament run this year on the backs of their forwards. The dynamic duo of Swanigan and junior Vince Edwards, who had a double-double of his own with 19 points and 11 boards, is proving to be a great combination. Swanigan and Edwards have great chemistry together, with Swanigan’s inside game and ability above the rim (51.9 percent from inside the arc) meshing extremely well with Edwards’ ability to shoot the three.(40.7 3-point shooting percentage). Purdue will likely be looking to feed Swanigan especially, with his ability to score in the paint and his freakish measurements–7-4 wingspan and 9-1 standing reach–being matched by only a few in all of college basketball. However, there is more to the Boilermakers than these two. Purdue last year had a very well balanced offense, finishing within the top 50 in field goal percentage, free throw percentage, rebounds, assists, and points. Also, look for freshman point guard Carsen Edwards to run the floor with the same intensity Purdue played with on Friday. He scored 18 points in the win, demonstrating his ability as a scoring point guard. Edwards is able to use his superior first step and athleticism to beat defenders off the dribble. Any one of these players can go off, and if Edwards can get the offense running like it did on Friday night, it will be difficult to stop a Purdue team that is firing on all cylinders. Other players to watch for include Dakota Mathias, a guard that adds a perimeter scoring threat to a frontcourt loaded team. Then there’s Spike Albrecht, a graduate transfer from Michigan, who is a versatile guard that comes off of the bench.
Outlook: Purdue is an extremely talented team and is nearly unstoppable when at home, boasting a 17-1 record at the Mackey Arena last season. It is absolutely vital for Villanova for Darryl Reynolds and Kris Jenkins to work hard inside to prevent Purdue’s size from creating a huge advantage for the Boilermakers. This is the first of multiple games where the Wildcats will surely miss Omari Spellman, who was forced to take an academic redshirt year by the NCAA. Towering at 7-2, Haas is likely to be the tallest player Villanova faces all year, leading what may be the biggest frontcourt Villanova goes up against this season. If Reynolds can hold his own or even get Haas in foul trouble, the Wildcats will be in good shape. Look for Josh Hart to build on his 13-point performance against Lafayette, as he is likely to be guarded by bigger, but slower wings such as Vince Edwards. However, the most important player for Villanova on Monday may be wing Mikal Bridges. His combination of length and quickness could give slower bigs a difficult time defending him, while being able to have the length to make it competitive. Expect Jay Wright to give Bridges starter’s minutes to exploit Purdue’s lack of versatility. Bridges also allows the Wildcats to take advantage of the Boilermakers’ turnover problems (419 total giveaways last year, good for 196th in the nation). As dominant as Swanigan was, he did turn the ball over four times. If Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, and the rest of the ‘Cats can wreak havoc in the full court press, Villanova will likely do well. Otherwise, expect a hard-fought game that will come down to the final buzzer.