Move over Breslin Center, as the more recent house of horrors for the Iowa Hawkeyes (15-8, 7-5) has been Mackey Arena as they haven’t won there since 2016 during that iteration’s torrid start to the Big Ten season. The Hawks face the #1 Purdue Boilermakers (22-2, 11-2) and national player of the year favorite, Zach Edey. They’re coming off a loss in Bloomington where the Hoosiers raced to a 50-35 halftime lead.
In addition to Edey being a runaway favorite for national awards, Purdue has put some distance between themselves and the three-way tie for second at 8-5. Aside...is Michigan at 8-5 the “he can’t keep getting away with this!!!” Big Ten team right now? There’s nothing particularly impressive about them this season but if they notch three more wins, it’s going to be nigh impossible to keep an 11-9 conference record out of the tourney right even thought their most impressive win is a New Year’s Day blowout against Maryland?
Some may be surprised by Purdue’s ascension after losing a conference player of the year candidate in Jaden Ivey and the conference’s sixth man of the year in Trevion Williams, among others. I am not. Ivey is a sensational player but the floor on his ability - questionable shot selection & meandering effort on defense - runs counter to what have made past Purdue teams great.
In his stead are two freshmen guards (Fletcher Loyer & Braden Smith) who play basketball how Matt Painter wants to see teams play. Not only have they improved markedly on defense (being able to play Edey 30 MPG helps here) but they’ve maintained their pace as a top offense in the conference & country. They’ve also seen little dropoff from guys like Mason Gillis - dude went off for 29 points against Penn State, Caleb Furst, Brandon Newman, etc. etc.
And unlike last year, Painter isn’t put in a bind when deciding who’s on the court. Williams & Edey occupied the same spot, which was something Painter viewed as an either/or which meant one of the best three Boilermakers was always sitting. With Edey/Loyer/Smith as the tent poles, Painter can ride hot hands to fill out his rotations game to game. Nice spot to be.
Matt’s column detailed one way Iowa can perhaps find an advantage, with a heavy dose of Kris Murray at the 5. It is indicative of turning the Boilermakers’ biggest advantage - Edey - into a potential liability. With Edey as such a known commodity, it makes it actually easier to gameplan around, in my estimation. Doesn’t make it easier to stop or mitigate, mind you, just structure what needs to happen to have success.
One area where Iowa can still have success is the midrange game Tony Perkins demonstrated a high capability of making against Illinois by virtue of Purdue’s drop coverage in pick and roll. I don’t want to sign the guy up for 32 points again but he’s had juice against hometown teams. I think he comes ready to play. This is also an area where Ahron Ulis has shown some ability during his recent stretch of good offensive outings.
They’ve also got to, flat out, make shots. Iowa’s home/road splits are gnarly from behind the arc: 32.8% on the road, 19.2% on neutral courts, and 38.5% at home. Payton Sandfort obviously factors here but Kris Murray seems due for a bounceback game. He’s just 5/22 over his last four games from three as teams have opted to move smaller defenders onto him to stick with his dribble-drive game.
As far as defensively, I kind of think you do all you can to make Edey take shots he doesn’t want to take but force Purdue to run all their offense through him as the Hawks can’t stomach a lights out shooting performance from a Boilermaker and hope to come out with the W. I think this also includes Iowa’s slow down/speed up press game. Not only have past Painter teams shown an inability of breaking the press but doing so only grants the Boilers 15-18 seconds to run their offense instead of on their own terms.
As a team who already loves to use a lot of shot clock (KenPom rates them as the slowest in conference play), pressing can force them to speed up when they don’t want to. They are second only to Minnesota in turnover rate.
About the Boilermakers
Season averages: Team / Opponent
PPG: 74.0 / 61.1
RPG: 39.3 / 27.7
APG: 15.5 / 11.8
TOPG: 11.0 / 10.2
FG%: 46.3% / 40.0%
3P%: 33.9% / 30.6%
Matt Painter: 18th season at Purdue, 19th overall
Record: 406-194 (.677) at Purdue, 431-199 (.684) overall
PPG: Zach Edey 22.4, Fletcher Loyer 12.4
RPG: Edey 13.2 (5.7 ORPG), Caleb Furst 5.1 (2.2 ORPG)
APG: Braden Smith 4.4, Ethan Morton 2.7
FG%: Edey 62.7%, Furst 51.3%
3P%: Mason Gillis 39.7%, Smith 39.4%
Most recent starters ($) & 2022-23 stats:
G - #3 Braden Smith, Fr, 6’0”, 180 lbs: 9.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 43.8% FG, 39.4% 3P, 29.6 MPG
G - #2 Fletcher Loyer, Fr, 6’4”, 185 lbs: 12.4 PPG, 2.5 APG, 38.7% FG, 35.3% 3P, 29.0 MPG
G - #25 Ethan Morton, Jr, 6’7”, 215 lbs: 4.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 31.9% FG, 27.0% 3P, 26.4 MPG
F - #1 Caleb Furst, So, 6’10”, 230 lbs: 6.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 51.3% FG, 33.3% 3P, 19.6 MPG
C - #15 Zach Edey, Jr, 7’4”, 290 lbs: 22.4 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 5.7 ORPG, 2.2 BPG, 62.7% FG, 31.4 MPG
Last 5 games:
L - at Indiana, 79-74 (2/4)
W - v Penn State, 80-60 (2/1)
W - v Michigan State, 77-61 (1/29)
W - at Michigan, 75-70 (1/26)
W - v Maryland, 58-55 (1/22)
2023 KenPom: ($)
AdjEfficiency: +26.34 (5)
AdjOffense: 121.0 (2)
AdjDefense: 94.7 (22)
AdjTempo: 63.7 (333)
AdjEfficiency: +22.36 (14)
AdjOffense: 121.0 (2)
AdjDefense: 98.6 (93)
AdjTempo: 66.1 (237)
Bart Torvik: 6