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Men's Basketball

UVa Opponent Preview: Purdue

Wednesday night’s matchup will be a far cry from the high scoring, high volume shooting extravaganza that was on display last March. With the departure of 72.9% of the total scoring from that Elite 8 matchup, this will likely be a rock fight. Especially considering Purdue’s slow pace (6th slowest in the nation via KenPom) in tandem with Virginia’s trademark grind it out style (slowest in the country), this’ll be one for the diehards. 

In the early going this year, Purdue, like Virginia, has relied on a few returners, but has also seen contributions from relatively new players.

Graduate transfer Jahaad Proctor is averaging 14.6 PPG and specializes at getting to the rim. Look for Casey Morsell to matchup against the 6’3” shooting guard. Sophomore Eric Hunter Jr. has made a leap in production so far this season. Taking over as the starting point guard, he’s averaging 10.3 PPG and 3.7 APG, up from 2.2 PPG and 1.1 APG last year. He’s a lengthy, athletic 6’3” and could give Kihei Clark trouble. Of course, Junior Matt Haarms is the last of what is Purdue’s big trio, scoring nearly 12 points per night. I expect Jay Huff to get the start with Mamadi Diakite, and for Virginia to likely double the 7’3” Haarms in the post.

Purdue is also a deep team, playing 9 players more than 13 minutes per game (to Virginia’s 7). While the return of Kody Stattmann is encouraging news, without Braxton Key, the Cavaliers may need to go deeper into the bench than Bennett would prefer against such a high-quality opponent. 

Purdue has played a much more difficult schedule than Virginia so far, opening the new season 4-3. They’ve dropped games to Florida State, Texas, and Marquette, but have beaten #20 VCU. Outside of those four games, they’ve dominated lesser teams.

Similar to the ‘Hoos, the Boilermakers rely on their defense. Via KenPom, they’re 7th in the nation on defense, posting an 87.3 defensive rating (points per 100 possessions).

Offensively, they lack a true outside shooting threat, with only Haarms shooting above 30% from 3 (37.5%) among the starters, but only on 1.1 attempts per game. Look for Sasha Stefanovic and Isaiah Thompson to come off the bench to provide some of that outside scoring.

The Boilermakers have found other ways to score the basketball. In fact, their 108.4 offensive rating is 31st in the nation, so they’re generating points at a reasonable clip. That offensive rating comes primarily from points on the inside, and from extra possessions generated by offensive rebounds. Purdue is 8th in the country in offensive rebounding, bringing in 39.9% of their own misses through 7 games (KenPom). That said, some of those numbers are skewed by games against Green Bay, Chicago, and Jacksonville State. Appropriately, against tougher competition, they’ve been much less impressive on the offensive end. 

Purdue will win if: They can keep Virginia out of the paint and force the Cavaliers’ guards to beat them. They’ll also want to establish Haarms in the post early and try to put the UVA big men into foul trouble as Virginia lacks the depth the Boilermakers boast. 

Virginia will win if: They can stay out of foul trouble, penetrate Purdue’s defense, and then nail a few more outside shots than they have been hitting. This could be another game where the ‘Hoos need a big night from Casey Morsell, both on defense against Proctor, and on offense as Purdue matches up well with Virginia down low. It’ll be a tough environment on the road, so expect the inexperienced players to face a trial by fire.

Score Prediction: Virginia 52 – Purdue 48

Listen on The Locker Room Access Podcast with Mark Jerome:

https://virginia.lockerroomaccess.com/podcast/scouting-purdue-with-kyle-getter-purdue-so-aaron-wheeler/

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