The South Region Sweet Sixteen starts with the matchup between the No. 3 seed Purdue Boilermakers and the No. 2 seed Tennessee Volunteers at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky, this Thursday. These two schools will meet each other for the first time since 2017 when the SEC Tennessee defeated the Big Ten Purdue 78-75 as an 8-point favorite in the regular season. NCAAB: Thursday, March 28, 2019, KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, Kentucky, 7:29 PM ET
The Boilermakers didn’t win in the Sweet Sixteen since 2000
The Purdue Boilermakers (25-9; 16-4 Conf.) thrashed off the reigning champions Villanova Wildcats 87-61 in the second round of the South Region to clinch their third straight Sweet Sixteen berth. The Boilermakers put on a terrific performance, especially in the first half when they built a 19-point lead. Purdue shot 53.7% from the field, nailing 16 triples out of 30 attempts from deep while making 19 assists and posting 18 rebounds more than Villanova. Carsen Edwards had a big night, posting his career-high with 42 points including nine 3-pointers. Edwards scored 26 points in the first-round matchups with Old Dominion to help his team beat the Monarchs 61-48.
The head coach Matt Painter has made four Sweet Sixteen appearances with the Boilermakers so far, but he’s never made it to the Elite Eight. “It’s an honor to be here. Our guys are really excited about advancing to the Sweet 16, and we have a great opportunity here in Louisville,” Matt Painter said. “Getting ready to play a very tough Tennessee team and we know we’ve got our hands full. Very well coached, very tough, very disciplined. Play with a lot of passion. And I know your guys are really looking forward to it and getting out there tomorrow night and competing.”
Purdue entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 12 at the NCAA NET Rankings and is the No. 9 at the KenPom rankings. The Boilermakers are scoring 121.3 points per 100 possessions (5th in the country), allowing 94.4 points in a return (26th), while their strength of schedule was 10th in the country. The junior guard Carsen Edwards is leading the way for the Boilermakers, averaging 23.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. The senior guard Ryan Cline is tallying 11.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per contest, while 7-foot-3 center Matt Haarms is posting 9.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game making 63.6% of his field goals.
The Vols will try to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 2010
The Tennessee Volunteers (31-5; 15-3 Conf.) barely outlasted the Iowa Hawkeyes 83-77 in overtime in the second round of the South Region. The Vols had a 25-point lead with four minutes left in the first half, allowing the Hawkeyes to melt it down in the second period and take the game into overtime. Grant Williams stepped up with six points in overtime to lift his team over Iowa, finishing the game with 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and four steals. The Volunteers shot 46.7% from the field and 40.0% from downtown, but they turned the ball over 17 times which could cost them a lot. Tennessee also had some problems in the first rounds, beating the Colgate Raiders 77-70 as 17.5-point favorites.
Tennessee entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 at the NCAA NET Rankings and is the No. 10 at the KenPom rankings. The Volunteers are scoring 122.3 points per 100 possessions (3rd in the country) surrendering 95.9 in a return (33rd), while their strength of schedule was 28th in the country. The two-time SEC player of the year Grant Williams is leading the way for the Vols, and the junior wing is averaging 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game while making 56.5% of his field goals. The senior guard Admiral Schofield is tallying 16.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest, while the junior PG Jordan Bone is posting 13.6 points and 5.9 assists per outing.
- 1-6 SU and ATS in the last seven Sweet Sixteen games
- 2-12 SU in the last 14 outings as underdogs
- 9-4 in the last 13 NCAA Tournament games
- Over is 5-0 in the last five outings as favorites
- Over is 6-0 in the last six games overall
The Winner Prediction
The Volunteers barely survived the previous round, and that close shave should wake them up. They possess more offensive weapons than Purdue, as five Vols’ players are averaging points in double-digits, so I expect them to play tough defense on Carsen Edwards and finally maintain a good offensive execution for all 40 minutes. The Boilermakers rely too much on one player, so I’m backing Tennessee to win this game, and I won’t bother with a 1-point spread.
The Pick: Tennessee Volunteers (-115)