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Notre Dame Basketball: Purdue Preview

No.21 Notre Dame looks to bounce back on Saturday in a top 25 matchup with No.15 Purdue

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Despite losing to No.1 Villanova last week, Notre Dame showed well enough to move up from 23 to 21 in the latest rankings. The Irish will get a chance to move up even higher next week if they can get a win over No.15 Purdue on Saturday in the annual Crossroads Classic.

The Boilermakers come in at 8-2, but have lost both of their only meaningful matchups against Villanova and Louisville. This is a talented Purdue team that returns the likes of Caleb Swanigan, Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards from last year’s squad that went 26-9. Purdue hasn’t fared well in this event as they come in 0-6 in the Crossroads. Notre Dame on the other hand is 3-2 in the Crossroads, but dropped last year’s game to Indiana. These two programs last met in this setting two years ago in game where the Irish routed the Boilers 94-63.

When: Saturday December 10th, 2016, 2:00pm ET

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

Where to Watch: ESPN2 or WatchESPN

No. 15 Purdue Boilermakers (8-2)

Matt Painter’s squads are usually known for their defense, but this year’s team is a little different. Purdue is one of the best offensive teams in the country in the early season. They are averaging 83.7 points per game which ranks 22nd most in the country. The Boilers also rank 18th in offensive efficiency. This isn’t to say Purdue’s defense has taken a step back either. They still rank among the nation’s best in multiple defensive categories. Overall this might be one of Painter’s most complete teams in quite some time.

NCAA Basketball: Morehead State at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Without a doubt, Purdue will be one of the biggest teams Notre Dame will face this season. Swanigan and Haas are behemoths down in the post as the go 6’10” and 7’2” respectively. If we know one this about this Notre Dame team it is that they lack size. It will be interesting to see how they deal with Purdue’s size.

Swingman Vince Edwards perhaps might be Purdue’s best player, although he has yet to show it. The junior averages just one more point than he did last season. The matchup between him and V.J. Beachem might be the deciding factor of the game.

Graduate transfer Spike Albrect is expected to be out for a while with injury, but even with him out the Boilers still have a solid backcourt. Junior P.J. Thompson and freshman Carsen Edwards are both capable ball handlers. Thompson turns the ball over less than once per game and Edwards averages just a tick under two turnovers per game. Junior Dakota Mathias is Purdue’s best shooter. He’s shooting 52% from the field, and 56% from behind the arc.

Purdue was picked to finish second in the Big Ten this season.

Three Weaknesses

  • Free Throw Shooting: If this game comes down to the wire and both teams are forced to make free throws, Purdue might be in trouble. The Boilermakers shoot 69% from the charity stripe, which is good for 169th in the nation. This is a stark contrast from Notre Dame which is the nation’s best free throw shooting team at 86%.
  • Turnovers: Purdue has shown a propensity to turn the ball over this season. At 14.9 turnovers per game, the Boilers rank 264th in the country. In both of their losses Purdue has averaged 16.5 turnovers.
  • Rim Protections: You think with guys like Swanigan and Haas Purdue would be one of the nations best at shot blocking. It’s quite the opposite though as they rank 295th in blocked shots per game. Even a team as small as Notre Dame is averaging almost two more than Purdue.
NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Three Strengths

  • Three Point Shooting: Purdue ranks in the top ten in both three point percentage (5th) and three pointers made per game (6th). Outside of Mathias, Vince Edwards and sophomore Ryan Cline can shoot the three consistently.
  • Fouling: Much like Notre Dame, Purdue doesn’t commit too many fouls. They rank 19th nationally in personal fouls per game, committing just 15.8 per contest. Because this Purdue’s opponents don’t shoot too many free throws (just 12.8 attempts per game), which we all know is a strength of the Irish.
  • Strong Finishers: Purdue knows how to close out games. They are one of the best second half teams in the country. They average 45 points in the second half, 15th most in the country. It’ll be imperative for Notre Dame to get off to a hot start, because Purdue brings it in the second half.

Boilers to Watch

Caleb Swanigan - 6’10”, Forward, Sophomore

NCAA Basketball: Cleveland State at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Swanigan is a future pro. He actually could have gone pro last season, but decided to return to West Lafayette to improve his stock. This season he’s averaging a double-double of 15.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. The sophomore has also added the outside shot to his game this season as he’s shooting better than 60% from beyond the arc. Notre Dame will have its hands full on Saturday. Along with Martinas Geben, Notre Dame might need to use more of John Mooney and Elijah Burns to counter Purdue’s size.

Isaac Haas - 7’2”, Center, Senior

Just because of his sheer size alone, Haas will pose some problems for the Irish. He’s second on the Boilers in scoring at 14.8 points per game. Haas also leads the the team in field goal percentage at 65%. For being how big he is Haas only hauls in 5.3 rebounds a game, so he can be pushed around a bit down on the block.

Vince Edwards - 6’8”, Guard, Junior

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Purdue vs Arkansas Little Rock Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With the departures of some players from last year’s team, Edwards was expected to make the jump this season and be a stud, but so far he hasn’t. Edwards is a little bit like Beachem in that he tends to disappear at times, nevertheless he’ll be one the Irish will need to keep in check on Saturday.

Pick to Click

Steve Vasturia - 6’6”, Guard, Senior

NCAA Basketball: Legends Classic-Notre Dame vs Northwestern Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going with Vasturia to be my pick to click against the Boilers. The Irish are going to have to make some threes if they’re going to win on Saturday and Vasturia has been one of Notre Dame’s best this season. He’s stepped up in every big time game this season. Last week in the loss to No.1 Villanova Vasturia put up 18 points and the game before that against Fort Wayne he had 21. The Irish are going to need another big time performance from Vasturia against Purdue.

Prediction

Notre Dame 78 - Purdue 75

This one won’t be easy, but Notre Dame will come away with the W on Saturday. Points in the paint are going to be hard to come by, so the Irish will have to spread them out and play small ball. The Irish shooters will have to be on the mark. They can’t go cold like they did last weekend against Villanova.

Both teams are offensively gifted, so it will come down to who can make one or two more defensive stops. I’m going with the Irish in a close one, as they get their first signature win of the season.