(7) Saint Mary’s vs. (10) Purdue: Midwest Region
Saint Mary’s 27-5, 14-2 WCC (Regular-season and Conference Tournament Champions)
Purdue 21-12, 10-8 Big Ten (At large)
Time: 7:27 p.m. Friday
Location: CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.
Winner will face: (2) Kansas or (15) Detroit, Sunday
Saint Mary’s No. 24 AP; No. 16 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Saint Mary’s 30
Line: St. Mary’s -1½ (O/U 140)
Players to Watch
Saint Mary’s: G Matthew Dellavedova, 6-4 Jr. (15.6 ppg, 6.4 apg, 36% 3s); F Rob Jones, 6-6 Sr. (14.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.3 apg); G Stephen Holt, 6-4 So. (10.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.3 apg). Holt missed the WCC Tournament with an ankle injury, but all indications are he will play on Friday. Holt is an outstanding all-around player with game highs of 23 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and five steals.
Purdue: F Robbie Hummel, 6-8 Sr. (16.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.2 bpg); G Lewis Jackson, 5-9 Sr. (10.3 ppg, 4.3 apg, 1.3 spg); G/F D.J. Byrd, 6-5 Jr. (8.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 43.8% 3s). Byrd was a big fact in the Boilermakers’ late push that got them in the tournament. He was 34-for-74 (46 percent) in his last 10 games.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Saint Mary’s: Dellavedova is an excellent playmaker with a lot of weapons around him. Six different Gaels average at least 7.9 points, including three in double figures. St. Mary’s shoots 47.5 percent from the field and 35 percent from deep, both solid numbers. Their 241 3-pointers made led the WCC and five different St. Mary’s players made at least 27 3s during the season. The Gaels have gotten to the foul line 688 times and shoot 72.7 percent while there. They turn the ball over just 11.6 times per game and their 1.37-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is 11th-best in the country. They also out-rebounded opponents by 6.4 per game.
Purdue: Matt Painter is one of the best coaches in the country. This team, talent-wise, has no business in the NCAA Tournament, but Painter found a way. Hummel is a great go-to scorer and Jackson is a great floor leader. Purdue leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.58-to-1. Purdue forces 4.1 more turnovers than it commits per game. The Boilermakers have been shooting well from the outside since the beginning of February. They have shot worse than 38 percent from deep only once in the last 10 games, including 25-of-51 in the Big Ten Tournament. The Boilermakers haven’t lost a first-round NCAA game since 1993, having won 13 straight.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Saint Mary’s: This group of Gaels has almost no NCAA Tournament experience. St. Mary’s perimeter defense is average, at best. Their 36.1 3-point percentage allowed could be a factor against a Purdue team that has been shooting well. St. Mary’s only forces 12 turnovers per game and get only seven steals per contest. Don’t count on a lot of easy baskets against a Boilermaker team that rarely coughs it up. Jackson is a great 1-on-1 defender and could take Dellavedova out of his game.
Purdue: Purdue has one of the worst inside games of any team in the tournament. Hummel defends and rebounds, but he would prefer to be on the perimeter. Travis Carroll, Sandi Marcius and Jacob Lawson have almost no hope of slowing Jones and Brad Waldow. Although they’ve been better of late, the Boilermakers have been known to go through some scoring draughts. A late dry spell cost them a chance to upset Ohio State in the Big Ten quarterfinals.
The Bottom Line: This should be a great, great game of contrasting strengths and weaknesses. Not sure what to make of the line however. What I do know is this. Vegas apparently made Purdue the favorite in the hopes that people would place their hard-earned money on St. Mary’s. The line has moved 3½ points in two days (from Purdue -2 to St. Mary’s -1½). My rule is, when in doubt, go opposite of where the money’s going.
The Pick: St. Mary’s 83, Purdue 82
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 198-150-6 (Through Tuesday, March 14)