It’s been awhile since anyone has said spoken these words but today, Texas has a chance to earn a Sweet 16 berth. Oof, that feels weird to say.
In a 3-seed vs 6-seed matchup, the Longhorns will have their hands full against the Purdue Boilermakers. Boasting one of the top offenses in the country, and led by a pair of future NBA players, the Boilermakers present a much different challenge than Virginia Tech.
For starters, their offense ranks second in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency rating and ESPN’s BPI. Head coach Matt Painter’s squad is one of the top scoring teams in the nation, 12th overall, averaging 79.7 points. What makes them so dangerous is how efficient they are at scoring, shooting 49 percent from the floor and and 38.9 percent from deep. Both are top five in the country.
The Boilermakers are led by sophomore guard Jaden Ivey, a projected top-five draft pick. Ivey’s averaged 17.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and one steal per game this season and is considered one of, if not the most electric guard in college basketball.
NBA scouts love Ivey’s ability to take players off the dribble, with an incredible first step, and he averages six free throws a game. He went to the line nine times against Yale and finished with 22 points, including 3-of-6 from the three-point line. Ivey’s been a below average shooter from downtown, but has the ability to heat up.
The Texas backcourt will have to match-up against 7’4 Zach Edey and 6’10 Trevion Williams, a pair of large humans.
Edey has a strong post-up game and will present a size challenge to Christian Bishop and Dylan Disu, who saw increased minutes against Virginia Tech and took advantage, but Beard and the Longhorns will need another big performance from the freshman.
“[Dylan’s] out there playing with courage,” Beard said yesterday. “Doesn’t have his legs under him so he’s basically tried to get and better and develop without an offseason.”
The Vanderbilt transfer missed the beginning of the season due to a knee injury and has played sparingly since his return, with most of his minutes depending on matchups.
Purdue draws a lot of fouls with their larger size, shooting 33 free throws against Yale with Edey and Ivey combining for 19 of those attempts. Keeping out of foul trouble will be key for Texas, especially Bishop and Disu, who will be the key defenders against the Boilermakers frontcourt.
However, Beard and senior guard Marcus Carr are somewhat familiar with Purdue.
Beard calls the Boilermakers head coach a close mentor and has defeated him twice in the NCAA Tournament. The first came when Beard was an up and coming coach and Arkansas Little-Rock, erasing a 10-point deficit to eventually win in overtime against the No. 5-seed Boilermakers.
The second win came during Texas Tech’s final four in 2018, defeating Purdue 78-65 in the Sweet 16.
Meanwhile, Carr faced off against Purdue when the guard was playing at Minnesota. Carr is 1-2 against them in his career, including a 27-point performance back in 2019.
“I’ve had some great battles against [them],” Carr said. “Obviously, it’s nice to know an opponent but that was two years ago and this is a whole new season.”
The Longhorns have not earned a berth to the Sweet 16 since the 2008 season, when the Rick Barnes, D.J. Augustin-led Horns lost to eventual runner-ups, the Memphis Tigers.
How to Watch:
Time: 8:06 p.m. Central
Radio: Texassports.com affiliates
Odds: The Longhorns are a 3.5-point underdog against the Boilermakers, according to DraftKings.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.