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Tennessee NCAA Tournament Preview: A Quick Look At Purdue

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee basketball is one-game away from punching its ticket to the Final Four for the first time in program history. Standing in the way? The Purdue Boilermakers.

Purdue is looking to exercise the demons of last year’s loss to 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson and to make the Final Four for the first time since 1980.

The Vols and Boilermakers have plenty of recent history against one another. Let’s take a look at Purdue ahead of the matchup.

More From RTI: Inside The 18-0 Run That Propelled Tennessee To The Elite Eight

How Purdue Got Here

Purdue was one of the three best teams in the country all season and enters the Elite Eight with a 32-4 (17-3 Big 10). The Boilermakers won the Big 10 Regular Season title and won a handful of impressive non conference games including over Tennessee, Marquette, Alabama and Arizona.

The big question for Matt Painter and Purdue was how they would perform in the NCAA Tournament after a number of disappointing performances in recent seasons. So far, so good.

Purdue has defeated Grambling State, Utah State and Gonzaga on its way to the Elite Eight with all three wins coming by double-digits.

Where Purdue Thrives

When you’re 32-4, you’re very good at a lot of things.

That includes an offense that ranks third nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency. Purdue plays inside-out through Zach Edey and shoots extremely well. They rank third nationally in effective field goal percentage and lead the country by shooting 40% from three-point range though they only attempt 20.6 triples a game.

Purdue is fantastic on the glass in large part to thanks Edey. The Boilermakers rebound 38% of their missed shots and rank in the top 20 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding.

Matt Painter’s team plays a true team game, ranking first nationally in assists per made field goal. Edey passes well out of the post and they have a selfless team who moves the ball well off the rotations he creates.

Another “yeah, of course they’re good at this they have Zach Edey” strength, one of the best teams in the country at getting to the foul line.

Purdue is strong defensively but really aren’t elite at anything on that end of the court. Its biggest strengths are its field goal defense and ability to play without fouling.

Where Purdue Struggles

Very few places if anywhere. Really the only place you can point to is that the Boilermakers, much like Creighton, do not force many turnovers.

Opponents turn the ball over just 13.7% of possessions, a mark that ranks 342 out of 362 nationally.

That presents an opportunity for Tennessee. Purdue certainly doesn’t have a turnover problem, but they turn the ball over on 16% of its possessions and that presents an opportunity for the Vols’ elite ball pressure to cause issues.

Purdue is unbeaten in games that it turns the ball over less than 14 times. They’re still 6-4 in games they turn it over 14 or more times, including the win over Tennessee in the Maui Invitational, but that’s a potential area that the Vols can exploit on Saturday.

The Boilermakers are just an average free throw shooting team. But other than that? Not too many weaknesses for the top-seed in the Midwest.

Standout Boilermakers

It all starts with the reigning National Player of the Year Zach Edey. The 7-foot-4 mountain of a man averages 24.6 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.

He’s almost impossible to guard and presents so many issues for opponents on both ends of the court.

Sophomore point guard Braden Smith is the biggest difference for Purdue this season compared to last year. The 6-foot guard is averaging 12.3 points on 45% shooting from the field and 44% shooting from three-point range as well as 7.5 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game.

Fellow sophomore Fletcher Loyer is Smith’s backcourt running mate. He torched Tennessee for 27 points back in November and averages 10.5 points per game on 45% shooting from three-point range.

Super senior wing Lance Jones is the big personnel difference for this Purdue team compared to last season. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound guard averages 12 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

Those are the four key pieces for Purdue but the Boilermakers have depth with four more players totaling at least 10 minutes per game.

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