The Purdue Boilermakers are off to a 4-1 start. In Maui, they lost on Monday to Kansas State 79-88. Tuesday's 82-61 over Missouri leads them to today's matchup against BYU.
Purdue rely on their youth. Scoring, rebounding, steals, assists are all lead by either a freshman or sophomore. As a rule, I tend to think the age isn't as important until critical moments of the game. If Purdue and BYU are in a close fight down the stretch, I think Cougars have an edge.
What does Purdue do well?
A lot of things.
They get to the free throw line. Often. 28.4 FTA per game! Purdue ranks 11th in the nation in free throws attempted. Fortunately, Purdue only shoots 67.6% from the stripe.
Purdue shoots really well from inside. Boilermakers are hitting 57.9% from inside the arc. These shots are clearly being generated by good ball movement as Purdue has 18 team assists per game (good for 9th nationally).
Beyond that, they defend the paint very well. As a team they swat 6.6 shots per game, and when they don't block the shot, opponents are shooting a horrible 38.5% inside the arc. Purdue places higher value on defending the paint, but will be forced to step out on the Cougars whose offense is comprised of lots of motion around the 3 point line resulting in a drive to the basket or a shot from 15 feet or further out. BYU has posted up a big on the block maybe less than 10 times in Maui. It will be interesting to see how Purdue coach Matt Painter will adjust as selling out to protect the rim may play into BYU's hands.
Who to watch for on Purdue?
Perhaps a Purdue fan will have an "ALOHAAS" sign at the game in support of 7'2" 300 pound freshman Isaac "Big Alabama" Haas. Haas has been coming off the bench, but outplaying and receiving more minutes than starter A.J. Hammonds. Despite coming off the bench, Big Alabama is 2nd on the team in both points and rebounds per game with 11.8 and 5.8, respectively.
The Boilermakers are led in scoring by 6'6" sophomore guard Kendall Stephens who is tallying 14 points per game with a blistering 53% from 3. He will hit a couple corner 3 in this game.
Why are they called the Boilermakers?
Purdue's football team was consistently and absolutely smashing poor Wabash College. They were bigger, stronger, more rugged, and rougher around the edges than the boys from Wabash. Year after year the Purdue players had and maintained the reputation for nastiness. In 1891, Purdue once again run over Wabash College 44-0. The carnage was such that the newspapers reporter for the Daily Argus titled his article "Slaughter of Innocence" with the tagline "Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers from Purdue." The name stuck.
This will be the Cougars 2nd matchup against the Boilermakers, BYU defeated Purdue in the 1978 Cougar Classic as Danny Ainge and Alan Taylor got the best of Joe Barry Carroll and Jerry Sichting, 76-64.
What's at stake for the Cougars?
A chance to get a quality non-conference win outside of Provo. Oddly, this season, every big non-conference game remaining will be in the Marriott Center. A win over Purdue is a resume builder come March. Lose today and questions will be asked about the Cougars ability to win away from home and the game at Gonzaga becomes even more important.