Texas Tech Red Raiders (26-9) at Purdue Boilermakers (30-6)
We got back on the winning side last night when we backed the Loyola Chicago Ramblers getting a point and a half against Nevada. The game was a thriller and was capped off by a spectacular falling out of bounds three-pointer by Marques Townes with just six seconds left in the game that sealed the victory for the Ramblers.
The media is portraying this game as a big upset and Loyola as being a true Cinderella team. I don’t buy it. This team is as legit as they come. They play defense and can hit shots from beyond the arc. I don’t think they are going to win the national title, but they have a very real shot to beat Kansas State and advance to the Final Four. And once you make the Final Four, anything can happen.
The rest of the Sweet 16 yesterday saw several higher-ranked teams advance. Kansas State upset the blueblood Kentucky Wildcats, and Florida State beat a Gonzaga team that was looking to advance to a second consecutive Final Four.
Your Elite Eight so far consists of Loyola Chicago, Kansas State, Michigan, and Florida State. I’m not sure anybody had that lineup of teams making it! Today I will break down another Sweet 16 matchup as the Texas Tech Red Raiders take on the Purdue Boilermakers.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders will play the Purdue Boilermakers for the right to advance to the Elite Eight Friday night. The Red Raiders have won two very hotly contested games so far in the tournament, over the likes of Stephen F Austin and Florida. The Red Raiders have relied heavily on the play of senior point guard Keenan Evans and will need another big game out of the star scorer tonight to knock off a very good Purdue team.
For Purdue, the Boilermakers are adjusting to life without their best big man, Isaac Haas. The Boilermakers are trying to get back to their first Final Four since 1980. The Boilermakers are -2-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 137.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:57 PM PST from the TD Boston Garden.
I have been a bit of a hater of Texas Tech in this tournament. I bet against them in the first round and won when Stephen F Austin covered the spread. I bet against them in the second round and lost, as Florida gave them all they can handle and came up just short at the buzzer. But the play of Kennan Evans in this tournament has me looking at the Red Raiders as legit title contenders.
One of the reasons that I was hating on the Red Raiders was the fact that Evans was clearly banged up heading into the tournament. He had a bad big toe and missed a couple of games late in the regular season and was clearly rushed back before he was ready. Losing your senior point guard right before the tournament would have been a devastating blow for any team.
But it looks like Evans is fully healed as he has carried this team on his back through the first couple of rounds. They will need another big performance tonight from Evans if they want to knock off a very talented Purdue team.
The Purdue Boilermakers have been amongst the nation’s top teams all year long. I can’t imagine anyone is surprised that they have advanced this far into the tournament. But the lineup they will be using tonight will look a lot different than the one that led them to this number two seed. The biggest change? They will be without senior center Isaac Haas.
Haas isn’t the Boilermakers best player. But he does play a key role in the post both scoring and rebounding and offered a lot of rim protection in the paint. The 7’2 big man was a key player down the stretch for Purdue. They are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation, but a big reason for that has been Haas presence in the paint. Teams can’t cheat out on the perimeter when you have a guy that shoots above 60% from the field waiting in the paint.
Haas broke his elbow in Purdue’s first-round game. The senior center wanted to be on the floor so bad he practiced the very next day and attempted to play in their next game with a modified elbow brace. The NCAA did not approve the brace and Haas was not allowed to play. The Purdue engineering team has cobbled together a brace they think will get approved by the NCAA, but it remains to be seen if Haas is allowed to play.
Even if Haas manages to get on the floor tonight, I can’t imagine he will be effective. I have never broken my elbow, but I would assume it would greatly limit your ability to play basketball at a high level. Losing Haas is something the Boilermakers managed to survive with, just barely, against Butler. Against a very strong team like Texas Tech? I see it as being too much to handle.
I see Evans having another big game and the Boilermakers struggling without their best big. The game will still be a close one, and I would be shocked to see either team pull away from the other. But in the end, I am going to back the healthier team getting the points. I see Texas Tech winning and advancing tonight, but I am going to take the points anyway, just in case.
Give me the Texas Tech Red Raiders +2 points tonight!