Something had to give Thursday night in Louisville. Purdue’s Matt Painter and Tennessee’s Rick Barnes are consistent presences in the NCAA Tournament but rarely get past the Sweet 16. Painter has never been in the Elite 8, and since after 3 appearances early in his Texas career, Barnes hasn’t been since 2008.
This need for a breakthrough led to an all-time tournament classic. The Boilermakers built an 18-point second-half lead and then blew it. In the final seconds, Carsen Edwards’ heel went out of bounds on a 3-point shot, but officials didn’t catch it. He was fouled on a 3-point shot, and nailed two freebies to force overtime.
With Edwards and Ryan Cline (7-of-10 from 3) both going for nearly 30 points, the Boilers edged ahead for a 99-94 victory in extra time. Painter had his breakthrough.
Virginia’s Tony Bennett has a different definition of the word. Since arriving in Charlottesville in 2010, he’s earned 4 No. 1 seed. Despite that, he’s never advanced past the Elite 8, blowing a 14-point halftime lead to Syracuse in 2016.
He has a chance to punch Virginia’s first ticket to the Final Four since 1984, while Painter has the Boilermakers in position for their first since 1980. Again, something has to give.
Let’s take a look at the betting preview.
Purdue vs. Virginia Preview
*Note: Betting info and updated lines courtesy of OddsShark:
- Purdue Boilermakers (+4.5) vs. Virginia Cavaliers on March 30 (8:49 p.m. EST, TBS)
- Over/Under: 126
Neither team is dealing with unexpected injuries other than little-used centers that suffered season-ending injuries earlier in the season.
One of Virginia’s big issues last tournament was the absence of NBA lottery hopeful De’Andre Hunter. He chipped in an important 11 points in the 53-49 squeaker over No. 12 Oregon in the Sweet 16.
Edwards leads a Purdue offense that ranks No. 4 in efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. He will match up with backcourt defenders in Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, who help form the nation’s No. 3 efficiency defense.
Edwards is on an absolute tear in March Madness, scoring 97 points in 3 games (32.3 points per game). That included a 42-point outburst against defending national champion Villanova.
The last time the Cavaliers faced someone of his caliber, it was probably North Carolina’s Coby White. In a 69-61 victory back in February, Guy and Jerome held White to 17 points on 19 shots.
Purdue vs. Virginia Prediction & Pick
By the same token, Edwards hasn’t seen a defense of this caliber in awhile. In two games against Michigan State (No. 10 defense), he mustered just 25 points on 35 shots. Against Michigan (No. 2 defense) in December, he needed 21 shots to reach 19 points.
This is likely Bennett’s ideal scenario for his guards against Edwards: frustrate Edwards into a high-usage but inefficient game.
If that happens, Virginia could slowly but surely build an insurmountable lead. Purdue has a decent but not spectacular defense at No. 28 nationally. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers rank No. 3 in efficiency, though they average just 59 possessions a game.
Virginia has a perfect player to match up with each of Purdue’s strengths. Outside a guy on Edwards, Cavs center Jay Huff is a 7-foot-1 equalizer to the 7-foot-3 Matt Haarms. Hunter is the answer to giant combo-guard Nojel Eastern.
However, Purdue doesn’t really have someone to match up with Virginia’s 6-foot-9 Mamadi Diakite. He bullied his way to 31 points in the first weekend.
At the end of the day, Purdue needs another exquisite game from Edwards to have a chance. Even then, Virginia is the more complete team with more options to attack the Boilermakers.
Expect the Cavaliers to go from No. 16 upset in 2018 to their first Final Four in 35 years.
Prediction: Virginia 74, Purdue 63
Pick: Virginia -4