WHAT THEY BRING (offensively)
Oh look it’s another motion offense
Surprise! This is the third straight motion half-court offense Tennessee’s played. If you want to feel optimistic, know that Tennessee handled Colgate’s very well for about 25 minutes and shut down Iowa’s for about the same amount of time. You probably don’t want to look at the other 35 minutes of action too much, I guess. Anyway, Purdue’s somewhat similar to the first two opponents: they make, and take, a lot of threes. They also convert at almost the exact same rate at the rim as Iowa did. The differences: they get more points from threes than any non-Auburn team remaining in the field and they get way fewer free throws than Iowa.
At times, you’ll be looking at a copy of Tennessee’s offense. As we’ll explore shortly, Purdue runs a lot of second-shooter screens and off-ball screens meant to get Carsen Edwards or the other shooters open. To score on the inside, you’ll see dribble handoffs meant to get Edwards or someone running downhill, along with the Tennessee staple of a big guy screening down low. For post players, just imagine the actions Tennessee runs right now – it’s basically the same stuff. Alright? Alright.
You know him. Despite a relatively low Offensive Rating of 107 and a 43.7% hit rate from two – not to mention his February/March slump – Edwards ranks #3 in both KenPom and Bart Torvik’s Player of the Year metrics. When he’s on the court, Edwards takes over 37% of Purdue’s shots, draws almost six fouls per 40 minutes, and scores twice as much (23.6 PPG) as the #2 scorer for the Boilermakers, Ryan Cline (11.7 PPG). Considering his Usage Rate and the offensive structure itself, the half-court offense runs through Edwards. Purdue will run any sort of action to free him up for a shot. Here’s a simple pick-and-roll that’s well-covered, but technically does force the defender to turn his body into the screener:
An off-ball screen that frees Edwards up for a three:
Edwards running an ISO play to step into a jumper (not always advised):
Getting the ball to Edwards on the perimeter and letting him slash his way to the rim through a zone press:
Or the dribble hand-offs we talked about:
There’s so many ways for Edwards to score, and essentially all of them involve the constant running and movement of Purdue’s half-court offense. When 2019 started, Purdue’s offense ranked 9th on KenPom, which is great, but it sat at a 116.4 AdjOE rating. Today’s rating is a full five points higher, and if you were to narrow the season down to 2019 only, Purdue would have the fourth-best offense in America…one spot behind Tennessee’s. By the way, Purdue doesn’t run up and down much, but when they do, you can bet that the ball ends up in Edwards’ hands, where he has nearly 40% of Purdue’s transition attempts:
You’d be forgiven for thinking Tennessee has one goal and one goal only: stop Edwards. However, this would ignore Purdue’s, and Edwards’, last 13 games. From February 3 forward, Edwards has shot just 34.5% from the field and 27.7% from three after starting 41.5%/38.7%. This largely correlated with a back issue Edwards was facing, which caused his numbers to drip greatly. Even with those issues, though, Purdue’s offense still ranked out as the 16th-best nationally from February onward. Even though this includes Edwards’ return to form against Villanova, it would ignore that Purdue’s supporting cast must be pretty solid. Let’s discuss them.
The second-leading scorer, as mentioned, is Ryan Cline (SG). Cline is a Just A Shooter type that takes nearly 76% of his attempts from three. You’ll hear from broadcasters that he’s More Than A Shooter because that means 24% of his attempts come from twos and 10% of those at the rim, but for the purposes of our preview, we’re focusing on what he does three-fourths of the time. Purdue will run plenty of actions to get the 40%+ 3PT shooter open, including this one where he leaks out of a zone press due to the attention Edwards gets:
And this one, predictably off of one of Purdue’s many hand-offs:
Because he’s so perimeter-oriented, you can predict that he doesn’t commit or draw many fouls and he’s good at avoiding turnovers. However, he’s still very dangerous.
Following him is Nojel Eastern (SF). Eastern is the lone former Top 100 recruit taking the floor in this game. He’s a weird dude: basically Jordan Bowden’s size (6’6″, 220), but he refuses to shoot threes (0-4 3PT) and takes two-thirds of his shots at the rim. Eastern benefits greatly from plays where the attention isn’t immediately drawn to him:
And on any offensive rebound:
Eastern is a very good rebounder for his size, so it’ll be a challenge for Schofield/Williams to keep him off the boards. Unsurprisingly, given his rim-oriented persona, Eastern has the highest Free Throw Rate on the team and gets fouled often. Don’t do it, Kyle.
Matt Haarms (C) is the other non-Edwards name you know on Purdue’s roster. Haarms is a 7’3″ stiff that occasionally pops out for a three (7-23 3PT), but mostly posts up and serves as Edwards’ roll man. As Alexander-ish as that may sound, Haarms is a very good player that’s predictably ruthless at the rim (81.7% hit rate) and is pretty good elsewhere, too. For our purposes, though, we’re focusing on his two best features. Posting up:
And rolling to the rim:
He can make plays like that look effortless, which is the dividing line between him and similar 7+ foot tall stiffs. Haarms actually looks athletic and involved; with two years at Purdue to go, the odds of him being All-Big Ten at least once, if not twice, seem reasonable.
Trevion Williams (C) backs up Haarms and is an entirely different style of scorer. Williams takes more shots per-minute than any non-Edwards player, and he’s a polar opposite to defend. Haarms is 7’3″, 250; Williams is 6’9″, 280, and that’s after losing 40 pounds in the last year. Williams is a bulldozer in the post:
And dominant on the boards:
Despite the fact Williams isn’t even touching ten minutes per game in March, this is the non-Edwards matchup that has the highest potential offensive scare factor. Haarms is unique, but this month was the first time he’d taken double-digit shots in a game in his entire career. Williams has done that four times this season alone, and the heftiest player on Tennessee’s roster (Admiral Schofield) would be giving up 40 pounds to him. Alexander would give up 65. If Williams enters the game, Tennessee may have to double him in the post.
Grady Eifert (PF) is nearly invisible when he’s not shooting the ball. Eifert’s a fine, if unmemorable rebounder. He doesn’t draw a ton of fouls. He has the second-lowest turnover rate in the rotation. He barely tops 3.5 shot attempts per game. And he’s still worth noting, because he’s making 70.5% of twos and 44.2% of threes:
Eifert seems like the perfect infuriating “HE’S STILL IN THE GAME?!?” guy.
Aaron Wheeler (PF) backs up Eifert. Both he and Eifert are perimeter-oriented scorers, but Wheeler seems to be a slightly better rebounder with worse turnover issues and lower efficiency. That said, he’ll get 13-14 minutes and will take a three or two:
Other than that, no real notes here. Evan Boudreaux gets a lot of OREBs but only plays 8-9 minutes a game; Sasha Stefanovic isn’t good; Eric Hunter Jr. is Edwards’ backup, which is a nice way of saying you won’t see him much.