In what should be one of the Big Ten's better games this season, the Maryland men's basketball team hosts Purdue Saturday afternoon at Xfinity Center. The game (4 p.m. ET, ESPN) pits one of the nation's most dangerous offenses (Maryland) against one of its stoutest defenses (Purdue). It should be a treat.
Some shine has recently come off the Boilermakers, whose 11-0 start preceeded an 8-4 run in their last 12 games. The Boilers are good but not great on offense, and their odd roster composition can be both a benefit and a drawback. To beat Maryland, they'll need an upswing from some of their best players.
The game has serious Big Ten seeding implications. Purdue trails Maryland by only one game in the loss column of the league's standings, and the winner Saturday will keep an inside track on a conference tournament double-bye.
Purdue Boilermakers (19-4, 7-3 Big Ten)
Matt Painter is 231-129 in 11 seasons at Purdue. He arrived in West Lafayette in 2003 via Southern Illinois, where he coached the Salukis to a 25-5 record in his only season at the helm.
Players to know
A.J. Hammons, senior, center, 7'0, No. 20. In Purdue's vaunted frontcourt, Hammons is the best of the bunch. He averages 14 points, 8 rebounds and 1 post assist per game, and he comes by everything efficiently. Hammons makes better than 60 percent of his shots from the field and 72 percent of them from the foul line. He's a terrific rebounder on both ends, and he can even get sneaky and hit 3-pointers: He's 4-of-6 beyond the arc.
Isaac Haas, sophomore, center, 7'2, No. 44. Haas has developed a lot in his second collegiate season, averaging 10 points and 4 rebounds. He's a lot like Hammons but mostly a little bit less effective, although his 116 offensive rating is a tick above Hammons's 114. (Both are excellent.) Haas is built like an aircraft carrier and will be more than a handful. Painter typically splits up Haas and Hammons, so Purdue has a talented skyscraper at center almost all the time.
Caleb Swanigan, freshman, forward, 6'9, No. 50. Swanigan was a big-ticket recruit last offseason, ranked the No. 4 center in the class of 2015 behind (among others) Maryland's Diamond Stone. But while Stone's been an offensive force as a freshman, Swanigan has struggled a little bit. He's not been bad, with a 10-point and 9-rebound average, but he's shot inefficiently on 2-pointers (48 percent) and, 3-pointers (31 percent). His best asset is defensive rebounding, as he grabs a humongous 28 percent of all his opponents' missed shots.
Vince Edwards, sophomore, guard, 6'8, No. 12. Purdue is freaking huge, and Edwards functions much of the time as a 6'8 point guard. His 2.9 assists per game lead the Boilers, and he's pretty good, if unconventional, from the backcourt. He makes 41 percent of his 3-pointers, and he's an annoying guard for point guard-sized defenders. He averages 11 points and 5 rebounds.
Rapheal Davis, guard, senior, 6'6', No. 35. Davis is one of the best defenders in America. He was the Big Ten's defensive player of the year last season and is a contender to do it again, and he can guard positions one through three without any problem. He also chips in 9 points per game and shoots 38 percent from deep, making him one of the conference's most complete players.
Defense. As you might imagine of a team this big and talented, Purdue doesn't give up a whole lot. The Boilermakers are eighth in the country in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted defensive efficiency, ceding a tiny 0.917 points per possession. They're in the top five in field goal defense and defensive rebounding and in the top 10 in 2-point defense. They're in the top 30 in 3-point defense, and there really are no holes when trying to score on Purdue. Maryland will have to earn every basket.
Offensive rebounding. Purdue rebounds 37 percent of its own missed shots, which ranks 25th in the country. Good thing Maryland hasn't ever had any problems with this, or anything.
Foul shooting. The Boilers shoot 75 percent from the line, which is significant for such a big team.
Forcing turnovers. Maryland has become a dreadful giveaway team, and Purdue is an actual breath of fresh air in this regard. The Boilers force turnovers on 15 percent of opposing possessions, worse than all but about 25 teams out of 351. The Terps have had at least 9 turnovers in every Big Ten game, and they can't afford to give away possessions against a defense that renders shot-making so hard. Most teams, against Purdue, at least get to take shots they won't make.
KenPom: Maryland, 71-66. Terps have a 68 percent chance to win.
Alex: Purdue is so good defensively that Maryland will definitely be frustrated at moments, and these teams are fairly evenly matched overall. (Maryland ranks ninth in Pomeroy's model, while Purdue ranks 13th.) But Maryland has won 25 games in a row at home, and I wouldn't pick the Terps to lose on Gary Williams Court right now against any team in the country.