After escaping Colgate and Iowa, the Vols are heading to Louisville for their Sweet 16 matchup with Purdue. Here are the matchups to watch heading into Thursday’s game.
Edwards vs. Turner
Purdue’s best player is undoubtedly Carsen Edwards. The junior guard averages over 23 points per game and he looked untouchable against Villanova in Purdue’s second round matchup.
Do the Vols have someone they think can slow him down? They think they do.
More specifically, Lamonté Turner said he wants to guard Edwards. Rick Barnes says he won’t be the only one to guard Edwards, but that Turner will get the first crack at him.
Rick Barnes says it can’t just be Lamonte Turner that defends Purdue’s Carsen Edwards. It’ll be Turner, Jordan Bowden, Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner.
“He’ll be the first matchup obviously, but we’ll have to have everyone ready to go.”
— Ben McKee (@benmckee14) March 25, 2019
When asked about the matchup, Turner said “I expect him to try to come out and drop 42 again, or 50, but it ain’t gonna happen… I’m taking it personally to come out and take on that matchup and I’m looking forward to it.”
This isn’t the first time the Vols have seen Edwards. Carsen Edwards is the only returning starter from the Purdue team that the Vols beat in the Battle for Atlantis early last season.
Edwards had 21 points in that game, but was only 5-17 shooting. Early in the game he beat Turner on a couple moves, but Turner did a pretty good job sticking to him when the game was tight with little time left.
Turner learned over the course of that game. Now is his opportunity to display what he learned on a bigger stage.
Haarms vs. Tennessee Big Men
Matt Haarms is Purdue’s tallest player. He stands at 7 feet 3 inches and 250 pounds.
As for Tennessee’s bigs, it will be interesting to see how Kyle Alexander and Grant Williams handle him.
With Alexander, it is rare that he plays someone four inches taller than him. That will be the case in this game. Haarms thrives on taking high percentage looks (he was 8-12 in their last game) so it will be up to Alexander to use his strength rather than his height to try to disrupt Harms’ looks at the basket.
Williams will just need to look to stay out of foul trouble. On a handful of occasions this season, we’ve seen Williams pick up a handful of fouls (and even foul out) against teams that have seven footers. If Williams can control his foul count though, then he’s strong enough to still score a lot of points on someone a lot taller than him.
Barnes vs. Painter
There are three coaches that legitimately deserve Naismith Coach of the Year Award. Rick Barnes and Matt Painter are two of them (Chris Beard of Texas Tech is the third).
Both of these coaches have done tremendous jobs with the cards they were dealt. On one hand, Rick Barnes brought a team with no top 100 recruits to being the best team in the country for over a month.
On the other hand, Matt Painter replaced four starters from last year’s team and his team started slow this season (6-5). Right when people were ready to say Purdue was rebuilding, Purdue all-of-a-sudden figured things out and stormed into the tournament by winning 17 of their last 20 games in the regular season. All while playing in one of the best conferences in basketball.
In most matchups, it’s pretty easy to say Tennessee has the upper hand at the head coach position. In this scenario, they are neck-and-neck. Two greats.
The Vols play Purdue Thursday night at 6:30 central time as the Vols look to continue making history in what will probably prove to be the most fun season in Tennessee basketball history.
Cover Photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports