(9) Purdue Boilermakers (-1, 118.5 o/u) vs. (8) Cincinnati Bearcats
Tonight, two inexperienced squads will vie for the chance to take on No. 1 overall seed, Kentucky, in the Round of 32, as the No. 9 Purdue Boilermakers (21-12, 12-6 Big Ten) meet the No. 8 Cincinnati Bearcats (22-10, 13-5 American) in Louisville (7:10 p.m. Eastern).
The Boilermakers ended the season by winning six of their last nine games and playing solid defense throughout. However, head coach Matt Painter knows his team is short on NCAA Tournament experience. In fact, Jon Octeus, a Colorado State transfer, is the only player who has taken the floor for a March Madness game.
“There’s no substitute for the actual thing,” Painter said. “We have a lot of guys outside of one that hasn’t been here. You still have to play hard. You still have to produce.”
Experience is also an issue for Cincinnati; the team has made the tournament five years running, but none of the Bearcats’ top-five scorers started last year, and only four have appeared in an NCAA Tournament game.
The Bearcats are also similar to the Boilermakers when it comes to style of play, relying on a stout defense to keep games low scoring. (Cincinnati gives up 55.3 PPG while Purdue kept 11 teams to 59 points or less this year.) Further, the Bearcats kept their opponents to just 39-percent shooting on the season (good for 21st in the nation); Purdue was just behind at 39.3-percent.
Cincinnati associate head coach Larry Davis said his team isn’t afraid of Purdue’s man-to-man defense.
“As my dad used to say, there’s 100 ways to skin a cat,” said Davis. “You’ve just got to figure out which way is best for you.”
The elephant in the room for both teams is that the winner gets the unenviable role of playing No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday (barring the inconceivable).
Purdue is a modest one-point favorite at the moment. But, in this essentially pick’em game, the best value seems to be on the Bearcats’ moneyline (-104).
(Photo credit: flickr user conant.brian (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bconant/2992290266/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)