As part of its preview of the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense statistics are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All other advanced stats are also from kenpom.com (unless noted otherwise), and are through March 14.
Record: 26-8, 12-6 in Big Ten
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 115.3 (21st)/94.5 (18th)
Seed: No. 5 in Midwest Regional
Impact player: A.J. Hammons, senior, center. 14.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.4 blocks per game
The Case For: After ending a rare two-year NCAA tournament drought last year and dropping a heartbreaker to Cincinnati in the round of 64, this year the Boilermakers are poised to make some noise in the Big Dance. Only eight teams in the country rank in the top 25 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com, and Purdue is one of them. It is one of the biggest teams in the country (13th in average height), with Hammons, 7’2” sophomore center Isaac Haas, 6’9” freshman forward Caleb Swanigan and 6’7” wing Vince Edwards all playing major minutes, and the team ranks 15th national in rebounds per game (40.9) and ninth in fewest rebounds allowed (30.3). While Hammons has been the Boilermakers' anchor, it is Swanigan who might have the highest ceiling among any player on the roster. A potential NBA first-round pick, Swanigan averages 10.2 points and 8.4 rebounds and has had eight double-doubles this season. His shot selection is curious at times, but his size and talent makes him a difficult matchup for opposing defenses..
The Case Against: Purdue doesn’t force many turnovers, ranking 348th among 351 Division I teams in that category and 335th in steal percentage, and despite its size it doesn't get to the free-throw line very often. Not forcing turnovers and not getting opponents in foul trouble are often key indicators of a potential upset, especially for a team that doesn't want to push tempo and get extra possessions. The Boilermakers will also have to hope that Raphael Davis breaks out of his slump soon. After scoring 24 points in a one-point win over Michigan State on Feb. 9, the senior guard has scored just 44 points in nine games since. Purdue might be able to bully smaller opponents in the early rounds but reaching the Final Four could come down to its ability to get a balanced effort both inside and out.
SI Prediction: Beat No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock in first round, beat No. 13 Iona in second round, lose to No. 1 Virginia in Sweet 16