Purdue vs. NC State in the Final Four – Three Keys to a Boilermaker Victory

No game in the Final Four is ever easy. Hell, as we Purdue fans know all too well, no game in the NCAA Tournament is easy. Purdue will play in their first Final Four since 1980 this weekend and they will take on a team that no one expected to still be in this tournament, or to even be in at all, in the NC State Wolfpack. The Wolfpack finished 10th in the ACC this season and stumbled into the ACC tournament losers of four in a row and five of their last six. Then, something clicked, they won five games in five days to get the automatic bid for the ACC and have run off four straight victories to make it to the Final Four. So, what does Purdue have to do to win this one? I’m so glad you asked. Because Purdue comes into this one a 9 point favorite according to our friends over at DraftKings. That seems pretty hefty to me considering that this is a Final Four game and NC State has been on a tear recently. Regardless, let’s take a look at three things that could determine the outcome of the game.

Purdue has to limit their turnovers

It’s a stat that has been used over and over this season to point out why Purdue has done so well. When they take care of the basketball they win. Purdue is 27-0 on the year when they commit 13 or fewer turnovers. It’s a simple stat sure but so often those turnovers can lead to runout points for your opponent. Live ball turnovers have been absolute killers for Purdue given how good their defense has been this year. Anytime you give your opponent easy buckets it’s a negative.

Don’t Get Stagnant When Zach Edey Has the Ball

To be clear, Zach Edey is going to get the ball a ton. He’s going to touch the ball on most of Purdue’s possessions and that’s just fine. Painter would be silly not to put the ball in the big man’s hands. What I want to focus on here is what the other 4 guys on the floor are doing while Edey has the ball. They can’t just stand there. They can’t just stop running the offense and hope that Edey beats his man. The other four guys on the floor have to continue to move, have to continue to get open, and have to be threats from elsewhere on the floor in order to allow Zach Edey to not be the sole focus of possession and to help him make the right choice. Matt Painter said after the Tennessee game that Zach Edey would get the right of first refusal going down the final few minutes and it worked masterfully. So yes, get Zach Edey the ball, but don’t just stand around and wait for something to happen. Put Edey in the best position to succeed.

Shoot to your Average

Looking back at the Tennessee game it really was a minor miracle that Purdue won that game. They shot just 63% (21-33) from the free throw line and an abysmal 20% (3-15) from three. Had Purdue even moved one of those two numbers up to their season averages of 72% from the line and 40.8% from three it wouldn’t have been close. That would have resulted in either 2 extra points at the line (plus maybe a few extra attempts due to missed front ends) or 9 more points if they hit their average from deep. If that’s the case, the game isn’t close even with Knecht going absolutely nuclear from all over the court. If Purdue can do this in the game against NC State, they can’t be stopped. My main worry about shooting in this game is that it is being played in a football stadium which historically has resulted in teams shooting below their averages. Perhaps the days of practice will help Purdue find their shot.

Also, this season Purdue has shot the ball well following games in which they shot poorly. Purdue shot 29% at Michigan but the next game shot 50% against Michigan State. They shot 26% at Rutgers and then 47% against Northwestern. They shot 28% from three against Eastern Kentucky followed by 45% at Maryland. A turnaround of that nature could spell doom for NC State.

(Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See DraftKings.com/sportsbook for details.)

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