The No. 14 Seminoles host No. 19 Purdue in a 9:15pm tip on ESPN2 in one of the final six games of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. After two previous nights of games, the conferences enter this evening in a 4-4 tie. The contest joins North Carolina at Michigan (9:30pm; ESPN), and Syracuse at Ohio State (7:15pm; ESPN2) as the only games in the Challenge featuring two 2018 NCAA Tournament teams— and is the single game between two teams that reached at least the Sweet Sixteen. The ACC leads all-time at 12-5-2, including a dominating 11-3 record last season for the largest margin since the Challenge began in 1999.
The Boilermakers previously came to Tallahassee as part of the Challenge on December 29, 2005, and fell 97-57 in a rout by the ‘Noles. FSU also defeated Purdue in the 1974-75 season, making the overall series record 2-0 in favor of the Garnet & Gold. Florida State has won their last two games in the Challenge while Purdue claimed 8 of their previous 9 matchups and owns a Big Ten best record of 10-7 in the Challenge. Last season, Purdue defeated Louisville at home, and FSU toughed out a 78-73 win at Rutgers.
Purdue finished the 2017-2018 season with their second straight appearance in the Sweet Sixteen and a 30-7 record. Head Coach Matt Painter’s 2018-2019 Purdue squad is without four seniors from last season who made up their starting five along with then sophomore Carsen Edwards. The Boilermakers are 5-1 on the season, with their lone loss coming against Virginia Tech. They enter tonight’s contest as the 6th best offense and the 42nd best defense in the country in adjusted efficiency (KenPom). They are shooting 39% from outside the arc and 59% on 2-pointers so far this season. Offensive rebounding is a strength: with 4 players grabbing over 10% of the available offensive boards, the team ranks 4th nationally (40.7 OffReb%; KenPom).
Edwards, a National Player of the Year candidate, is the focal point of this year’s squad from West Lafayette in his junior season. Only six players in the country have taken a higher percentage of their teams’ shots this season. His speed will be a problem for the Seminoles and how Coach Hamilton decides to defend him will be a major factor in the outcome of tonight’s game. Coach Ham will have to decide between selling out to stop him or attempting to take away everyone else. Historically, Hamilton has taken both approaches at different times in matchups against studs like Edwards.
Edwards is joined by a young but talented group that includes 7’3” shot-blocker Matt Haarms and versatile guard Nojel Eastern, both sophomores. Haarms gives Purdue a good matchup down low for Christ Koumadje. Junior Evan Boudreaux is one of the best rebounders in the country (4th, 20.8% OffReb%; KenPom) and shoots 85.7% from the charity stripe. Senior guard Ryan Cline joins Edwards in the backcourt as a three-point threat. Purdue has seven players in their regular rotation with a true shooting percentage of 59 or higher.
After defending Edwards, the keys for FSU will be defensive rebounding and forcing Purdue to turn the ball over. The Boilermakers are very efficient on offense and have not turned the ball over a ton to this point. However, FSU will be the best defense they have faced so far this season. The Noles have struggled with sending opponents to the charity stripe too often this season, but will need to keep Edwards (92% FT; KenPom) and Boudreaux away from the line tonight.
We’ll discuss the game in the comments section below— feel free to join the conversation. Also, check out the preview from the enemy’s perspective over at our sister site, Hammers and Rails.