"Depth has been a big part of what we've done," Rick Barnes said, "but they have as many players and will go as deep as they need to go. In this game, as many as 20-plus players could play in this game."
Barnes thinks it'll be neither. With longer halftimes and TV timeouts, depth is less of a factor in NCAA Tournament play than during the regular season, the UT head coach said. Regardless, with so many players expected to see substantial action, the potential heroes in the match-up are many.
For Purdue, 6-1 guard Willie Deane leads the attack. Deane, a high school teammate of UT's James Thomas, led the Boilermakers during the regular season in points (18.2 per game), minutes (28.7 per game) and steals (48 for the year) and finished second on the stat sheet in rebounding (5.1 per game, behind 6-10 post Chris Booker at 5.8).
"He's real quick, can put up points, shoot the three and penetrate," T.J. Ford said of his point guard counterpart.
Deane isn't the only standout; the Boilermakers are strong across the perimeter. Kenneth Lowe, a 6-3 guard who is the team's second-leading scorer with an 11.6 points per game regular season average and is the team's top three-point threat with a 41.5 percentage from beyond the arc, and Brandon McKnight, a 6-2 guard who averaged 5.2 points (and who is "just as quick as T.J. Ford," according to Lowe), typically start alongside Deane in Purdue's three-guard line-up. Those three, along with Booker and forward Brett Buscher, took the tip in the Boilermakers' Friday night 80-56 win over favored LSU. Deane said that first-round starting five compares favorably to UT's, which he called "one of the best starting fives in the nation."
Although Lowe with 14 and Deane with 11 contributed double figures in scoring to that first-round effort, Purdue's leading scorer came off the bench. Melvin Buckley, a 6-7 guard/forward, poured in 20 points in 21 minutes of action, nailing five-of-six from downtown. Before Friday, only four players had led the Boilermakers in scoring (Buckley became the fifth), with Deane earning the honor in 10 of the team's last 11 games. Buckley's height and outside shooting ability could present the Horns with a defensive challenge.
Against the Tigers, Buckley and rest of the Purdue bench accounted for 36 points, nearly half of the team's offensive output.
Other names of note off the Boilermaker bench: Darmetreis Kilgore, a 6-5 senior guard who averages 7.1 points in 16.9 minutes per game; David Teague, a 6-5 freshman guard who averages 5.8 points in 15 minutes per game; Matt Kiefer, a 6-10 freshman forward who 3.4 points and 3.1 boards in 15.3 minutes per game; and Ivan Kartelo, a 6-11 junior center who averages 3 points and 2.6 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game.