Beach's Breakdown - Purdue

The Washington Huskies emerged triumphantly over Mississippi State in their return to the NCAA tournament Thursday after a two year lay off. Next up, Big Ten tournament winner - the 18th ranked Purdue Boilermakers and a team that finished the season with an overall record of 26-9.

In their 61-56 first round victory over Northern Iowa, the Boilermakers appeared very much the prototypical Big-Ten team; physically tough and defensive minded, and possessing an efficient, possession oriented offense.

The Boilermakers are a stellar defensive team. Statistician supreme Ken Pomeroy ranks Purdue the sixth-best defensive team in the country, with a defensive philosophy that mirrors Washington State - dropping back quickly in transition and swarming to the ball in the paint.

Keying Purdue's defensive attack is junior guard Chris Kramer. Standing 6-foot-3 and possessing excellent physical strength, Kramer plays a similar role to Washington's Venoy Overton as their lockdown defender. The athletic wing isn't much of an offensive threat but will provide the Huskies' smaller guards with a difficult test.

E'Twaun Moore is the Boilermakers' top scorer, averaging just under 15 points per game. The 6-foot-4 sophomore is extremely versatile, drawing west coast comparisons to Cal standout Patrick Christopher. When Moore is on from outside he's deadly, but he is also prone to long stretches of cold shooting.

Rounding out the Boilermakers' backcourt is 5-foot-9 freshman Lewis Jackson. Though similar in size to the Huskies' Isaiah Thomas, the similarities end with their height. Jackson is more of a distributor, with a tendency to play out of control at times. He doesn't shoot much, though he's adept at attacking the basket, and will uncork the occasional shot from outside.

Up front, the Huskies will contend with another slim, but active shotblocker in the form of JaJaun Johnson – a lanky 6-foot-10 sophomore checking at just 215 pounds. Offensively, the ball moves through Johnson in the post, and he will try to use his superior height to post up Washington's all-everything forward, Jon Brockman. If Brockman's treatment of Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado in the first round is any indication, he will try and bounce Johnson around the paint like a pinball. Johnson is also extremely mobile for his size, and possesses an effective mid-range game.

6-foot-8 forward Robbie Hummel is one of the better players in the Big Ten, but a bad back has severely limited his effectiveness this season. It appears he's feeling well again, so UW should see the same Hummel that scored nine points and hauled down 12 rebounds against UNI. Once a versatile scoring threat, Hummel is now more of a long range specialist. Hummel is the Boilermakers' top rebounder, averaging 7 boards a game.

The Purdue bench is a mixed bag, and they don't contribute much offensively. Keaton Grant is an excellent defender who can heat up from outside on occasion. Nemanja Calasan is the Boilers' lone post back-up, averaging 6.5 points and three rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game. He can also step out and hit the occasional 3-pointer.

The Huskies again hold an advantage with their beef down low and they also possesses the mobility in their interior defenders to stick with Purdue's mobile frontcourt and should be able to dominate them on the glass. If their season numbers hold, Washington should out-board the Boilermakers by nearly seven.

Quincy Pondexter had another sensational game in the Huskies opening round victory over MSU, scoring a career-high 23 points. When he's playing with confidence, there are few players in the country with enough desire, athleticism and skill to stop him. He will again hold a significant advantage against Purdue's smaller wing players, but don't be surprised to see Purdue Head Coach Matt Painter put Kramer on the high-flying junior from Fresno.

The biggest question mark is the UW backcourt. Isaiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon have struggled with their shots in the last month or so, and the first round of the tournament was no different, as they combined to shoot 4-20 from the field. Fortunately, both Venoy Overton and Elston Turner have managed to fill some of the void left by the starters. Both players have seen their contributions and playing time increase as a result.

On paper, both teams are pretty evenly matched, but that doesn't tell us the whole story. The Huskies have proven to be extremely adaptable, regardless of the style their opponents have thrown against them. Even a struggling backcourt hasn't seemed to limit Washington's offensive effectiveness, which leads to their biggest advantage: The Huskies are almost impossible to game-plan against.

Washington's rotation features seven players capable of scoring in double-digits, and that rotation versatility makes it nearly impossible to concentrate on one or two key threats. The Boilermakers aren't accustomed to playing a team with the kind of firepower the Huskies possess either, as scores in the more conservative Big-Ten typically stay in the 60's.

While Washington is comfortable playing at any speed, look for them to really push the tempo, attack the basket, and as usual, go to the free-throw line as much as possible.


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