Breakdown: Purdue vs. Texas Tech
It's alright if you read this. It's alright if you don't. I'm not afraid of you throwing away this post, I get the feeling you won't ...
Let's put this right out in the open: Yes, Chris Beard is the current Texas Tech head coach. Yes, he was the coach at Little Rock two years ago when that happened. Yes, he has a similar type of defense at Texas Tech. No, this isn't the same Purdue team. No, you shouldn't expect the Purdue win probability graph to look like the opening seconds on a defective roller coaster.
Fair enough, you say, but why? My predictions may be pretty accurate sometimes, but this isn't even a prediction, it's just a hint of analysis. Would a ton of numbers and some tables help? They would? Well then, down to business. Break out the Peeps, it's Sweet 16 time.
A 2 seed should get to the Elite 8, right? Well, on average, yes. The committee isn't perfect - nobody here needs examples of that - but even when they do get things right, sometimes unexpected things happen, and not just by 15s. So let's take a step back and look at the ten teams with resumes closest to Purdue's this year. How did they do?
Gulp. Per Bart Torvik, most of them are seeded 1 through 3, and except for 2016 Miami, 2010 Kansas State, and this year's Duke team, they underachieved. In fact, two went out in the first round to a 14 seed. But hold on ... RPI is one of those components (since the committee still uses it even though they said they'd rely less on it), and RPI is a known joke. Let's flip over to efficiency profiles.
That's better. The table on the left is teams with similar efficiency profiles (offense, defense, and tempo). Yeah, the first three are underachievers, but the other seven all won at least three tournament games; last year's Oregon squad made the Final Four, and 2013 Michigan lost to Cheatin' Rick Pitino and his vacated team in the title game. If you restrict it to just similar seeds, as in the table on the right, we drop one underachiever, add two more ... plus the 2010 champs. I know, I know, it's Duke, but there are worse models for tournament success. Also note that Purdue's offensive efficiency tops that of every other team in both tables ... although to be fair, that includes the entire season for those schools, and of course Purdue's totals include the games where Isaac Haas was available.
Per Synergy Sports, the Good Guys post up Haas about 15 times every 36 minutes*, by far the most common play we've seen ... but remember that many of those post-ups were of the clock-eating variety, so their normal offense doesn't quite rely on it as much. And Matt Haarms is the roll man on pick-and-rolls about three times more often than Haas when he's on the floor, although he gets "just" 1.05 PPP on them compared to Haas' crazy 1.56. (FWIW, Jacquil Taylor is used even more frequently - not overall, just as a percentage of Taylor's minutes - but has a 0.86 PPP.)
Still, it's reasonable to expect Purdue to shift away from the normal low-post feeds, since no one can replace Haas at that, and do more of the motion stuff that you'd see from a smaller, more agile team. (Yes, even though Haarms is taller, he's effectively smaller because of his build. This is a good thing, in case you've forgotten the NYC Invitational title game.) So let's assume the Boiler offense is a bit less effectively with Haas out.
Defensively, there should be a bit of a dropoff as well, but not much. Yes, the popular perception is that Haarms might actually be a step up because of his mobility, but that'll be true once he's got more experience; right now, he still fouls a little bit too much to be a one-for-one replacement. He commits a shooting foul on 6.4% of possessions against him, compared to Haas' 2.9% ... but actually yields a lower eFG%, probably because he can actually go out and contest a three. Since it's 0.787 PPP against Haas and 0.795 PPP against Haarms, I don't think we need to adjust too much on that side of the ball. (The biggest adjustment we could make would be to give Dakota Mathias some more height. Can't do much about guys who can rise up and shoot right over him.)
Let's take a look at Bart Torvik comparisons, keeping the above data in mind. (These are similar to kenpom's, only publicly available, so you can look at them too.)
*NBA fans will recognize per-36 as a common analytical measure that approximates single-game contributions based on playing time (since a "full game" for starters is usually about 36 of the 48 regulation minutes)
Purdue O (125.4 OE, #2) vs Texas Tech D (90.1 DE, #4)
Advantages: three-point looks and drawing fouls
That's right, I said none. Two years ago, Purdue's TO% on offense was 17.7, 139th in DI. This year, it's 15.6, 25th. Texas Tech's second-biggest strength on defense is a strength for the Good Guys now, not a weakness. Yes, they'll force some turnovers ... but they'll also overcommit, and guess what else has changed since 2016? That Boiler team shot .367 from three (73rd); this team shoots .421 (2nd). Go ahead, Red Raiders. Make my day.
Texas Tech doesn't just give up too many open looks (38.5 threes per 100 FG, 218th); they also foul too much (38.1 FT/100 FG, 271st). That's a hallmark of a pressure defense: take the tradeoff because you'll get transition baskets, which is important for a team that doesn't shoot that well (more on that below). But when the team you're playing shoots .741 from the line (71st), that isn't such a great tradeoff. To be sure, using Haarms (.542) and Taylor (.500) instead of Haas (.758) is going to hurt a bit, but Purdue still has four guys above .800, and you can bet that in a late-game situation, those four guys plus Ryan Cline (.833 in six attempts) will be on the floor, just as they were against Butler. Pick a shooter, any shooter.
Purdue D (93.7 DE, #21) vs Texas Tech O (115.1 OE, #40)
Disadvantage: offensive rebounding
Texas Tech shooting: .364 from three (99th) on 33.7 attempts per 100 (273rd), .514 from two (114th), .696 from the line (253rd). That is ... not going to win you games against a team that doesn't turn the ball over much. And sure enough, when we go to hoop-math, we see that Texas Tech has an eFG of .642 in transition, but just .502 in their set offense. (For reference, Purdue is .589 and .576 respectively.) Keep the Red Raiders in their half-court offense and they are going to struggle pretty much everywhere.
However, that "pretty much" does not include the glass. Texas Tech had 18 offensive rebounds (.462) against Kansas in their 85-73 win in Lawrence, 13 (.333) in their second-round win against Florida, and 13 (.419) in their Big 12 tournament-opening win against Texas. We already know Purdue doesn't rebound that well, and without Haas, the Boilers' best DReb guy and second-best OReb guy (behind Nojel Eastern), don't be surprised if TTU gets a few extra chances. Haarms is no slouch (7.3%/14.5%), but he's not at Haas' level yet (9.6%/18.8%). You'd almost think he's a redshirt freshman instead of a senior or something.
Still, if the Boilers can continue to not foul that much (24.0 FT/100 FG, 8th), those are just extra twos. Hit your open threes and it won't matter that much.
Torvik says Purdue by 3.2 (72-69), kenpom and Massey match that predicted score, and Sagarin goes with roughly 71-67. Do I think the absence of Haas is going to cost the Good Guys 3-4 points? Do you? Wait, don't answer that.
Let's look at this another way. What are the key factors for Purdue Friday?
- Matt Haarms staying out of foul trouble. The big guy picked up 2 fouls in 29 minutes against Butler - the first at the 8:19 mark in the second half - while drawing 7 fouls and blocking 2 shots, plus getting a game-high 6 rebounds. If he gives Matt Painter the luxury of sitting him for rotation purposes instead of for foul trouble, it'll be a huge step toward a Purdue win.
- Purdue threes finding the net. The Boilers are 19-0 when shooting better than .400 from behind the arc, and their close losses to OSU (.400) and Tennessee (.370) were at or near that line. Purdue will get their looks; they've taken
20 or more threeser, fewer than 20 threes in just six games this year, going 3-3 in them (losses at MSU, at Wisconsin and in NYC to Michigan). Hit 9 or more, and the Red Raiders will have a hard time catching up.
- Texas Tech running their half-court sets. Take out the MSU anomaly, where Purdue had a .453 eFG and a 4.7 TO%, and the Good Guys don't have a loss with turnover percentage below 17.2 (NYC Invitational). Plus, they won the game with their highest percentage, 24.6 ... against Butler in December. Keep that percentage under 17.0 - the second-round win over Butler was 16.6%, the Michigan loss was 17.2% - and we'll be putting something together about Villanova or West Virginia for Sunday. (Hint: we want West Virginia. Why? See Texas Tech.)
It says here that Purdue will go two for three: Haarms will stay clear, but the lack of a solid post game will mean more perimeter passing and more turnovers. Still, it won't matter, because the Boston nets will be kind to the Boiler outside game, and the Good Guys will play to their seed, knocking off Texas Tech 78-71.
Feature image from Wikimedia with logos carefully added by yours truly. Don't worry, I haven't quit my day job.