Two of the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s four finalists for the Naismith Award are on display as Caleb Swanigan and the No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers clash with Frank Mason III and the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks in the Midwest Region semifinals for the right to advance to the Elite Eight.
Midwest Region, Thursday, March 23rd 9:39 pm E.T
Purdue (27-7 SU, 19-10-2 ATS) survived a furious second-half rally by Iowa State to earn its first Sweet 16 bid in seven years with a thrilling 80-76 victory on Saturday. Big Ten player of the year Caleb Swanigan embraced the big stage, recording a monster stat line of 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. The senior forward leads one of the best frontcourts in the nation, assisted by juniors Vincent Edwards (12.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and Isaac Haas (12.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg). The victory gives head coach Matt Painter a 7-6 SU and 9-4 ATS record against Big 12 opponents in the last decade.
Top-seeded Kansas (30-4 SU, 14-18 ATS) flew past Michigan State 90-70 in the second round, outscoring the Spartans 30-15 in the final 10 minutes of regulation time. The backcourt duo of Frank Mason III and freshman Josh Jackson, arguably the best one-two guard punch in the nation, combined for 43 points in the win. Head coach Bill Self's offense is heating up at the right time. It has posted 90 points or more in three of the last four contests, scoring 9.9 points per game more than betting market projections.
These storied programs last met in the Midwest Region's round of 32 in 2012. Purdue, an 8-point underdog, was the better team much of the contest but gave away the lead with 23 seconds left to lose 63-60 to the second-seeded Jayhawks. Kansas shot just 33.9 percent from the field and may find it tough in this matchup with the Boilermakers ranking 15th in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom.
Kansas is similar to Iowa State in many ways, which presents matchup problems for Self's squad. Primarily, control of the paint and countering the Boilermakers inside-out approach. Self's frontcourt is average at best this season, and the team struggled in conference play against taller, good rebounding teams. Versus Big 12 opponents pulling down more than 34.5 boards per game on the year, Kansas was 1-6 ATS (5-2 SU), failing to cover by 5.5 points per contest. The Boilermakers' 55.1 team total rebounding percentage ranks 11th nationally. Painter's defense buckled down the perimeter versus the Cyclones and will need to do the same in this one. It held Iowa State to 7-for-23 from the 3-point area, despite the Cyclones averaging 47 percent from deep over the last calendar month.
The Jayhawks opened as 4-point favorites across the board. For my college basketball picks I will take the points with Purdue, but sprinkle a little on the moneyline too.