Purdue and Tennessee square off in a heavy weight semi-finals match-up at the Maui Invitational
#2 Purdue (4-0) takes on #7 Tennessee (4-0) in the semi-finals of the Maui Invitational.
Purdue handled #11 Gonzaga 73-63 after Tennessee pulled away from Syracuse 73-56 in the first round games of the Maui Invitational to set up the 2019 Sweet Sixteen rematch.
It sets up one of the more fun match-ups available to a historically stacked tournament bracket. Rick Barnes and Matt Painter will face off for the first time in five years, when the Boilers got the better of Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen.
Tennessee comes into the tournament as the best defensive team in the country according to Kenpom, and a just outside the top 30 offense. Purdue has the fifth best defense after holding Gonzaga to 63 points and the third best offense in the country according to Kenpom.
Purdue is a bully in the post with returning Player of the Year, Zach Edey, while Tennessee looks to bully everywhere else with big, physical guards that defend the full length of the court while trying to make opposing guards’ life complete hell.
Both defenses allow less than 26% shooting from three while both offenses have a balanced attack. Tennessee was 5 of 14 from three against Syracuse. Purdue was just 4 of 17 against Gonzaga.
Purdue’s bench and young guards will be tested against a Tennessee team that plays with the blueprint that led to Purdue being upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year.
But Tennessee, like every other team in the country, has no answer for Zach Edey. Purdue has also gotten faster with transfer Lance Jones stepping right into the starting lineup, and two freshman Camden Heide and Myles Colvin who both had moments in their first Maui Invitational game.
Can Tennessee’s physicality get the best of #2 Purdue or will Zach Edey and Purdue’s non-conference dominance continue?
Can Tennessee play spoiler or is Purdue destined to set up a match-up with #1 Kansas in the finals?
Can Tennessee get anything from its bigs?
Purdue knows what it’s going to get from its bigs. Zach Edey is the best player in the country, a walking, talking, automatic 20-10 machine. Matt Painter has three bigs behind Edey who offer different, but consistent production.
Painter has Mason Gillis to stretch the floor. Caleb Furst to get fast and long and open up the paint with rolls. Trey Kaufman-Renn to post up when Edey isn’t in the game.
For Tennessee, a starting lineup of four guards with Center Jonas Aidoo allows Tennessee to be flexible, fast, and aggressive at both ends of the floor.
But Tennessee relies on its defense to create easy looks on the offensive end, and Aidoo to get good looks inside. He was great in Tennessee’s wrecking of Wisconsin, scoring 10 points on 5 of 7 shooting and against Syracuse, scoring 14 on 6 of 12 shooting. But Aidoo came into the tournament as Tennessee’s fourth leading scorer. The other five leading scorers are more perimeter oriented. Aidoo will have to bang against Edey on the defensive end, but maybe more importantly needs to make Edey work for it on the other end.
Aidoo has good feet and moves quickly, and is the only big capable of getting his own bucket. He can push in transition without the ball to force Edey into keeping up.
He’ll also need to avoid foul trouble because his back up, Tobe Awaka, has the heft to try and hold up against Edey, but the discipline to get fouled out in ten minutes. Awake is averaging 6.1 fouls per 40 minutes against non-Edey players.
If Tennessee is going to hang around, Aidoo has to be on the floor for the Volunteers a lot.
Match up of the game – Who guards Knecht?
Dalton Knecht has exploded for Tennessee out of the gates after transferring from Northern Colorado. Knecht was a 20 point scorer for Northern Colorado and hasn’t lost a step coming over to the Volunteers.
Knecht, a 6-6 wing, has been Tennessee’s best scorer and offensive player, scoring 19.7 a game to start his Volunteer career while making 60% of his shots inside the arc and just under 39% from three.
Knecht is a crafty, north and south, lefty that uses his threat of shooting to get to the rim or his mid-range shot. He’s not a natural play maker and main ball handler, instead using his size and good first step to attack in transition or when the defense is tilted in his advantage.
Purdue is likely to throw its own transfer, Lance Jones, at the wing to start the game. Jones will be giving up length to Knecht, but he’s a ferocious on ball defender, who has the strength and wing span to guard up as he did against Xavier in Purdue’s third game of the season.
Unlike season’s past, Painter has a multitude of options to throw at dangerous offensive weapons on the wing. Expect Ethan Morton to get an early crack at Knecht off the bench and Camden Heide if Painter wants to show Knecht more size. Both have been excellent for Painter off the bench, Morton particularly has caused havoc defensively.
Battle of the Boards
Purdue has not been rebounding the well, not for them, not for a team that has Zach Edey. Edey is nearly 10% down on amount of offensive rebounds grabbed this season. Defensively, Purdue has been even more mediocre, giving up an offensive rebound on over a quarter of the misses its forced.
Tennessee is not a great rebounding team, but has been solid on the defensive end. Josiah-Jordan James and Jonas Aidoo accounts for most of Tennesee’s rebounding prowesss, with James a versatile 6’7″ wing and Aidoo a 6’11” that really goes after boards on the defensive end.
Purdue has given up 14, 12, 8, and 8 on the offensive glass this season and barely edged out Gonzaga with second chance points, 10-9 in its first Maui game. Last year’s squad relied on offensive rebounding to gain an edge. It hasn’t quite been the same weapon for Painter’s squad this year.
Tennessee is a team that makes games ugly. They out rebounded Syracuse 48-33. Tennessee wants to play physical, muck things up for Purdue, and using that physicality to keep Purdue out of the paint. Purdue being able to response outside of Edey will be paramount to force Tennessee into having to earn buckets.
Is Purdue’s defense real?
It’s been half a decade since a Purdue defense ranked this high on KenPom as Purdue’s defense makes the climb into the top-5 best defenses in the country. The addition of Lance Jones has helped, but so has the play of Braden Smith who has turned up his intensity on the defensive end.
Against Gonzaga, Smith had 5 steals.
At the other end, Zach Edey has gotten quicker and the 7-4 Center is getting to shots at the rim at an alarming rate for other teams. He had another 3 blocks against Gonzaga, erasing guards hard work of getting to the rim.
Purdue’s athleticism and physicality has improved with the size of Camden Heide, Ethan Morton’s added energy off the bench, Jones aggression and quickness, and Caleb Furst’s ability to move on the defensive end.
Teams have a 40% effective field goal percentage against Purdue, including shooting 21% from three on the year. That’s the sixth best rate in the country and while Purdue has improved its ability to defend the perimeter, some of that, as Painter likes to say, is just the product of the other team missing shots.
That was on display in Purdue’s first win at the Maui Invitational went 6 of 19 in the first half before going 0 of 13 in the second half.
Tennessee for its part, is shooting the three well to start the season. At a 37.5% clip, Tennessee is the 63rd best shooting team from three.
But Tennessee is middle of the pack in the amount of its points coming from the three point line.Tennessee is middle of the pack in almost every offensive category. They protect the ball well, turning it over on just 15% of its possessions, but it lacks natural play makers and its offense can get slogged down with ball movement that doesn’t threaten defenses.
Purdue held a top five offense in Gonzaga to just 63 points, a lot of that because the Zags couldn’t get its jumper to go, but Matt Painter does two things as well as any teams in the country. It doesn’t give up free throws and it doesn’t let teams score in the paint.
Can Purdue continue to do that against a physical, messy (in a good way) Tennessee team that looks like it belongs in the Big Ten at times on offense? Will Purdue’s depth show itself as the more energetic, aggressive bunch against a Tennessee team that struggled most the game against Syracuse before opening it up late.
The East Tennessee State Buccaneers (3-4) will look to end a four-game road slide when taking on the Jacksonville State Gamecocks (4-4) on Sunday, December 3, 2023 at Pete Mathews Coliseum, airing at 3:00 PM ET on ESPN+.
Find odds, spreads, over/unders and more from multiple sportsbooks in this article for the Jacksonville State vs. East Tennessee State matchup.
East Tennessee State vs. Jacksonville State Game Info
When: Sunday, December 3, 2023 at 3:00 PM ET
Where: Pete Mathews Coliseum in Jacksonville, Alabama
How to Watch on TV: ESPN+
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East Tennessee State vs. Jacksonville State Odds, Spread, Over/Under
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East Tennessee State vs. Jacksonville State Betting Trends
East Tennessee State has a record of 2-4-0 against the spread this year.
The Buccaneers have covered the spread twice when an underdog by 4.5 points or more this season (in four opportunities).
Jacksonville State has covered three times in seven chances against the spread this season.
Games featuring the Gamecocks have hit the over just once this season.
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The college football regular season has come to a close.
For Tennessee, it went 8-4 (4-4 SEC) in its slate while taking a step back from the 2022 campaign.
Here is how the Vols compared statistically on defense to the rest of the conference.
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In terms of total yardage allowed per match, Tennessee was above average compared to the rest of the conference.
The Vols gave up an average of 348.7 yards per match — good for fifth in the SEC. They trailed just Georgia, Texas A&M, Alabama and Missouri.
Just as Tennessee’s rush offense was elite, the team’s rush defense was also the second-best in the conference. It gave up a mere 113.8 yards per game in this fashion.
The only program above the Vols was Texas A&M who allowed 106.7 yards on the ground.
Leading the run stop were the pair of starting linebackers. They finished the season with the most tackles on the team. Elijah Herring totaled 75 and Aaron Beasley finished with 67. Jaylen McCollough also stepped in from the safety position for 54.
Tennessee’s passing defense was a major step back from its rush stop. The Vols ranked 10th in the SEC while allowing 234.9 yards through the air per contest.
The only teams below Tennessee in pass defense were Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
MORE FROM VOLREPORT: How Tennessee’s offense stacked up to the rest of the SEC in 2023
Kamal Hadden was the best defensive back in his limited time. He broke up seven passes and had three interceptions. McCollough also had three picks.
While getting after the quarterback, James Pearce Jr. led the way with 8.5 sacks.
Yards only tell part of the story, though.
If you can bend but not break, it leads to a lot of wins. In terms of points allowed per match, Tennessee finished with 22 points given up for fifth in the conference.
The Vols were placed behind Georgia, Alabama, Texas A&M and Auburn.
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What to Know
The Titans will be in front of their home fans on Sunday, but a look at the spread shows they might need that home-field advantage. They will take on the Indianapolis Colts at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday. Both teams come into the game bolstered by wins in their previous matches.
Tennessee’s three-game losing streak finally came to an end on Sunday. They came out on top against the Panthers by a score of 17-10. The win was just what Tennessee needed coming off of a 34-14 defeat in their prior contest.
The Titans can attribute much of their success to Derrick Henry, who rushed for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
The team’s defense also helped out by holding the Panthers to a paltry 258 yards. A big part of that defensive dominance came down to the Titans’ ability to keep the quarterback under pressure: the team laid the passer out four times before it was all said and done. Denico Autry was particularly dangerous to the passing game, picking up two sacks himself.
Meanwhile, Indianapolis entered their tilt with Tampa Bay with two consecutive wins but they’ll enter their next game with three. The Colts walked away with a 27-20 victory over the Buccaneers on Sunday.
Jonathan Taylor was the offensive standout of the contest as he rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Pittman Jr. did his part to keep the secondary busy, picking up 107 receiving yards.
The losses dropped Tennessee to 4-7 and Carolina to 1-10.
The Titans and the Colts pleased both fans and bettors in their last matches by winning and covering the spread. Looking forward, the game is expected to be close, with the Colts going off as just a 1-point favorite. Bettors picking the Titans against the spread have some confidence (to put it mildly), as the team is sitting on a three-game streak of failing to cover when playing as the underdog.
Indianapolis is a slight 1-point favorite against Tennessee, according to the latest NFL odds.
The over/under is set at 42.5 points.
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Tennessee has won 6 out of their last 10 games against Indianapolis.