The 14th-seeded Saint Peter's Peacocks and the third-seeded Purdue Boilermakers take to the United Center court tonight for a second round matchup of the NCAA Tournament.
Saint Peter's is making just its third trip to the NCAA Tournament, where it has never won a game, posting an 0-2 record thus far. The Peacocks earned a trip to the dance on the strength of their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament championship run, which saw them, as a four-seed, down Loyola- Maryland, Fairfield and Iona in succession to earn the league's automatic bid. Saint Peter's finished with a 20-13 overall record.
Purdue is making its fifth straight appearance in the Big Dance. Overall, the Boilermakers have appeared in the tournament 24 times prior and have posted a 33-24 record thus far. They will look to notch their 13th straight tourney- opening win tonight. A 25-7 overall record propelled the Boilermakers into the Tournament, although they were bounced from the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Conference Tournament, 74-56, by Michigan State.
Tonight's contest marks the first-ever meeting between Saint Peter's and Purdue.
Saint Peter's wins first and foremost with defense, as it currently ranks 12th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 59.9 ppg. The Peacocks also rank second nationally in field goal percentage defense (37.4) and 15th in three-point field goal percentage defense (30.5). Despite these impressive numbers, Saint Peter's posts just a plus 1.5 scoring margin, due in large part to a nearly anemic offense. The Peacocks feature a balanced attack, but do not possess a standout scorer. Wesley Jenkins leads the team at a modest 12.8 ppg on just 37.3 percent shooting from the floor, although he has hit a team-high 65 three-pointers on 41.7 percent shooting from deep. Jeron Belin (11.6 ppg), Nick Leon (10.6) and Ryan Bacon (10 ppg) add support. Bacon leads the team in field goal percentage (53.2) and rebounding (7.5 rpg). On the whole though, the Peacocks shoot just 40.4 percent from the field.
Purdue is led by senior forward JaJuan Johnson, who heads into the NCAA Tournament with a streak of 41 consecutive double-figure scoring games, which ranks as the sixth longest in program history. Johnson, who was named the Big Ten Player of the Year and the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, leads the team in scoring (20.5 ppg), rebounding (8.2 rpg), blocks (74), free throws attempted (200), free throws made (163), and minutes (35.3 mpg). He shoots 49.6 percent from the field and 81.5 percent from the foul line, while also ranking second on the team in steals (30). Despite the gaudy numbers, Johnson is not devoid of help, as E'Twaun Moore, an All-Big Ten First Team selection, averages 18.2 ppg, behind a team-high 69 three-pointers. He shoots 41.1 percent from beyond the arc and contributes defensively, ranking first on the team in steals (40), while pulling 5.1 rpg. In all, the Boilermakers score 72.7 ppg. With their two most gifted players willing to compete on the other end of the floor, they thrive defensively, allowing just 61.4 ppg.
Saint Peter's plays hard and shows well on the defensive end, but it is outmatched in this one. The Boilermakers not only sport stellar individual playmakers, but also have an effective team defense and experience to burn.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Purdue 76, Saint Peter's 58