The Purdue Boilermakers got upset by the Saint Peter’s Peacocks in March Madness and head coach Matt Painter deserves a lion’s share of the blame.
The story of the 2022 NCAA Tournament from the first day of the first round has been Saint Peter’s, which upset Kentucky and Murray State to become the third 15-seed to ever reach the Sweet 16. Despite having days to prepare for the Peacocks, 3-seed Purdue fell to Saint Peter’s 67-64 as Shaheen Holloway’s team became the first 15-seed to ever advance to the Elite Eight.
The Boilermakers were favored by 12.5 points entering the game, largely due to the significant size advantage they had inside over the Peacocks with Trevion Williams and Zach Edey. Purdue’s game plan never took full advantage of that edge, a significant reason why the Boilermakers squandered a dream path to the Final Four.
Matt Painter’s game plan left a lot to be desired
Throughout the year, Matt Painter has refused to play Edey and Williams together, rotating his big men to play a more explosive style of offense centered around future NBA lottery pick Jaden Ivey. The Peacocks exploited that plan by double-teaming Ivey early and often, frustrating the star guard and throwing the entire Purdue offense out of whack.
Painter began to run the offense more through Williams in the second half and he was highly effective, scoring 14 of his 16 points after intermission. Logic would dictate that Williams should remain on the floor as often as possible since Saint Peter’s had no answer for him but Painter stuck to his regular substitution patterns, pulling Williams for Edey instead of deploying his two big men together.
It is no secret that the Peacocks aren’t a big team and their best defender, K.C. Ndefo, found himself in foul trouble early on. Running the offense through the post, with Williams operating as a four with Edey at the five, would have overwhelmed Saint Peter’s and likely led to a double-digit win for Purdue.
Instead of being flexible, Painter stuck with the game plan that brought him to the Sweet 16 even though Saint Peter’s was prepared to stop it. The Boilermakers didn’t get the ball down low nearly enough, giving Williams or Edey the ball well away from the basket in an effort to set up perimeter shots that weren’t falling.
This is a bitter end for a Purdue team that began the season with Final Four expectations. The loss could have easily been avoided if Painter didn’t stubbornly stick to a one-big philosophy that cost the Boilermakers dearly.
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