Busting Brackets

Gonzaga vs Purdue: 2023-24 NCAA Tournament game preview, TV schedule

Nov 20, 2023; Honolulu, Hawaii, USA;  
Purdue Boilermakers guard Braden Smith (3) drives to the
Nov 20, 2023; Honolulu, Hawaii, USA; Purdue Boilermakers guard Braden Smith (3) drives to the / Steven Erler-USA TODAY Sports

A rematch from this year’s Maui Invitational sees Purdue facing Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen; will the Boilermakers keep rolling or can the Bulldogs dish some revenge?

TV schedule: Friday, March 29, 7:39 pm ET. TBS/TruTV

Arena: Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit, Michigan

It’s been an unusual season at Gonzaga (27-7), but it’s led to the same result. The Bulldogs didn’t the WCC this season but find themselves in the Sweet Sixteen for a ninth straight time. Mark Few has built a behemoth of a program in Spokane and they’ve looked the part of a tough out in this Tournament. Gonzaga beat two very talented teams by 21-points each, ending the seasons of McNeese and Kansas last week.

After sitting out last season due to medical issues, Graham Ike (16.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg) has become a major playmaker in his first season with the Bulldogs. Another notable offseason addition was Ryan Nembhard (12.6 ppg, 6.9 apg), a former Creighton point guard who’s no stranger to deep postseason runs. It’s another fantastic season for Anton Watson (14.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg), a senior forward who gets the job done all over the court. Watch out for Nolan Hickman (13.9 ppg, 2.7 apg), the best shooting threat on this Gonzaga roster.

Gonzaga’s surge in the last few months has them sitting 12th in KenPom, with their potent offense up to 7th in the nation in the efficiency ratings. This Gonzaga team doesn’t necessarily beat you from outside, but they play hard-nosed ball and are one of the top offenses for a reason. They really punched Kansas in the mouth in the second half of their last game and certainly aren’t afraid of anyone based on this season.

Across the court sits a familiar foe, as Purdue (31-4) defeated the Bulldogs more than four months ago in the opening round of the Maui Invitational. That was just the beginning in a season where the Boilermakers have been imposing their will on nearly every opponent. They’ve certainly kept up that pace in the Big Dance, earning sizeable wins over Grambling and Utah State starting off what they hope is a deep Tournament run.

Obviously any conversation about Purdue starts with Zach Edey (24.5 ppg, 12.1 rpg), the likely recipient of the national player of the year awards for a second straight seasons. Defensive game plans depend on slowing down Edey, but there are some lethal weapons in this backcourt. Braden Smith (12.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg) has developed into one of the nation’s best point guards while fellow sophomore Fletcher Loyer (10.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg) has taken a nice step forward and is a great shooter. We’re also looking forward to more from Lance Jones (12.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg), who transferred to Purdue after four solid years at Southern Illinois.

Purdue is 3rd in KenPom and has been near the top of the national rankings for the entire season. The Boilermakers have one of the best offenses in the nation, boasting the combination of Edey’s dominance in the paint with a 3-point shooting offense that takes advantage of their opportunities. The Boilermakers will be a tough train to stop and have long since forgotten about last year’s upset or their recent loss in the Big Ten Tournament.

Handling Edey is the first issue for any Purdue opponent this season. There have been games where Edey plays well but the rest of the supporting cast doesn’t hold up their end, and that might be where Gonzaga thrives. They need to limit some of these Purdue shooters and limit open opportunities, especially in transition. It’s not an easy task for any team, even for a Bulldogs squad that’s played inspired basketball in recent weeks.

Next. Ranking Sweet 16 teams in NCAAT. Ranking Sweet 16 teams in NCAAT. dark

Whenever two of the Top 5 offenses in the nation match up you’d certainly expect a bevy of scoring. It’ll be interesting to see what Watson and Ike can manage against Edey in the paint, though they’ve seen it once already this season. The Bulldogs did great against Edey for most of that game in Hawaii and still lost by ten; expect something of a similar result, though Gonzaga won’t look as overmatched as Purdue’s first two Tournament opponents.

Prediction: Purdue 85, Gonzaga 78