By Nate Bukaty, Sports Radio 810
- Make things Messy in the Paint: It’s no secret that Matt Painter’s team has the advantage down low in this game. The Big Ten Player of the Year, Caleb Swanigan, is a double-double machine. He has posted a double-double in all but six of Purdue’s games this season. While his 6’9”, 250-pound frame is eye-catching, what’s more impressive is the fact that Swanigan has actually shed over 100 pounds since he once tipped the scales at 360 as a middle schooler.
The Boilermakers beefiness inside doesn’t stop with Swanigan. Vince Edwards is Purdue’s second leading scorer, and he stands at 6’8, 225. Isaac Haas is a legit seven-footer, weighing in at 290 pounds. The Jayhawks simply don’t have the size to match this gargantuan front line of Purdue’s. So they will have to make things messy. Clog the lane with multiple active bodies. Get out and pressure the guards, making their entry passes more difficult. It’s a safe bet that Swanigan will get his double-double, but if the Jayhawks can hold him to something like 5-for-15 shooting, the way Nebraska did when they beat Purdue back in late January, they should be in good shape.
- More minutes for Coleby: This goes back to our first key. With the slew of big bodies that Purdue will throw at Kansas, foul trouble is a likelihood for Landon Lucas. If that in fact turns out to be the case, then Bill Self might have to lean on backup forward Dwight Coleby even more than he did against Michigan State. Coleby played nine minutes in the Jayhawks’ second round game, scoring three points, grabbing four rebounds, and coming up with one steal. His teammates said he was the MVP of the second half against the Spartans. It’s great news for Kansas that Coleby would have such a confidence-builder leading up to the interior challenge that Purdue will present. Coleby has seen double-digit minutes in just four games this season, but there is a decent chance he’ll go well over that threshold on Thursday. The Jayhawks will need the same physical, confident play that he displayed on Sunday.
- Contain the Purdue Shooters: In Purdue’s seven losses this year, Caleb Swanigan has averaged 17.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. That’s only slightly off his overall season average of 18.5 points and 12.6 rebounds. This tells us that the key to beating Purdue isn’t necessarily stopping Swanigan. It might be just as important to contain his teammates. While the Boilermakers lack a great penetrating scorer at the guard position, they do have perimeter players who can knock down outside shots. In fact, they have five different players who shoot over 40% from beyond the arc (that list actually includes Swanigan and Vince Edwards.) Point is, if you focus all of your energy on defending the post, Purdue can make you pay from outside. The Jayhawks cannot afford to lose focus on that aspect of their defense at Sprint Center.
- Spread the Boilermakers’ Bigs and Attack. Purdue’s overwhelming size also means that the Boilermakers can struggle to defend in space, depending on the matchups. Even though they held on to defeat Iowa State over the weekend, the Boilermakers allowed a 15-point second-half lead evaporate over the span of about eight minutes. During that stretch, a large part of the Cyclone’s offense centered around isolating Deonte Burton against Swanigan on the perimeter. Burton finished with 25 points, and kept Iowa State in the ballgame. The Jayhawks should have a favorable matchup offensively as well, if and when Josh Jackson gets matched up against Swanigan. They must take advantage of that matchup when it presents itself.
- Frank Mason Standing Tall: OK, I really just came up with this key because I wanted an excuse to repost his Instagram picture from after the Michigan State game. I’m not sure that a single photo and caption could more adequately encapsulate Frank Mason’s career at KU.
Everyone, even freshmen, should know by now that they won’t intimidate the National Player of the Year. Nor will they get in his head with trash talk. It’s a safe bet that the Boilermakers won’t even try that approach, after seeing how it worked out for their Big Ten brethren. It’s almost a sure thing that Mason will be standing up to the Boilermakers on Thursday. If his teammates follow suit, the Jayhawks have a good chance of advancing to the Elite Eight.