Texas Tech vs. Purdue Features Showdown Of Elite Point Guards

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 17: Keenan Evans
DALLAS, TX - MARCH 17: Keenan Evans /

When Texas Tech and Purdue square off Friday in Boston, the game will feature two of the best point guards in the nation meaning Texas Tech may have to find other areas to exploit if it hopes to advance.

Texas Tech fans feel (and justifiably so) that their point guard is the best in the nation.  Meanwhile, Purdue fans are likely to make the same claim.  Friday night in the Sweet 16, one fan base will be vindicated.

There is not a better one-on-one match-up on tap this weekend than Texas Tech’s Keenan Evans squaring off with Purdue’s Carsen Edwards.  Both teams rely on their respective point guards to set the tone for their teams (especially on the offensive end of the court) and the player that has the upper hand in this positional battle could swing the outcome of the game in his team’s favor.

By now, Tech fans are fully aware of Evans’ abilities.  The 1st-team all-Big 12 selection scored 17.8 points per game, dished out 3.2 assists and pulled down 3.2 rebounds per game.  Additionally, Evans may be the best closer in the game and his second-half heroics have rescued the Red Raiders time and again this season.

But Tech fans that have not spent much time watching Big 10 basketball may not be aware that Edwards is that conference’s version of Keenan Evans.

His stats are eerily similar to those of the Red Raiders’ point guard.  The Houston area native has scored 18.2 points per game while grabbing 3.9 rebounds and handing out 2.9 assists per game.

When looking deeper at the two stars’ seasons, there are even more similarities.  Edwards has put up at least 20 points 12 times while Evans has 14 such games.

Edwards’ best game this season was a 40-point outburst against Illinois while Evans’ best game was 38 points against Texas.  On the other end of the spectrum, both players were fantastically consistent this year.

Edwards failed to reach double-digit points only three times this year while Evans had just 5 games below 10 points.  (Keep in mind that three of Evans’ single-digit games came in the immediate aftermath of his sprained toe.)

The takeaway from the comparison between the two star point guards is that Texas Tech may not be able to rely on Evans to give them the huge advantage on the scoreboard as he has done so often this year.

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Against Florida, Evans outscored his counterpart Chris Chiozza 22-11 and was dominant down the stretch while Chiozza was saddled with foul trouble.  But Tech is likely going to have to find another matchup to exploit against Purdue.

That is where Texas Tech’s true freshmen stars must step up.  Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver must have outstanding performances against Purdue.  Both have averaged about 11 points per game on the season but that output must increase Friday night.

Purdue has its own forward duo capable of lighting up the scoreboard.  Senior forward Vincent Edwards averages 14.7 point per game while fellow senior Dakota Mathias is scoring 12.3 per game.

During the NCAA Tournament, Culver and Smith have averaged 22.5 points per game.  Meanwhile, Edwards and Mathias put up 27 points per game in the first weekend of the tournament.

Culver must be the one to elevate his play.  After having his worst game of the season against SFA (6 points, 4 turnovers) he rebounded with a solid 11 points against Florida.  However, he must raise his level of play to match that of Smith who had 18 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists against the Gators.

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But while the game may be won or lost on the wing, the fireworks will likely come from the point guard position.  If Keenan Evans can somehow outplay Carsen Edwards then Texas Tech is going to be in great shape.  However, if the two point guards cancel each other out, the fate of the Red Raiders will likely rest on the shoulders of their two true freshmen stars.