Few players in the country have improved more this season from last than Purdue's sophomore guard Carsen Edwards, who has raised his scoring to 18.5 ppg.
While a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament, there have been a handful of instances of a No. 15 pulling the upset of a No. 2. Could we see that Friday afternoon in Detroit when Cal State Fullerton takes on Purdue in the East Region?
NCAA Tournament Odds and Betting Analysis
Only eight times has a No. 2 seed lost to a No. 15 but half were in the past six years. In 2016, Michigan State was the tournament favourite but was stunned in Round 1 by Middle Tennessee. Last year, No. 2 Kentucky only beat No. 15 Northern Kentucky by nine. That was the first single-digit victory for a No. 2 seed in the first round since 2010.
Cal State Fullerton has an excellent college baseball program but not much basketball history with just two NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2008, the Titans were one-and-done. In 1978, they won two games before falling to Arkansas in the regional finale.
Purdue is in the Big Dance for the 30th time, has reached two Final Fours (no titles) and has a record of 37-29. Last year, the Boilermakers were a No. 4 seed, beat No. 13 Vermont by 10 and No. 5 Iowa State by four before losing to No. 1 Kansas in a 32-point rout. Purdue’s star off that team, Caleb Swanigan, left for the NBA and the Boilermakers weren’t expected to be this good in 2017-18.
To win it all, the Boilers are +1500 at Sports Interaction. The winner faces either No. 7 Arkansas or No. 10 Butler, a state rival of Purdue’s, in the second round Sunday. The Boilers are +162 second-favourites to win the East behind Villanova.
Cal State Fullerton Titans
The Titans (20-11) finished fourth in the Big South regular-season standings but knocked off Long Beach State and UC Davis in close conference tournament games before upsetting UC Irvine by 16 in the final. Kyle Allman Jr. had 26 points in that one and was named tournament MVP. The junior guard was in the running for the regular-season award, leading the Big West in scoring at 19.4 ppg. Fellow guard Austen Awosika has a team-high +126 plus-minus rating this season, so Cal State Fullerton has outscored foes by 126 points this season with him on the floor. Another guard, Khalil Ahmad, has scored 1,140 points in his career, the 17th-best mark in school history. What does this team do best? Get to the free-throw line. It’s No. 1 nationally in free-throw rate. Cal State Fullerton has never faced Purdue and was routed in two games vs. ranked teams this season, both on the road (USC and Saint Mary’s).
Purdue (28-6) was up to No. 3 in the country and leading the Big Ten at 23-2 overall and 12-0 in conference before it went on a three-game losing streak from Feb. 7-15. The Boilers wouldn’t lose again until the Big Ten Tournament title game to Michigan. Few players in the country have improved more this season from last than sophomore guard Carsen Edwards as he raised his scoring to 18.5 ppg and shooting much better from the field (46.6 percent) and 3-point range (41.2) than as a freshman. Edwards is the only non-senior starter. Centre Isaac Haas, all 7-foot-2 of him, is a future NBA player. He’s putting up 14.9 points on 62.1 percent shooting along with 5.6 rebounds. Haas only plays 23.6 minutes per game, though, because he’s rather slow and can get into foul trouble.