Illinois vs. Purdue prediction: College basketball odds, picks, best bets top-10 Big Ten battle
A battle between two top-10 Big Ten teams takes place Friday night as the No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers host the No. 9 Illinois Fighting Illini.
At 11-2, Illinois is still perfect in conference play thanks to wins against Rutgers and Northwestern.
As for the Boilermakers (13-1), their lone defeat occurred on the road against Northwestern.
Thus, despite eing the top college basketball team in the country, Purdue trails Illinois in the conference standings. A victory over Illinois would give the Boilermakers the most wins in the Big Ten.
However, Illinois poses a real threat even as a double-digit underdog.
In this preview, I’ll share why bettors shouldn’t overlook the Fighting Illini in this matchup.
The Illini returned three starters and 60% of their player minutes from last year’s team that failed to get out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
That loss didn’t sit well with coach Brad Underwood, as he sought to bolster his roster with experienced players from the transfer portal.
Underwood added three senior transfers in forwards Marcus Domask (Southern Illinois), Quincy Guerrier (Oregon) and guard Justin Harmon (Utah Valley).
Domask (13.2 points per game) and Guerrier (11.0) rank second and third on the team in scoring, respectively, while Harmon is seventh with 6.4 points per game.
Offensively, the Illini rank 10th overall in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency metric.
Illinois forward Marcus Domask. APThe additions of Domask, Guerrier and Harmon have certainly boosted an Illinois team that, per TeamRankings, finished 91st (74.3 ppg) in scoring last year.
Illinois is up to 18th this season, averaging 83.9 points per game.
The Illini are incredibly balanced on both ends of the court. Theyre one of just six teams ranked in Pomeroy’s top 20 for efficiency in both offense and defense.
Avid college basketball fans know teams that fit this profile tend to be the strongest contenders to win a national title.
Thus, the advanced metrics suggest that this Fighting Illini unit might not be too far apart from the Boilermakers.
Despite posting a school-record 29 wins last season, Purdue joined Virginia as the second No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 (Fairleigh Dickinson) in the first round.
The good news for Purdue fans is that Virginia went on to win the national championship the following year.
It certainly helps that the Boilermakers still have the reigning Naismith Player of the Year in Zach Edey, who averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists last season.
The Toronto native has arguably been even more dominant this season, averaging 23.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.6 assists.
Edey joins four returning starters as the Boilermakers also rank in Pomeroy’s top 20 for offense and defense.
Getty ImagesPurdue did add graduate transfer Lance Jones from Southern Illinois. Jones ranks fourth on the team in scoring with 10.8 points per game.
While it’s clear Purdue will run its offense through Edey, opposing teams will continue to double- and triple-team him, daring his teammates to knock down open looks.
Through 14 games, Edey’s teammates have answered the call. The Boilermakers rank 13th in 3-point percentage (38.9%) after finishing 277th (32.2%) in the previous campaign.
However, Illinois could be equal to the task as it’s limiting opponents to just 31.1% shooting from the perimeter.
Illinois vs. Purdue pick
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Terrence Shannon Jr., the Illini’s leading scorer, is currently suspended from the team.
Although Illinois didn’t seem to miss him too much Tuesday when it trounced Northwestern, the same team that beat Purdue, 92-88, a little more than month ago.
Domask poured in 32 points to lead all scorers, while Harmon chipped in 20.
Thus, it’s the next man up for an Illinois team with a deep rotation and 11 players averaging nearly 10 minutes per game.
Illinois will need all hands on deck to mitigate their fouls when guarding Edey.
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Even with Shannon out, I don’t expect the Fighting Illini to roll over in this conference matchup. Purdue would be wise not to underestimate this Illinois team.
Per our Action Labs database, Big Ten dogs getting 10 or more points in a conference game are on a 22-11 run against the spread.
After running the numbers, my model projects Illinois closer to a nine-point underdog.
While I’d generally prefer a bit more of an edge, I’m okay with backing the dog here as long as I lock in a double-digit point spread.
Pick: Illinois +10.5 or better (-110, FanDuel)
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