NCAA Basketball Illinois Fighting Illini (17-9, 10-15 ATS) vs. Purdue Boilermakers (22-3, 12-12 ATS), Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Saturday, Feb. 20th, 4 PM Eastern, ESPN
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Fighting Illini +12.5/Boilermakers -12.5
A couple of contenders for the Big 10 regular-season championship clash Saturday afternoon when the Fighting Illini of Illinois visit the Boilermakers of Purdue for a good old fashioned border battle.
Illinois only returned two starters this season from a team that went 24-10 last year, but was expected to make a run at a top-five finish in the Big 10 and an NCAA tournament berth. But the Illini only went 8-5 through their non-conference schedule, with a quality win over Vanderbilt but losses to Utah, Georgia, Bradley, Missouri and Gonzaga. Illinois then opened its Big 10 season 4-0, but then lost three straight, to Michigan State, Purdue and Northwestern. Coach Weber’s troops then won five games in a row, beating Michigan State and winning at Wisconsin, a tough task indeed in recent seasons. But the Illini played a clunker last Sunday, losing at home to Ohio State 72-53, shooting just 34% from the field in the process.
So Illinois enters Saturday’s game having had all week off.
Purdue returned all five starters this season from the team that won 27 games and went to the Sweet 16 last year. And the Boilers started out this season 14-0, beating, among others, Tennessee, Alabama and West Virginia. Purdue then lost three straight games, at Wisconsin, at home to Ohio State and at Northwestern. But Coach Painter’s boys have since won eight straight, after taking down Ohio State Wednesday in Columbus 60-57.
So at 9-4 the Illini sit in fourth place in the Big 10, while 10-3 Purdue holds down second place. Both are chasing 11-3 Michigan State.
On the season Illinois is shooting 46% from the field, 35% from 3-point land and 71% from the free-throw line. The Illini are holding opponents to 40.5% FG shooting and are outrebounding foes by 2.2 per game.
Purdue is shooting 46% from the floor this season, only 32% from long range but 74% from the line. The Boilers are limiting opponents to just less than 40% FG shooting, and are outboarding them by 2.5 per game.
These two teams met Jan. 19 in Champaign, when Purdue beat Illinois 84-78, covering the spread as five-point road favorites. And after a 60-point first half, the two teams combined to put up 102 second-half points, sending the game flying by its posted total of 136.
Purdue shot 48% from the floor that night, while the Illini hit just 41% of their FG attempts. And while the Boilermakers made 27 of 34 free-throws, Illinois shot just 17-for-29 from the stripe. The Boilers also held a 35-30 advantage on the boards.
Last season the Illini beat Purdue twice during the regular-season, by scores of 71-67 (in overtime) and 66-48. But the Boilers knocked Illinois out of the Big 10 tournament in the semifinals with a 66-56 decision, on their way to the tournament title.
That first game these two teams played last season was tied at 56 going into OT, so it would have played under its posted total of 127 in regulation. The second game went under its total of 122. But the third game sneaked over its total of 119.
So far this season Illinois is 5-3 both straight up and ATS on the road. And they’re 4-3 ATS as underdogs on the betting line.
The Boilers, meanwhile, are 12-1 SU and 7-6 ATS at home this season. But they’re only 10-12-1 vs. the numbers as favorites.
The Illini have gone a lopsided 15-7 on the totals this season, as their games have averaged almost 140 points.
Purdue is 12-10 on the over/unders this season, as its games have averaged 135 points.
Sagarin’s PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com rate the Boilers at +7.2 over the Illini. Adding on Sagarin’s CBB home-court advantage figure of 3.9, and Purdue is favored by 11 points for Saturday’s game over Illinois on the Sagarin line.
Z-Man’s Pick: Good home team vs. weak road team. I expect Purdue to win and cover the spread on this game by 20 points.