Purdue at Illinois: Time, TV, Preview, Odds, & More

Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

The loser of tonight's Purdue-Illinois contest will be at a severe disadvantage in the Big Ten race.

Recent developments in the Big Ten have made tonight's game in Champaign a virtual elimination game for the loser in terms of the NCAA Tournament. With the league likely getting at least seven teams into the dance Purdue and Illinois find themselves at the back of the line at the moment. The Boilermakers are already 1-2 in league play with no real heft and a high RPI. They need wins, preferably road wins, over teams they are battling for spots with. Should Purdue fall to 1-3 after tonight it will be playing catch up all season long.

The Fighting Illini were doing very well with an RPI in the 20s until last week. Then they did very little at Wisconsin and suffered a crushing loss to Northwestern, the consensus worst team in the conference. Given the following stretch of Michigan State, at Ohio State, at Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin after this game, the Illini could very well see that Northwestern loss become a crippling seven game losing streak if they lose tonight.

It may seem early for an elimination game, but as tough as the Big Ten is this season it certainly feels like it could be. Would you really put either of these teams into the NCAA Tournament right now ahead of Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, or Minnesota right now? Since this is the only meeting it also serves as a valuable tiebreaker in the minds of the committee too.

Projected Starters

Purdue Boilermakers (11-5, 1-2)

Illinois Fighting Illini (13-4, 2-2)

Terone Johnson - Sr.

John Ekey - Sr.

Ronnie Johnson - So.

Nnanna Egwu - Jr.

Kendall Stephens - Fr.

Joseph Bertrand - Sr.

Basil Smotherman - Fr.

Tracy Abrams - Jr.

A.J. Hammons - So.

Kendrick Nunn - Fr.

Series with Purdue:

Purdue leads 96-85

Last Purdue win:

68-61 at Purdue on 1/2/2013

Last Illinois win:

79-59 at Illinois on 2/13/2013

Odds:

Illinois by 6

Blog Representation:

The Champaign Room

Location:

Champaign, IL

Best Postseason Result:

NCAA Runner-up in 2005

2012-13 record:

23-13, 8-10 Big Ten (lost to Miami 63-59 in NCAA Second Round)

Coach:

John Groce (121-73 all-time, 36-17 at Illinois)

RPI:

34

Time:

9pm

Streaming Video:

BTN2Go

TV:

Big Ten Network

Radio:

Purdue Radio Network

Streaming Audio:

TuneIn.com


FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
Rayvonte Rice 17 32.5 6.2 13.6 45.9 1.6 4.8 33.3 4.1 5.4 75.0 1.5 4.4 5.9 1.8 1.4 1.4 0.4 2.2 18.1
Tracy Abrams 17 29.4 4.2 11.2 37.7 0.8 3.1 26.9 3.4 4.6 73.1 0.5 3.6 4.1 3.3 1.7 1.2 0.4 1.9 12.6
Joseph Bertrand 17 29.9 4.1 8.0 51.5 0.7 1.5 48.0 2.1 2.9 70.0 2.2 3.6 5.8 0.9 1.9 0.8 0.0 2.0 11.0
Jon Ekey 17 27.9 2.7 7.0 38.7 1.9 5.2 36.0 0.6 0.6 90.9 2.2 3.9 6.1 0.2 0.6 0.4 0.4 2.5 7.9
Nnanna Egwu 17 28.5 3.1 7.4 42.1 0.3 1.1 26.3 1.1 1.4 75.0 2.5 3.2 5.7 0.4 0.9 0.4 2.2 2.7 7.6
Kendrick Nunn 17 12.2 1.5 3.6 40.3 0.4 1.5 26.9 0.4 0.5 66.7 0.2 1.1 1.2 0.6 0.6 0.7 0.1 0.9 3.7
Malcolm Hill 17 10.6 0.7 2.5 27.9 0.2 1.1 15.8 1.5 1.9 78.1 0.6 1.4 1.9 0.6 0.9 0.2 0.2 0.9 3.1
Jaylon Tate 17 15.1 0.8 3.1 26.9 0.1 0.9 6.7 0.9 1.2 71.4 0.2 0.9 1.1 2.4 0.8 0.5 0.2 1.0 2.6
Maverick Morgan 17 7.8 0.8 1.4 56.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.4 71.4 0.7 0.7 1.4 0.2 0.4 0.1 0.4 1.6 1.8
Austin Colbert 14 6.5 0.8 1.6 47.8 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.5 14.3 0.6 0.4 1.1 0.3 0.2 0.0 0.1 1.2 1.6
Mike LaTulip 10 3.7 0.3 0.7 42.9 0.3 0.7 42.9 0.2 0.4 50.0 0.0 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.6 1.1

A huge factor in Purdue's favor tonight, and probably an even bigger reason hat Purdue needs to take advantage of the situation, is that leading scorer Rayvonte Rice is likely out with a strained adductor. I have heard that he may play, but there were also sources reporting that he was definitely out. As The Champaign Room said, he is going to practice at least, so there is a chance he will play.

So Far, Rice has been their best player at 18.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. He shoots a lot of threes and hits about a third of them, but generally their offense runs through him. Against Indiana in the Big Ten opener he went off for 29 points but had a bad night against Northwestern with only 8 points. That Northwestern game is a prime example of what can happen when he is playing well or not at all. The Illini rely on him to be pretty close to 20 points per night, so his absence can't be underestimated.

Even with Rice this has been an up and down team. They got a nice win over Missouri and they played Oregon tough in Portland, but they have lost to Northwestern and barely survived IPFW back in November. The offense has struggled even with Rice to barely get over 70 points per game and in assists they rate 314th out of 351 Division I teams. This is a team that creates many of its own shots, but does rebound fairly well

If Rice is out more of the scoring burden will fall on experienced players Joseph Bertrand and Kendrick Nunn, who are both already in double figures in scoring. Freshman Kendrick Nunn could also played a larger role as he has played more and has been scoring more of late.

In the middle it should be an impressive defensive battle between A.J. Hammons and Nanna Egwu. Both players are two of the best shot blockers in the Big Ten and both have the goal of protecting the rim against the drive. Egwu averages 2.2 blocks per game and his scoring has improved to 7.6 points per game.

Like Sterling Carter and Errick Peck the Illini have their own fifth year transfer in Jon Ekey from Illinois State. Ekey is actually having a better year this year than last season at Illinois State, as he averages 7.9 points per game and is shooting 36% from long range. Like most of Illinois, he likes to shoot the three-pointer. Even Egwu will step out and try from long range as seven different players average at least one three-point attempt per game.

That is where the Egwu-Hammons game could be key. Teams know Hammons is our defensive backbone and they are trying to draw him away from the basket. Egwu can do that. He is only 3 of 19 from three this season, but he will try to play away from the basket and open things up on the drive.

With Penn State and Northwestern coming up as the next two games the Boilers have an excellent chance to build a nice cushion in the league between the teams it is battling for NCAA positioning. This is also a chance for a top 50 road victory. It looked like West Virginia was going to move into that territory before they lost by a point at home to Oklahoma State and followed that with a loss to Texas.

If Rice is out and Purdue still loses this game it would be a terrible blow to Purdue's NCAA chances. Rarely are teams in the Big Ten presented with golden chances for road victories in this league. Hammons has been playing well, but the same old things still apply. The Johnson brothers have to avoid hero ball and there has to be effort on both ends of the floor. With a high effort game I really like Purdue's chances.

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