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Purdue at Illinois: Preview, Odds, and How to Watch

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Purdue heads to Illinois for an early Sunday evening Big Ten contest.

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Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Does everyone feel better after Thursday night? I certainly do. Purdue still started slow, had issues with turnovers, and had an opposing player go off, but won over an NCAA caliber team by 17 points. The Boilers got it done thanks to Rapheal Davis emerging as an offensive threat, A.J. Hammons being A.J. Hammons, and hitting some timely threes.

Then you think about it, Purdue has a pretty simple formula for winning. They are most likely going to hold a team under 70 points. Only two teams, Butler and Vermont got over 70 in the first 16 games of the year. From there, Purdue just needs to find a way to get to 71. So far, Purdue's lowest totals were 61 points against Old Dominion and Wisconsin, both of whom Purdue beat. If not for a disastrous second half against Iowa it would have been fine. Only against Butler was there a real question, and even then a lengthy drought stopped Purdue.

We have also seen what specifically hurts Purdue. Iowa's press and Butler's tenacity both caused problems. They prevented Purdue from driving to the basket with Vince Edwards, Davis, and Johnny Hill. That, more than Purdue's spotty three-point shooting, opens up the middle. Once Purdue had some inside-out versatility with players that can either score on the drive or shoot, things looked much better on Thursday.

So now Purdue goes back on the road, where it has not lost a true road game in two attempts. The road is where Big Ten titles are won. The Boilers have already dropped their limit of home games in league play if they want to contend for the conference title. They need to get it done on the road too, especially in games like this where they are favored.

Opponent

Illinois Fighting Illini

Location:

Champaign, IL

Date:

1/10/2016

Venue:

State Farm Center (17,200), Champaign, IL

TV:

BTN

Radio Stream:

TuneIn

Satellite Radio:

SIRI 136, XM

Odds:

No Line

Tickets:

As low as $18 on Stubhub

Tipoff:

6pm

KenPom Ranking:

126 of 351

RPI:

115

Blog Representation:

The Champaign Room

2015-16 Record:

8-8, 0-3 Big Ten

All-time series

Purdue leads 98-86

Last Purdue win:

63-58 at Purdue on 3/7/2015

Last Illinois Win:

66-57 at Illinois on 1/21/2015

2014-15 Record:

19-14, 9-9 Big Ten(Lost in NIT First Round

Last NCAA appearance:

2013 (33 appearances) 2005 NCAA Runner-Up

Coach:

John Groce (70-50 in 4th year at Illinois, 155-102 overall, 2-3 vs. Purdue)

Purdue has dominated the recent series with the Illini, winning 10 of the last 12 meetings. They did lose the first meeting last year, however, in Champaign before turning the tables in West Lafayette. On paper it looks like that trend will continue as well. This season has not been kind to the Illini in many ways. Leading scorer Kendrick Nunn missed the first five games of the season with an injury and missed Thursday's Michigan State game to attend the birth of his son. Leron Black has also missed significant time with a knee injury as well as Mike Thorne, Jr. Those two were two of their top forwards, and not having the 6'11" Thorne, with his 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game is a significant disadvantage against Hammons and Haas.

In the non-conference they had a one point loss to a very good Providence team, but lost by 12 to North Florida and 4 to Chattanooga. There were also very close calls with Chicago State, North Dakota State, Illinois-Chicago, and Yale. Sure, they were able to push Iowa State well, but overall this has been an inconsistent team decimated by injuries.

Illinois rates dead last in the Big Ten in scoring defense, giving up 74.8 points per game. They are one of three teams (joining Rutgers and Minnesota) that has been outscored overall. Their defense was evident on Thursday when Michigan State easily could have scored 100, but let off the gas in a blowout. North Florida hit 93 in the season opener. They have been getting some decent play from their guards, however. Malcolm Hill (17.4 ppg) and Michael Finke (10 ppg) have both done very well in addition to Nunn. Nunn and Hill have been an excellent backcourt averaging a total of 36 points and 5 assists combined.

Off the bench Jalen Coleman-Lands, and Indiana kid who played in HS at Cathedral, is averaging 9 points per game too. He gives them another solid scorer at guard. Finke and Maverick Morgan give them a couple of good forwards too, and at 6'10" they can probably play a little against Haas and Hammons.

The difference is defense though. This Illinois team makes Indiana look like a stout defensive team. The Illini are last in Field Goal % defense, last in 3 point FG % defense, and they are the worst rebounding team in the Big Ten. Since Purdue leads the Big Ten in defense, this could get ugly. I expect Purdue to take care of business in this one. The Illini are already 0-3 in Big Ten play and are clearly limping through the season. We just cannot afford to lose this one at all.