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

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It is Purdue and Indiana with the Big Ten title on the line. It doesn't get any better.

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Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Around 4pm Saturday, as Michigan was finishing off its 11-0 run to beat Purdue and the Boilers completed their collapse in the last 6 minutes, Purdue was dead in the water when it came to winning the Big Ten. They were three games back in the loss column behind Maryland, Indiana, and Iowa with only a game against Indiana (on the road, no less) and one against Maryland. The preseason hopes of a Big Ten title were DOA, as there were too many "easy" games left for the top three.

Wisconsin 70, Maryland 57

Michigan State 88, Indiana 69

Penn State 79, Iowa 75

Minnesota 68, Maryland 63

Hidden in those results were Indiana trailing early at home to Nebraska and Minnesota coming close to a road upset before falling in Iowa City. Now Purdue is just two games behind Iowa and Indiana, and the following needs to happen for the Boilers to get a piece of the conference title:

Purdue must got 4-0 against Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, and Wisconsin

Indiana must lose one additional game (and still must play Maryland and Iowa)

Iowa must lose two additional games (and has the toughest remaining schedule in the B1G)

That's it! Sure, it might come via a 5-way tie with Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, and Maryland, but it is a piece of the conference title in a year where we have given it away at least three times in losses to Iowa, Maryland, and Michigan. I am not even going to give back the Illinois loss because everyone in the Big Ten now has a complete WTF loss:

Purdue lost at Illinois

Indiana lost at Penn State

Maryland lost at Minnesota

Iowa lost at Penn State

Michigan State lost at home to Nebraska

That makes tomorrow night's game in Bloomington huge. With Maryland absolutely reeling right now I don't trust them to win at Assembly Hall, so an Indiana victory can make their trip to Iowa City essentially a winner-take-all game for the Big Ten crown. It would also eliminate Purdue barring the Hoosiers going 0-3 against Illinois, Iowa, and Maryland down the stretch.

So Purdue is playing on its fourth chance to possibly win the Big Ten. Indiana is playing to control its own path to an outright Big Ten title. It is the biggest Indiana-Purdue game in 8 years, when both teams had a chance at catching Wisconsin for the 2008 crown and Indiana won to deny Purdue a share of that title by one game.

The Rivalry is back, kids.

Opponent

Indiana Hoosiers

Location:

Bloomington, IN

Date:

2/20/2016

Venue:

Assembly Hall (17,472)

TV:

ESPN

Radio Stream:

TuneIn

Satellite Radio:

SIRI 136, XM

Odds:

No Line Yet

Tickets:

As low as $199 on Stubhub

Tipoff:

8:30 pm

KenPom Ranking:

20 of 351

RPI:

33

Blog Representation:

Crimson Quarry, Inside the Hall

2015-16 Record:

21-6, 11-3 Big Ten

All-time series

Purdue leads 115-88

Last Purdue win:

67-63 at Indiana on 2/19/2015

Last Indiana Win:

83-55 at Indiana on 2/16/2013

2014-15 Record:

20-14, 9-9 Big Ten

Last NCAA appearance:

2015 (38 appearances, 1940, 1953, 1976, 1981, 1987 NCAA Champion)

Coach:

Tom Crean (142-117 in 8th year at Indiana, 332-212 overall)

Earlier this year I thought that Indiana was a paper tiger. They came back to beat Notre Dame in the non-conference, but got panted by Duke and lost two of three in Maui to underwhelming teams in Wake Forest and UNLV. Yes, they started 7-0 in Big Ten play, but Wisconsin was the toughest team they played. A seven point win at Rutgers and Minnesota was hardly impressive, but after losing in overtime at Wisconsin they have some pretty good wins. They destroyed Michigan in Ann Arbor with a 28-0 run and cooled off Iowa in Bloomington.

Indiana is such a hard team to figure out because when they are playing well, they can beat anyone in America. When they are off, they can lose to Penn State, UNLV, and Wake Forest. It can vary from half to half and even possession to possession. That should sound vaguely familiar is you are a Purdue fan.

What makes this game so interesting is that the teams play completely opposite styles of play. Purdue has Caleb Swanigan and two seven foot monsters on the low block that represent possibly the best frontcourt in America. When A.J. Hammons goes into full beast mode he has proven that even good teams can't stop him. The frontcourt happens to be a major weakness for Indiana. Thomas Bryant is a highly touted freshman, but battles foul trouble at times and has played soft against a lot of Big Ten opponents. Now he has to defend the best big man in the Big Ten (in America when motivated?) and a 7'2" backup that is also pretty good. Purdue should have a huge advantage down low.

Conversely, Indiana is one of the best perimeter teams in America. They are second in the country in field goal percentage at 50.3% and 8th in three-point shooting at 41.7%. they have made 268 three-pointers this year, 10th in the country and they average 10 per game. When they are on, they can absolutely just light teams up from long range. Purdue has struggled to defend the perimeter at times this year and definitely struggles with quick, athletic wings. Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill combined for 52 points to beat Purdue by 14. Kevin Ferrell and Troy Williams are a lot better than Nunn and Hill.

To me, the biggest swing player is Michigan grad transfer Max Bielfeldt. The 6'8" forward has averaged only 8.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, but he has three-point range and can draw his defender away from the rim. That defender is likely going to be Caleb Swanigan. Swanigan could not contain Robert Carter and Zak Irvin in the last two road games, and that is a very large reason Purdue ended up losing. Those two abused the freshman defensively, and Bielfeldt is capable of a similar performance.

Then there is Ferrell. He is the best point guard in the Big Ten. He scared me as a freshman three years ago and continues to do so today. Over the last four games he is a paltry 10 of 42 from the field and 4 of 26 from three, but he is stills hooting a career best 45.1% from the floor and 41.8% from three. That's before you account for his passing, which is impressive with well over 600 career assists. He is athletic enough to drive to the basket and score or get fouled (career 83% from the line), plus he can find the open wings that can shoot.

There are also all those shooters. Robert Johnson, Bielfeldt, Nick Zeisloft, Collin Hartman, OG Anunoby. All of them shoot better than 40% from three. This team can make it rain and they are so good because they swing the ball around to find the open shooter extremely fast. Also, Anunoby, Johnson, and Williams are excellent at getting to the basket.

Finally, you have Troy Williams. The enigmatic junior is supremely athletic and can take over a game. Against Nebraska he was impressive by going 8 of 9 from the floor, grabbing five rebounds and three assists for 18 points. That showed why NBA scouts love him. Then you have his previous game, where he was scoreless and virtually a ghost against Michigan State. Like Swanigan, he is a five-star talent that can also be a turnover machine.

It is so hard to figure this game out. Indiana beat Iowa because they got all over the offensive boards with 19. Purdue generally has no trouble out-rebounding its opponents, so it should be able to prevent this. There is no guarantee however. Indiana's raw athleticism can also account for a lot of its deficiencies in size.

I can see this being a blowout for either team. I can see Indiana going cold, Williams playing too fast and turning the ball over, Ferrell staying in his shooting funk, and Hammons going beast mode for 30-15-7 (7 being blocked shots) while absolutely abusing the freshman in Bryant, all while Rapheal Davis slashes to the basket with confidence and one of the three shooters in Mathias/Cline/Stephens hitting 3-4 threes to throw them further off balance. In fact, I can see it being Stephens the most because he has played 12 total minutes and taken three shots in the last eight games with no points, so this could be his Sterling Carter/Bryson Scott out of nowhere game.

I can also see Indiana heating up on the perimeter and whipping the ball around for three-pointer after three-pointer. They bombed away on Illinois for 19 of 36 in dropping 103 points. I can see Hammons getting in foul trouble, Isaac Haas struggling to hit fadeaway after fadeaway, and the Purdue shooting giving another 3 for 25 long range performance as Davis and Vince Edwards don't attack the basket and Bielfeldt lights up Swanigan for 20+.

Neither one of these scenarios would shock me. The teams are just so different and often so weak at defending the each other's respective strengths that it can come down to said strength dominating while the opponents' said strength has a bad night. I have some comfort in believing it is more likely that Purdue will have a respectable game from long range than Indiana being able to pound it and win the battle down low, but that isn't much comfort when I know Purdue has struggled shooting more often than not.

In the end, Indiana is at home, and they are undefeated there this season. They have a Big Ten title to play for and their undefeated home record is a big reason why. As much as I want Purdue to win their 4th in a row in the series, I know it is very, very difficult to win in Bloomington under normal circumstances. Given their recent excellent home record against ranked teams and the fact that Purdue hasn't beaten a ranked Indiana team in Bloomington since 1999 I just don't have a good feeling. Purdue has a chance to seize the moment yet again and go after the Big Ten crown, but as good as it has been it has yet to prove it can go out and take what it needs to take to move this season from good to special. This is probably the last time before the NCAA tournament to do it, too.