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Opening Odds and Game Preview: #7 Purdue vs Nebraska

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Purdue had an unexpected week off to prep for a home game against Nebraska.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska coming to Mackey on the heels of a Boilermaker clash with Michigan in Ann Arbor had all the makes of a let down game.

Unfortunately COVID robbed Purdue of a marquee match-up, and maybe more unfortunate for Nebraska, gave Coach Painter and his Boilers a whole week to prepare for a struggling Nebraska basketball program.

Purdue is coming off their first road win of the year, a tense 74-67 victory against their former assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry at Penn St. Their offense remains elite - if they get shots up, they’re more likely to go in than for any other team in the nation whether it’s from range or inside. They’re the 3rd best three-point shooting team in the country, shooting over 40%, and the 9th best inside the arc at nearly 60%.

So why does Purdue have two disappointing losses? Their defense.

They’re not forcing teams into turnovers and they’re giving up a lot of three-point shots. 38% of opposing team’s points are from three-pointers, this is the 22nd most given up in the nation. It’d be one thing if these three-pointers were rushed or well defended, but if you’ve watched Purdue this season, you know they’ve been over helping on the perimeter, not getting into rotation, and giving a lot of jumpers up with a defender two steps out of place.

This allows teams like Rutgers and Penn State to stick around in game. If they make just a few more of these looks than their numbers indicate they should, and then Purdue finds themselves in a ball game. They hit a few more of these than they should and a half-court buzzer beater? Well that’s how Purdue loses games.

Their other problem on defense has been a lack of an elite shut down wing or guard defender. Johnny Davis scored more than 30 in leading the Badgers to just their fourth win ever in Mackey Arena. This was after Ron Harper Jr. dropped thirty against Purdue. These big, strong, capable guards are making easy work of Purdue, bullying their way inside and in the mid-range, and taking advantage of open looks on the perimeter.

Fortunately, and this could be seen as a turning point in the Boilers season, Coach Painter got a whole extra week of practice to try and fix his defense. He gets to test it out, at home, against the worst team in the conference by a very large margin.

Nebraska basketball has taken on the moniker of their coach, Fred Hoiberg. And by that I mean they’re not very good at what they do.

Bryce McGowens is an interesting prospect, who has a lot of freedom to use his long frame to shoot, shoot, and shoot more, but he’s one of the most wildly inefficient shooters in the country. He’s chucked 79 threes on the season and made just 20 of them.

Alonzo Verge is one of the most ball dominant, assist getting guards in the country. He’ll be an interesting test for two point guards for Purdue that have struggled to win any point guard match up, but he’s jealous of McGowens jumper.

Nebraska doesn’t have great talent, or athleticism, or a coach to maximize what they do have. They’ve struggled mightily on the glass. The line will be close to 20 points in a Big Ten game and it’s well earned. Even if Nebraska does have a surprising offensive performance, expect Purdue bigs to carry the day and Ivey to have an electric return to Mackey.

A well rested and hopefully adjusted Purdue team should make short work of the fighting Hoibergs.

Basketball GameDay Vitals

Illinois Fighting Illini Record: 13-3, 6-0 Big Ten
Illinois Fighting Illini Record: 13-3, 6-0 Big Ten
From: Champaign, IL
Game Location: Champaign, IL
Venue: State Farm Center (15,544)
Odds: No Line Yet
Date & Time: Monday, January 17, 2022, Noon ET
Streaming Radio TuneIn
TV: FOX
Live Stats: Purdue Sports
KenPom 11
NET 11
Blog Representation: The Champaign Room
2020-21 Record 24-7, 16-4 Big Ten
Postseason Result: Lost to Loyola-Chicago 71-58 in NCAA Tournament Second Round
NCAA Tournament History: 31 appearances, last in 2021. 2005 NCAA Runner-up
Series With Purdue: Purdue leads 102-90
Last Purdue win: 73-56 at Purdue on 2/27/2019
Last Illinois win: 66-58 at Illinois on 1/2/2021
Coach: Brad Underwood (84-59 in 5th year at Illinois, 193-86 overall)