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Game Preview and Odds: #3 Purdue at Penn St.

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#3 Purdue has fallen to 1-2 in the Big Ten and must chase its first road win of the season against their former Assistant Head Coach.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Welp. The good thing about free falling this early in the Big Ten Conference season is you have plenty of time to find and pull the zip cord.

Purdue’s barely gotten off the Big Ten plane and it’s already staring down a big drop. Despite the relatively easy start to conference play, the Boilermakers are now 1-2 in the Big Ten.

The loss to Rutgers was bad, but it was on the road and there’s some argument that any half-court heave to beat you is bad luck. But to host the Badgers at home and give up 37 points to Johnny Davis on the way to a 5 point loss in Mackey Arena... well Coach Painter might not be the type to panic but the fan base certainly is.

Purdue’s defense has plummeted over the last month. Dropping from a borderline top-20 defense to now resting comfortably outside the top 60 according to KenPom’s efficiency ratings.

Almost as alarming, the vaunted Purdue offense has hit some snags. Purdue coaches and programs know Purdue’s offense, certainly more than non-conference opponents and whether it’s that familiarity, rough B10 play, or a fall of execution, the Boilers have still yet to top 80 points in a conference game. A mark they hurdled easily in the first 7 games of the season.

Purdue still has the number 1 offense in the country, but it’s not looking nearly as daunting as it did when they were whipping Villanova and North Carolina in back to back games.

Thankfully for Purdue they will play a Penn State team that is a tough team that plays hard, with good athleticism, and a coach who was responsible for good portions of the architecture of Purdue’s offense. His players play a similar style and they should be familiar with the principles and motion.

Wait. Those are all bad things.

While Penn State should absolutely be a win for Purdue, the certainty of that is starting to dwindle. Purdue should have handled Rutgers and Wisconsin at home. They should have beat Nicholls by more than 14. But Coach Painter has lost some of the magic with his rotation and players that had started off the season strong.

While Ethan Morton has been a revelation, Isaiah Thompson and Eric Hunter Jr. are becoming barely playable at point guard. Caleb Furst who started the season looking like one of the best freshman in the country and the perfect four next to Trevion Williams and Zach Edey, is recording from COVID and played just six minutes against Wisconsin after struggling for the month prior.

Brandon Newman is all but out of the rotation at this point.

Those players on the fringe were the reason this Purdue team looked so good coming into the season. They represented a raised ceiling for Purdue. Right now, the ceiling is collapsing.

The good sign is, despite a down Williams game against Wisconsin, the Boilers bigs are still dominant. Edey was an especially undeterred force against the Badgers. Two bigs for the Badgers fouled out on the way of allowing 24 points to Edey in 20 minutes. The Badgers have an unusual amount of seven footers that can play.

Penn State doesn’t even have one. Coach Micah Shrewsberry, former Purdue assistant under Coach Painter, has done a great job grabbing talent from the trasnfer portal and coaching up his guys. The Nittany Lions aren’t great at anything, but they have shifty guards that can score and a big that works really really hard on the glass.

Seth Lundy is scoring nearly 15 points a game and big man John Harrar is averaging a double-double.

But Harrar is only 6’9”. He’s Penn States biggest player by a lot. He’ll have his hands full with Williams in the post and especially with Edey who has a seven inch advantage on him. If Harrar gets into foul trouble, Shrewsberry will have to go two bigs even smaller who have barely been trusted this season.

Purdue needs to get right. They need Painter to figure out their rotation and get their guards playing again - it’d be nice if it happens Saturday. But they won’t be comfortable on offense. They’ll have to earn it.

Shrewsberry is one of the best offense minds in the game. He knows these players and he’s smart at attacking weaknesses and the way Purdue’s guards has been defending, that’s just about everywhere. It could be another disappointing showing. Penn State has three guards that can shoot and score.

But Purdue’s length should be able to dominate. Should be hasn’t been happening much for Purdue lately though.

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)