The final home game for the 2022-2023 season for the Boilers will come against an Illini team that has had a very up and down season featuring wins against UCLA and Texas in the non-conference but also loses to Penn State and an Ohio State team that had lost 14 of their previous 15 games. Standing at 20-10 overall and 11-8 in the B1G, Illinois can finish as high as the #2 overall seed but also as low as 9th depending on the outcomes of other games.
Let’s get into the important matchups!
1 | Purdue’s Shooting from Behind the Arc vs. Illinois 3pt Shooting
There is no secret that Purdue is struggling to shoot from behind the arc consistently this season. The shooting has been atrocious of late from Purdue behind the arc as they have shot above 23% just once in the last five games. In fact, Purdue has shot below 30% from behind the arc in 9 games this season and above 40% in 11 of their games. That kind of big swings in shooting can either lead Purdue to struggle in March when the games get more important. When Purdue gets to the magic point of 35% shooting from behind the arc they are 16-0 versus when shooting below that mark they are just 9-5.
There aren’t many major conference teams who shoot worse from behind the arc than Purdue but Illinois is one of them. Shooting just 30.9% from behind the arc on the season and featuring a starter who doesn’t shoot threes (Dain Dainja), Illinois continues to take the attempts even though they shoot poorly. That being said, an Illini team that is shooting well from behind the arc doesn’t bode well for Purdue if they want to end the regular season with a W.
2 | Illinois’ Length on the Perimeter vs. Purdue’s Struggles Against Bigger Guards
Purdue has as talented of a set of freshman guards as there are in the country with both of them likely to find themselves on the All Freshman team for the B1G. The issue with that is when the opponent has some guards that are just bad matchups for them from a physicality standpoint. There is just a big difference between 18 year olds and 22+ players who have spent 4 to 5 years playing college basketball like Terrance Shannon has. Other than Shannon, Illinois also features 6’9 Matt Mayer, 6’7 RJ Melendez, 6’6 Ty Rogers, and 6’4 Sencire Harris.
Purdue just doesn’t have that kind of length on the perimeter and will need Edey’s presence in the paint on both ends to carry Purdue against the Illini. Purdue has also struggled to run efficient offenses against teams who have been able to muddy up their cuts and screens through aggressive approaches on defense. Illinois doesn’t have a single dominant force inside to really compete with Purdue but they have the guards, that when they are playing well, can give Purdue fits to deal with for an entire game.
3 | Who Wins the Free Throw Battle
These are two of the top free throw shooting teams in the conference with both averaging 17 trips to the free throw line per game. They use different strategies to get there as the Illini look to penetrate to get to the free throw line and Purdue uses their inside-out game with Edey to draw fouls. The issue is that the teams don’t always take advantage of those trips to the line as Purdue shoots just 74% (6th in the B1G) while Illinois shoots 69.8% (10th in the B1G). Whoever can get to the free throw line, put their opponent in foul trouble, and make their free throws gains an incredible advantage.
Well, this is one that I’m just not feeling confident in at all. Every game this season I have predicted a Purdue win but I’m not sure how this one will play out, at all. Purdue has struggled against teams built just like Illinois’ all season and can’t seem to string together a complete game since November/December. Illinois, on the other hand, is as hot and cold a team as you will find but the 2OT victory against Michigan has to provide them with some sort of a boost. Too much rest has appeared to be a hinderance to Purdue and playing their second game in 4 days might provide a bit of consistency for them after playing just 3 games in 15+ days. The thing is, this Purdue team seems to just play a bit better on the road than they do at home in Mackey lately.