|John Groce hasn't had much time for a makeover since taking over the Illini job|
Already, we've seen Indiana struggle on the road at Iowa, and it's just a reminder that every Big Ten road game is going to be a battle. As Purdue welcomes #11 Illinois into Mackey, the Boilers need to realize that their not really gunning for an upset - they're supposed to win all their home games. Meanwhile, Illinois has played 3 true road games, barely sneaking past Hawaii by 1, pulling off an impressive 11 point win over Gonzaga, and then finally losing their only game of the season at Missouri.
New coach John Groce has really put an emphasis on outside shooting and so far the Illini have come through. Illinois is leading the COUNTRY in 3-pointers made and is second in 3-pointers attempted (shooting 37%). So while the Illini may never be out of a game, a cold streak could give Purdue the chance their looking for.
Sure, wins over Gonzaga and Butler are impressive, but fans and experts are still not convinced that Illinois is for real as their schedule is filled with close calls over bad teams. Other than the Hawaii loss mentioned above, the Illini hit a 3-pointer with 4 seconds left to beat Gardner-Webb by 1, and are currently coming off a win over Auburn by 2. That's the same Gardner-Webb team that's lost to awful Lipscomb and Wofford teams this year (trust me on this one - Lipscomb and Wofford are not always bad, but this year they are). And Auburn is pretty much the same bad team they've been for the last 10 years.
Anyway, all that is proof that Illinois team is definitely beatable. They struggled from the field in both of those games, so if the Boilers can force tough shots and make a few of their own, I see no reason why Purdue can't win this one.
Why Illinois Will Win
This is a veteran team that probably won't be phased by Mackey Arena. Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, and Tyler Griffey are all senior starters putting together excellent years. Add in junior Joseph Bertrand and senior Sam McLaurin, both averaging over 20 minutes a game off the bench, and you realize that Groce inherited a really solid and experienced team. The Illini have 6-11 Nnanna Egwu to negate AJ Hammons' height, and even if Illinois struggles from the field, it's highly doubtful that Purdue will generate enough offense to put the visitors a way. And oh yeah, the Paint Crew won't be there. This appears to be a great matchup for Illinois.
One thing you absolutely need to know before the game
Alright, you're bummed about the bowl game today. And the basketball team has had more bumps in the road than you expected. So it's time to do a comparison and maybe give everyone some hope for 2013.
We keep hearing how these aren't the Baby Boilers. That the Baby Boilers were much better. That they didn't experience nearly the growing pains in their first year - I mean, they made the tournament, right? Well, on the brink of the Big Ten season, let's do a little comparison about where that 2007 team was and where our current team is heading into their first conference game...
Blow outs at home:
2007: (4) Bethune-Cookman, Loyola Chicago, Texas Southern, and Florida International
2012: (3) Hofstra, UNC-Wilmington, and Lamar
Advantage: EVEN - None of these teams are/were any good. The 2007 team happened to play one more cupcake than the 2012 team did.
Closer than expected games at home in which the opponents had leads in the second half:
2007: (3) Lipscomb, Indiana State, and Ball State
2012: (2) Ball State and William & Mary
Advantage: EVEN - All 5 of these games were close calls against teams that weren't very good and didn't help the RPI much. The 2007 team actually had 3 of these games, so that year could have arguably been worse, but I'll keep it even for now.
Shocking losses that are killers come March:
2007: (1) Wofford
2012: (1) at Eastern Michigan
Advantage: 2012 - I'd argue this year's loss was at least on the road. Wofford at home was inexcusable.
Surprising wins that make you think this team has potential:
2007: (1) Louisville in Indianapolis
2012: (1) at Clemson
Advantage: 2007 - Louisville was ranked #22 at the time, so this ultimately turned into a very big win. And while Clemson has not been very good this year, remember that Purdue absolutely destroyed them in a true road game. They'd have beat several ranked teams that night.
2012: (1) Notre Dame
Advantage: EVEN - Both teams had pretty manageable schedules. This year's team shouldn't be penalized for playing Notre Dame.
Winnable games lost to teams outside the bubble:
2007: (3) at Missouri, at Clemson, Iowa State (neutral)
2012: (4) Bucknell, Oregon State (neutral), Villanova (neutral), Xavier
Advantage: 2007 - Simple, they had one less loss to a decent, but non-tournament team.
Wins against decent teams outside the bubble:
2007: (1) Missouri State (neutral)
Advantage: 2007 - This was a last second win in Vegas...the 2007 team didn't want to leave Vegas 0-2 like the 2012 team did in New York.
This 2012 team is a Villanova collapse from being VERY close to the 2007 team. Villanova would move into the Missouri State spot on the 2007 schedule, meaning the main comparisons would be the bad loss and the best win. When comparing those, 2007 had a better win but slightly worse loss, so basically the 2007 team benefited from playing their best game against a better team.
So, if Purdue hangs on to their 8-point lead in the last minute to Villanova (getting screwed by the ridiculous elbow call in the meantime), we're basically saying this year's team is just slightly behind the 2007 team that ended up with a 9-seed (which would have been higher had they not lost the first round BTT game against Illinois). This year's team is very close to where the 2007 team was at this point. Could they somehow gel and go 15-3 in the Big Ten? Probably not - the Big Ten is very good this year. But if a Purdue team with similar results and a bunch of Freshmen did it before, why not this year?
It all starts Wednesday night...
Our Picks - We like to think we're better than Vegas. So throughout the season, we'll be "betting" a whole dollar amount versus the spread between $1 and $32, but we can't repeat the same value twice. The spread for this game is Illinois -2.5.
Erik's Bet: $28
Erik's Pick: Illinois 76 - Purdue 62
Kirk's Bet: $18
Kirk's Pick: Illinois 72 - Purdue 63
Erik +236 (12-2 Against The Spread)
Kirk -87 (6-8 Against The Spread)
Values already bet
Erik 3, 6, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32
Kirk 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32