The game of the night for me is in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes are rolling out the welcome matts for #6 Purdue in a Big Ten showdown worthy of your time. Both of these teams score. Both of these teams have a legitimate Wooden Award candidate. However, only one is the betting favorite. Purdue is -2 as we write.
The Boilermakers have all the right pieces to make a return trip to the Final Four for the first time since 1980 and it all starts up front with Jaden Ivey. He is catalyst that makes Purdue everything it can be. The visitors got good news when Ivey himself said he would play in this game tonight despite sitting out the most recent game with a hip injury. He’s a gritty player that averages 16.7 points per game and he’s even better on the road shooting better from three, scoring more overall (19.0) and even getting to the free-throw line more often. He’s got +3500 odds to win the Wooden and if you want to take a flyer on the best player on what could be the best team going into conference championship week, you could do worse.
Purdue also has a massive forward in Trevion Williams who is not only good, but even better on the road too. He averages more points (15.7 vs 10.9) and shoots better too (59.3% vs 54.1%). It was against Iowa that the 6’10” senior had his highest rebounding effort of the season (18) and the second-most in his career (20 vs. Michigan). There is however, a caveat.
Keegan Murray. He’s the other Wooden Award candidate I referenced (+1600 on FanDuel) and he just so happens to be the third leading scorer in the country. He also was averaging 24.6 points per game in the first month of the season and that was just before he missed the last meeting between these two on December 3. Iowa struggled mightily in that game, got down big early and often, made a late run but was down too far in the end sans their superstar. Since that brief losing streak to three really good teams (Purdue, Illinois & Iowa State), Iowa has been a firecracker. They’ve won 7 of their last nine game and make no mistake, having Murray means a lot. He’s scoring 23.4 points per game in that stretch and the 6’8″ leader is grabbing 8.9 rebounds per.
The Boilermakers have won 5 of their last 6 against Iowa and to continue it they will have to rebound. Good news: they are really good at it. They are 2nd in the nation in rebounding margin. Also, if Purdue is going to win, they will have to adjust and fight thru the eventually coming press from Iowa. The Hawkeyes used that in their last meeting to fight their way back from 19 points down to nearly springing a wild upset. Matt Painter has to have practiced this A LOT in the past couple of days. If not, he will be lambasted for yet again struggling with the press.
I think tonight Purdue will limit it’s turnovers (17 last time these two met). They know how big this game is for them and for Iowa and they also now know how Iowa will try and hurt them. I am playing Purdue to cover the -2 and I am also on the over 155.