|Purdue Boilermakers||vs.||Northwestern Wildcats|
|(22-4 SU, 13-13 ATS)||Form||(12-11 SU, 11-11 ATS)|
When: 9 p.m., Wednesday, February 16
Where: Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston, Ill.
When Purdue wants to be, it’s one of the best teams in the nation and capable of making great teams look awful. But the Boilermakers have only looked like a top team in one of their past four games, beating Illinois by 16 in a game that wasn’t even that close.
Otherwise, Purdue got blown out at Michigan and needed a furious comeback to escape from Maryland at home, which begs the question of whether the Boilers are hitting a lull or if they were simply tired from a stretch of four games in eight days.
Facing Northwestern should help answer that in one direction or the other. The Wildcats won’t be a contender for the NCAA tournament barring something crazy, but they’ve been a tough out in the Big Ten this season.
They arrive as winners of three of their past four and have gone 5-1 ATS since getting blown out by Purdue on Jan. 23. But the Boilers were playing much better basketball then than they are now, and the Wildcats are desperately trying to avoid finishing lower than 10th in the Big Ten for conference tournament seeding. After this game, Northwestern’s remaining schedule is very favorable, and a win here would be a major springboard for the Wildcats.
Betting the Total
With how Purdue is playing right now, this total seems to be a tad high. The Boilers have been an over team all season long, going 16-10 to the over, but Purdue’s offense is really struggling at the moment. That’s because the Boilers haven’t been able to get Jaden Ivey and Sasha Stefanovic on the same page, as Ivey struggled in the win over Maryland and Stefanovic couldn’t do much against Michigan. Purdue is at its best when both of its star shooters are scoring, and the Boilers become much less effective when a team can take one away.
Northwestern prefers a moderate tempo, but the Wildcats have played much better on defense in their recent home games. Indiana only managed 51 points against Northwestern, while Illinois scored 59 in a narrow escape against the Wildcats. Boo Buie is the only proven scoring threat Northwestern has, so an ideal game for the Wildcats would see them slow this down and play to the under.
Backing the Spread
From my viewpoint, the key to this game is rebounding and whether Northwestern does it any better than it did last time. The Wildcats couldn’t get much going against Purdue in the first meeting, grabbing just 19 rebounds to 32 for the Boilers. Those extra possessions can really make a difference, and it did exactly that in a 20-point Purdue win.
Pete Nance has to be better than three rebounds, and he should be as long as he’s not too exhausted from battling Kofi Cockburn in the Illinois game. Assuming Northwestern doesn’t get bludgeoned on the boards, it has a good chance of victory, and I’ll back the Wildcats for the cover.