Smile Politely

Illini basketball preview: Purdue

Illinois at #21 Purdue
6 pm
Big Ten Network

It’s easy to hate Purdue in the abstract (regardless of what our publisher thinks), but it’s really hard to hate this version of the Boilermakers’ men’s basketball team. As a team, there is a whole lot of talent on display and a whole lot that they just do right. Their scoring offense, 82.6 points/game, is 25th in the nation; their scoring margin, 16.3, is 13th. Bottom line: the Boilermakers get buckets.

Much of their success stems from big man Caleb Swanigan, who came back for his sophomore season and is making opponents pay. He’s averaging a double-double, with 18 points and 12 rebounds per game, to which he’s added 14 blocks, 49 assists, and 16 of 34 threes (a better percentage, 47%, than any Illini with more than 10 attempts). Supporting Swanigan are 7-footer Caleb Haas (13.3 pts/gm), Vincent Edwards (12 pts/gm, 3.6 assists/gm), and Dakota Mathias (4.1 assists/gm and 48% from three).

Purdue has shown cracks in conference play, evident in its 3-2 record. For Illinois to win, it should follow the blueprint of Purdue’s loss to Minnesota. The Gophers won by balancing their scoring, but letting a star play above the rest, which is Malcolm Hill in this hypothetical. On defense, Illinois has to limit the damage the role players can do as much as possible, because stopping Swanigan and everyone around him is likely impossible. Given the dichotomous nature of the Illini, this seems possible — but only if the good side of the Illini show up, and who knows if that will happen or if it will happen for 40 minutes even.

My prediction: Purdue wins going away, Swanigan with an easy double-double.

More Articles