February 22, 2018
By Brian Edwards
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**Purdue at Illinois**
-- Purdue (24-5 straight up, 14-13-1 against the spread) is in third place in the Big Ten with its 13-3 record. Matt Painter’s team is 1.5 games behind Michigan State, which is atop the league standings with its 15-2 mark in conference action. Ohio State is in second place following Tuesday’s home rout of Rutgers with its 14-3 Big Ten ledger. The Boilermakers finish the regular season at Illinois and at home vs. Minnesota.
-- As of early this morning, most books had Purdue installed as a 9.5-point favorite with a total of 147.5.
-- Purdue has won outright in seven of nine road assignments, posting a 4-4-1 spread record.
-- Purdue ended a three-game losing streak in Sunday’s non-covering home win over Penn State by a 76-73 count as a 9.5-point home favorite. Painter’s team trailed by nine points in the first half and four at halftime. However, the Boilermakers started the second half on a 22-9 run to lead by 11 at the under-12 television timeout. PSU didn’t fold, though, answering with a 13-4 spurt to pull even at 58-58. Purdue’s Ryan Cline drained a trifecta to respond with 5:31 remaining and his team led the rest of the way. Carsen Edwards scored a game-high 27 points for the winners, while Dakota Mathias hit 7-of-11 field-goal attempts in an 18-point effort. Isaac Haas added 12 points and six rebounds.
-- Purdue is No. 9 in the latest edition of the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 10 in the RPI Rankings. The Boilermakers are 3-3 versus the RPI Top 25, 4-3 against the Top 50 and 10-4 versus the Top 100. They have wins at Michigan, at Marquette and at Maryland, in addition to neutral-court victories over Arizona and Butler. Purdue also has home triumphs over Louisville, Michigan, Nebraska, Maryland and Penn State.
-- Purdue’s losses have come at home to Ohio St, at Michigan State and on neutral courts vs. Tennessee and Western Ky. The Boilermakers ripped off a school-record 19 consecutive wins after falling to the Hilltoppers and Volunteers on back-to-back days at the Battle for Atlantis over the Thanksgiving holidays.
-- In Joe Lunardi’s latest ‘Bracketology’ installment that was posted Monday at ESPN.com, Purdue was a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region slotted to face Montana in Detroit. The 2/15 winner would get the 7/10 Butler-Arkansas survivor.
-- Carsen Edwards is averaging a team-best 17.4 points per game. The sophomore point guard has outstanding speed off the dribble and shoots accurately, making 46.8 percent of his FGAs, 39.8 percent of his treys and 82.1 percent of his free throws. Carsen Edwards has 35 steals and an 83/49 assist-to-turnover ratio. Vince Edwards (14.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG) is draining 47.5 percent of his FGAs, 40.4 percent of his 3-balls and 84.2 percent of his FTAs. Isaac Haas (14.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG) stands 7’2” and has a nice array of low-post moves, while Mathias (11.9 PPG) is lights out from long distance (45.3%) and has a 125/43 assist-to-turnover ratio. Mathias also paces Purdue in steals with 1.3 per game, and Matt Haarms leads the team in blocked shots (2.4 BPG).
-- Illinois (13-16 SU, 10-14 ATS) is in the first season of Brad Underwood’s tenure after he pulled a one-year, turn-and-burn at Oklahoma State. It wasn’t a good look for Underwood, who had a strong run at Stephen F. Austin to score the OSU gig after nearly taking the Lumberjacks to the Sweet 16 of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. His Cowboys lost by one to Michigan in the best first-round game of the 2017 Tourney, but he hauled tail out of Stillwater shortly afterward. Like when Lon Kruger left Florida for Champaign-Urbana in the mid-90s to go to a basketball-first school, only time will tell if it was the right move for the former Frank Martin assistant at both Kansas State and South Carolina.
-- Illinois is No. 174 in the RPI with its winless record in four games against RPI Top-25 opponents. The Illini is 1-5 versus the Top 50 and 2-8 against the Top 100. They have a neutral-court win over Missouri and a home win over Nebraska.
-- Illinois ended Nebraska’s six-game winning streak with Sunday’s 72-66 win as a one-point home favorite. Leron Black led the way with 28 points and seven rebounds, draining 11-of-18 attempts from the field and 3-of-4 launches from downtown. Kipper Nichols and Trent Frazier added 12 points apiece for the winners, who hit 9-of-21 from 3-point land (42.9%).
-- Underwood’s team went to East Lansing on Tuesday night to face Michigan State. Illinois trailed the Spartans by only three at intermission, but Tom Izzo’s team turned it up in the second half and coasted to an 81-61 win as a 16.5-point home favorite. Black scored 20 points in the losing effort, while Frazier finished with 14 points and five assists.
-- Illinois is 12-5 SU and 6-7 ATS at home this season. This will be the Illini’s fourth game as a home underdog. They’re 0-3 SU and 1-2 ATS in the three previous such spots.
-- Black has been the shining star in this rebuilding season. The junior forward is averaging 15.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while shooting at a 56.3 percent clip from the field. Black has buried a remarkable 53.1 percent of his 3’s and 80.2 percent of his FTAs. Frazier (12.3 PPG) is the only other Illinois player scoring in double figures.
-- The ‘under’ is 16-12 overall for the Boilermakers, 7-2 in their nine road games. The Boilermakers have seen the ‘under’ go 11-3 in their past 14 outings.
-- The ‘under’ is 15-9-1 overall for Illinois, 6-6-1 in its home games. -- Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on Fox Sports 1.
**UCLA at Utah**
-- Utah (17-9 SU, 13-9-2 ATS) is in fourth place in the Pac-12, trailing loop-leading Arizona by 2.5 games. The Utes, who are 9-6 in league play, are one game back of UCLA and USC, who are tied for second place with 10-5 conference ledgers.
-- Utah is No. 50 in the latest RPI, going 0-2 versus the RPI Top 25, 4-6 against the Top 50 and 6-8 vs. the Top 100. The Utes have three quality road wins at Arizona State, at Washington and at Oregon, in addition to home victories over the likes of Missouri, Washington and Stanford.
-- In Lunardi’s latest projections (he usually provides a new updated version on Thursdays, but it wasn’t available before this story was filed), only two – yes, TWO! – Pac-12 teams were in his field. UCLA, USC and Washington were the top three teams in his First Four Out. Meanwhile, Utah was a part of his Next Four Out.
-- As of early this morning, most spots had Utah listed as a 3.5-point favorite with a total of 149.5.
-- Utah has won outright in 11 of 13 home games, compiling a 7-2 spread record.
-- Utah has won four straight games while going 3-1 ATS. The lone non-cover came by one-half point in Saturday’s 77-70 win at Washington State as a 7.5-point road ‘chalk.’ The Utes led by as many as 20 in the first half, by 10 at halftime and they were ahead of the number nearly the entire second half. However, a 68-59 advantage with 3:10 remaining was trimmed to four (72-68) with 1:20 left and the Cougars eventually secured a backdoor cover. Justin Bibbins led the winners with 24 points and four assists. Tyler Rawson produced 15 points, 15 rebounds and three assists, while Gabe Bealer hit 6-of-12 treys in an 18-point effort.
-- The home team has covered the number at an 8-1 clip in the past nine head-to-head meetings between these Pac-12 adversaries. The ‘under’ is on a 6-1-1 run in the last eight encounters.
-- When these schools collided at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 11, UCLA smashed Utah by an 83-64 count as a 6.5-point home ‘chalk.’ The 147 combined points strolled ‘under’ the 154-point total. Aaron Holiday led the Bruins with 20 points and six assists, knocking down 7-of-10 FGAs and all four of his launches from 3-point land. Kris Wilkes added 19 points, four rebounds and four steals, while Prince Ali finished with 13 points, nine boards and three assists compared to merely one turnover. Utah’s David Collette scored a team-best 15 points in the losing effort.
-- Bibbins is averaging team-highs in scoring (14.1 PPG), assists (4.8 APG) and steals (1.3 SPG). Rawson (10.9 PPG) lead the Utes in rebounding (6.1 RPG) and blocked shots (1.1 BPG), while Collette (12.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG) is shooting at a team-best 61.8 percent clip from the field. Sedrick Barefield (11.2 PPG) is also averaging double figures.
-- UCLA (19-8 SU, 14-13 ATS) is No. 47 in the RPI with its 2-2 record against the Top 25, a 5-4 mark versus the Top 50 and an 8-7 ledger against the Top 100. Steve Alford’s club owns home wins over Washington, Utah, USC, Stanford, Oregon and South Dakota, in addition to a road win at Arizona and a neutral-court scalp of Kentucky in New Orleans.
-- UCLA is starting to make its push toward an at-large berth to the 2018 NCAA Tournament, posting six wins in its past seven games while going 5-2 ATS. The Bruins are on a 5-1 surge both SU and ATS, including Saturday’s 86-78 overtime win over Oregon as three-point favorites. Holiday was the catalyst with a sensational performance, producing 29 points, six assists and five rebounds. The junior point guard buried 9-of-13 FGAs and was true on 5-of-9 attempts from long distance. Wilkes contributed 19 points, five boards and three assists, and Thomas Welsh added 14 points, 14 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
-- UCLA has limped to a 2-5 SU record and a 3-4 ATS mark in seven true road assignments.
-- Holiday leads the Bruins in scoring (19.4 PPG), assists (5.7 APG) and steals (1.3 SPG). Welsh (13.1 PPG) is UCLA’s leading rebounder (10.7 RPG) and shoots at a 49.3 percent clip from the floor.
-- The ‘over’ is 15-12 overall for the Bruins, 5-2 in their seven road outings.
-- The ‘under’ is 4-1 in Utah’s last five games to improve to 14-9-1 overall, 7-3-1 in its home contests.
-- ESPN will provide television coverage at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Notre Dame star senior Bonzie Colson has returned to practice this week from the fractured foot sustained on Jan. 2. Mike Brey has told reporters that he’s going to exercise caution with Colson’s return, especially since the Fighting Irish’s chances of getting to the NCAA Tournament are bleak. The plan is for him to try and practice Thursday and Friday, but Brey has indicated that Colson will have to really impress him to get playing time Saturday against Wake Forest. “Pittsburgh’s (next week) realistic, depending upon how he reacts,” Brey told 247 Sports. Notre Dame started the season with an 11-3 record, as Colson was averaging 21.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.4 blocked shots and 2.0 steals per game. Yes, he was probably on his way to earning All-American honors and the Irish was headed back to the Tournament had Colson not been injured.
-- Iowa State sophomore forward Solomon Young (7.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG) had his knee scoped Tuesday and will be out for 3-4 weeks. Also, Nick Weiler-Babb is probably out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Weiler-Babb, a junior guard, is averaging 11.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game.
-- Maryland is already locked into the No. 8 seed at next week’s Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The event will be held one week earlier than normal due to the Big East’s use of MSG for its conference tournament. This will give Big Ten teams an extra week to prep for the NCAA Tournament, although fewer teams from the league will be invited compared to normal this year. In fact, Lunardi’s latest had just four Big Ten teams in the field, but Nebraska was a part of his First Four Out (and then beat Indiana at home on Tuesday) and Penn State was in his Next Four Out.
-- This space has spent plenty of time discussing how refreshing it has been for SEC basketball to finally be relevant again after more than a decade of utter mediocrity beyond the success enjoyed by the Florida and Kentucky programs. What we have yet to touch on is the year’s SEC Tournament that’ll be played in St. Louis for the first time. The battle for the third and fourth seeds, which equates to a double bye in St. Louis, is going to be an interesting one over the next 10 days. Six schools are currently tied for third place in the conference with 8-7 league records. Those teams include Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State, Missouri, Kentucky and Arkansas. LSU is also in the mix with its 7-8 SEC record.
-- Florida has lost three in a row both SU and ATS after falling 62-57 at Tennessee as a four-point underdog last night. Grant Williams led the Volunteers with 23 points and Admiral Schofield pitched in with 16. Chris Chiozza had 11 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Gators, who scored only 18 points in the first half and trailed by nine at intermission. UF would cut the deficit to one three times, but it could never get over the hump. KeVaughn Allen went scoreless in 29 minutes of playing time. The junior guard tasted a bagel for the first time this season and just the fourth time in his career. His nightmare junior campaign is starting to remind the orange and blue faithful of what Brett Nelson went through as a junior and senior in 2002 and ’03. Things don’t get an easier for UF, which hosts Auburn on Saturday in Gainesville.
-- The ‘under’ is on a 6-1 run for the Gators, who have seen ‘unders’ in six of their eight road assignments.
-- Bruce Pearl’s team was down Mustapha Heron (flu) and Anfernee McLemore for last night’s revenge game against Alabama at Auburn Arena. Those absences didn’t matter, though, as Auburn thumped the Crimson Tide from start to finish to get even from a loss at Coleman Coliseum last month. The Tigers prevailed 90-71 as seven-point home favorites behind Jared Harper’s 21 points, six assists and four steals. Bryce Brown finished with 18 points, while Chuma Okeke produced 16 points, 10 boards, two steals and two rejections. Collin Sexton had a game-high 25 points for the Tide on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor, but he committed five turnovers and had only two assists.
-- Although the ‘under’ is 18-9 overall for ‘Bama, it has seen the ‘over’ hit in each of its past three games. The Tide hosts Arkansas on Saturday before UF visits Tuscaloosa next week. Avery Johnson’s team closes the regular season at Texas A&M.
-- With Tennessee and Auburn clearly establishing themselves as the SEC’s premier teams, who out of the six teams tied for third place appears to be playing the best basketball right now? I would have to say Mississippi State, which is on an 8-0 ATS run. Ben Howland’s team is 6-2 SU during this stretch, with the only losses coming at Vanderbilt by one (on a buzzer beater by Riley LaChance) and at Missouri (in overtime in extremely controversial fashion). Four of MSU’s six recent wins have come by margins of 12 points or more.
-- Northwestern is a 3.5-point home favorite tonight vs. Wisconsin. ESPN2 will have the telecast at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The Wildcats might be without starting guard Bryant McIntosh, who is listed as ‘questionable’ with a shoulder injury. McIntosh averages 12.1 points and 5.2 assists per game. Chris Collins’s squad has dropped four consecutive games. There hasn’t been much to smile about in Madison this season. If the Badgers don’t win the Big Ten Tournament, they’ll miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. With that said, we’ll nonetheless note how Wisconsin has won three of its past four games and is 4-1 ATS in its last five outings.
-- Granted, Texas Tech star Keenan Evans was ‘out’ with an injury last night, but Oklahoma State captured a 79-71 win over the Red Raiders as a 3.5-point home underdog. The Cowboys are 16-12 overall and have wins at Kansas and at West Virginia, in addition to a win over Florida State down in Sunrise (where the NHL’s Florida Panthers play). They’ve also posted home wins over Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas and Tulsa. The worst losses on OSU’s resume came to Baylor (twice), which is No. 61 in the RPI. Although the Pokies are No. 92 in the RPI, they’ll make up an interesting case for the Selection Committee if they can sweep their final three regular-season games at Texas, at Iowa State and vs. KU.
-- Last Calls! Cal will host Washington State tonight on the Pac-12 Network at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, while BYU is at Portland for an 11:00 p.m. tip on ESPNU. Oregon will take on Arizona State in Eugene at 11:30 p.m. on FS1. As of early this morning, the Ducks were favored by three points over ASU with the total at 154.5. Meanwhile, BYU was a 9.5-point road favorite and Cal was laying four vs. Ernie Kent’s squad.
-- Who the hell gives d-bag Rick Pitino advice these days?! Dude, just go away and when you get gone, stay gone! Nobody wants to hear your side of the story. And please don’t even get me started on Dickie V’s ride-or-die friendship with the disgraced former head coach at Louisville. Vitale took to Twitter yesterday in defense of Pitino. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I’m nearly certain Vitale was all alone on an island in doing so. And it made him look nearly as foolish as Tricky ’15-seconds’ Ricky.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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