One of the top rivalries in College Basketball happens on Tuesday night as the Purdue Boilermakers travel to Bloomington to battle the Hoosiers. Indiana won both contests last season between these two teams and has won the last three out of four. On paper, the game looks like a mismatch, but the Hoosiers are a different team on their home floor. Purdue has lost two games on the road this season at Northwestern and Nebraska. Purdue’s Achilles hill is a fast team with great guard play. Indiana’s weakness has been their poor guard play this season.
The Hoosiers’ subpar non-conference performance has been somewhat mitigated by a strong 4-2 start to Big Ten play.
Indiana remains far outside the NCAA tournament bubble and needs significant victories to qualify for tournament participation.
Indiana will first need to manage Edey, who presents an immense challenge. Indiana possesses Kel’el Ware from Oregon; this seven-foot sophomore weighs approximately 245. Plus, on the inside, Malik Reneau could play a critical factor in this game. Reneau will have to play smart and stay out of foul trouble.
Ware typically enjoys an obvious physical quickness edge against Edey; however, his Hoosiers teammates will likely defend with double teams to minimize entry passes into Edey’s offense and limit any entry passes into Ware.
Purdue will present another hurdle for scoring, as Edey excels at defending without fouling and frequently alters shots at the rim.
The Hoosiers will need to get consistent play from guards Xavier Johnson and Trey Galloway, and the wild card in this game will be on the wing with Mackenzie Mgbako, who, if he can get hot, can change the game much in the same way Schifino did last year against Purdue.
Purdue has struggled on the road in Big Ten play, losing to Nebraska and Northwestern.
Zach Edey entered the season as the reigning Wooden Award recipient, leaving little doubt as to who may be the most deserving player this season.
Edey is consistently facing the best an opposing defense can offer. As former Louisville coach Chris Mack said recently on a postgame reaction show, there’s a major difference between a player simply appearing on the scouting report and a player an opponent is scouting for.
Edey falls into the latter category and is still putting up numbers that would imply defenses just don’t have a proper answer.
The effectiveness of Purdue actually may rely upon Edey’s supporting pieces. The embarrassing loss to Fairleigh Dickinson exposed the glaring need for Matt Painter to either develop his existing supporting cast or gather additional pieces in the offseason.
Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith have been especially crucial to Purdue’s early success in their sophomore seasons. Both have seemed more confident and are taking care of the ball against pressure much better this year.
If Purdue has designs on winning in Bloomington, Smith and Loyer will need to limit turnovers and knock down perimeter shots in what will surely be a stressful road environment.
The Hoosiers are a different team at home and have the talent to make this a competitive, close game. In a rivalry game like this, take the +9.5 and Indiana.
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