Northwestern (5-3, 1-0 B1G) earned a huge (and ugly) conference win over Illinois on Friday, but this hectic season continues with another important game at Purdue (7-2, 1-0) on Sunday afternoon.
Purdue entered the season ranked one spot behind Northwestern in the AP Poll, but also has had its share of struggles. In Atlantis, Purdue dropped games to Tennessee and Western Kentucky. Purdue has not lost since that WKU game, knocking off Arizona, Louisville, and Maryland on an impressive three-game stretch. Matt Painter’s squad is still adjusting to the loss of Caleb Swanigan, but the team has really started to gel in its last three games.
Swanigan may be gone, but the rest of the Big Ten Title-winning team that surrounded him in 2016-17 is back. The group of shooters Purdue has assembled is among the most dangerous in the Big Ten. Point guard Dakota Mathias is shooting 55.1 percent from three and has been better than ever. PJ Thompson and Carsen Edwards are also shooting well this season.
The veteran group of guards is joined by senior center Isaac Haas, who could be a matchup problem for Northwestern. Haas has actually not played well against Northwestern in his career, but he had his best game of the season against Maryland with 21 points, 5 boards, and 3 blocks.
Northwestern looked better against Illinois, but it will need to bring a much better offensive performance to win at Mackey. Chris Collins has not bested Purdue since the Wildcats picked up two wins in his first season. If Northwestern wants to get its NCAA Tournament résumé back on track, it will need to pick up a tough road game or two. This is Northwestern’s first opportunity to do so in 2017-18.
Game Time: 3 p.m. CST
Mobile: BTN2Go App
Radio: WGN AM 720, WNUR 89.3 FM
KenPom prediction: 78-67 (16% chance to win)
Betting Line: Purdue -13