Free NCAA Basketball Picks for Purdue vs. Illinois

Willie Bee

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 4:24 PM GMT

Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 4:24 PM GMT

A couple of teams floundering in the middle of the early Big Ten standings square off in Champaign on Wednesday when the Illinois Fighting Illini host the Purdue Boilermakers. It's a must-win for both clubs if they hope to keep pace with the unbeaten squads at the top of the conference ranks.

Illinois went out as 5 point chalk before that spread grew to 5.5.  Oddsmakers remain too unsure of themselves to release an overnight total, so bettors will have to monitor SBR's live college basketball odds to catch that number when it comes out.

Wednesday marks the 182nd time the Boilermakers and Illini have met on the hardwood, and Purdue owns a 96-85 advantage in the previous 181.  The squads split their two get-togethers last season, each winning and covering on their home courts. Purdue was a 3-point home 'dog in the first meeting and pulled off the mild upset, 68-61. The win marked the 8th-straight in the series for the Boilermakers, but Illinois put an end to that stretch with a 79-59 victory about six weeks later in Champaign.

Both contests stayed 'under' the totals after the 'over' cashed in the previous six clashes.

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Boilers Look To Even Big Ten Mark

Not much was expected out of Purdue (11-5 straight up, 5-8 against the spread) this season, and Matt Painter's young squad is so far living up to those prognostications. The Boilermakers were 15/1 to win the Big Ten on the preseason NCAA basketball futures odds, just ahead of Illinois at 12/1, and 100/1 long shots to cut down the nets for a national championship.

Purdue dropped its first two conference tilts at home to Ohio State and on the road to Minnesota, but got into the win column this past Sunday with a 70-64 triumph vs. Nebraska. The Boilermakers trailed with just over six minutes to go before the Cornhuskers went cold with a 5-minute scoreless stretch.  Nebraska backers still had just enough to get the cover as 7-point underdogs.

The Boilermakers are fifth among Big Ten teams so far in scoring during conference games (72.7 ppg), but rank dead last in the league in the free throw column, sinking just 65.3% from the charity stripe. They missed 11 of their 28 freebies in Sunday's win vs. Nebraska.

Purdue is led by the Johnson Brothers, senior Terone (13.6 ppg) and sophomore Ronnie (11.4 ppg), the siblings also combining for over six assists per contest.

Perfect At Home, Illini Out To Stop 2-Game Slide

John Groce's second season on the job at Illinois (13-4 SU, 7-8-1 ATS) hasn't gone nearly as well as his first a year ago when he took the Flying Illini into the Round of 32 at the NCAA Tournament.  They did begin the schedule with seven straight victories, and started the Big Ten portion of the slate with two wins. But then came trips to Wisconsin and Northwestern, both ending in defeat.

Losing to the Badgers in Madison was expected, but the setback to the Wildcats a few days ago in Evanston was inexcusable. Favored by 5.5 and still carrying a No. 23 ranking in the AP Poll into that game, Illinois shot a pathetic 28.1% from the floor (18-of-64) to post a season-low on the scoreboard in the 49-43 loss.

Scoring has been an issue for the Illini all season with the club ranking in the second half of the country with a 70.2 PPG average, and near the bottom of the nation in field goal percentage (42.0%, 288th). Those numbers are even worse in conference play, 67.8 PPG and 35.1%.

The Illini have no reason to look ahead on their schedule after that performance at Northwestern; still, Groce's group does have Michigan State on deck in Champaign this Saturday, followed by a trip to Ohio State next week.  I'm going to take a flyer on the visiting Boilermakers for my free college basketball pick.

College Basketball Pick: Purdue +5.5

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