As the second round of the Big Ten Tournament concludes, 9th-seeded Rutgers was able to defeat 8th-seeded Michigan and will go on to face top-seeded Purdue tomorrow. Winner of this game will go on to the Semifinals in this conference tournament. To get a full breakdown into this game, scroll below to get matchup predictions and betting picks:
Rutgers vs. Purdue Predictions
Rutgers was able to defeat Michigan with stout defense in the second half, in which Michigan struggled often to put up field goals. Rutgers also were able to have shots fall in a 62-50 win. After a hot start to the season, the Scarlet Knights flamed out a bit towards the end of the season. They fell down to 9th in the Big Ten, as their offense dried up a bit at times late in games. They finished with a 10-10 conference record. While they are still projected as a tournament team, making a run in this tournament would certainly help their seeding.
Purdue will enter this game off of a nice rest of being treated to a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament. A treat the top four teams in the conference are able to receive. The Boilermakers were able to finish the season as outright Big Ten regular season champs, despite a few hiccups in games. Now, they have a chance to claim the tournament as well and that starts with defeating a scrappy Rutgers squad.
These two teams are meeting up for the second time of the season. The first time saw Rutgers upsetting an undefeated Purdue team to give them their first loss of the year. Rutgers won 65-64 at home, but this time it will be played on a neutral site which should make it more impartial either way.
Purdue has the offensive edge, averaging about 5 points more per contest than Rutgers. While both teams are good on the defensive side, Rutgers has a small advantage. They typically allow 60.4 PPG with Purdue allowing 62.5. Rutgers will have their work cut out for them on the defensive end trying to defend the Naismith Player of the Year favorite in Zach Edey. Edey managed to put up 19 points in their first matchup, but he is currently averaging 21.9 PPG. Rutgers will need to be able to match the Boilermakers on offense to have a chance to come out with the upset.
My Pick: Purdue ML
Purdue should be able to avenge their early season loss and find a way to move on to the semifinals. Rutgers offensive struggles have been quite noticeable late in the season and despite overcoming a struggling Michigan team, I don’t expect them to have the same luck against Purdue. Purdue has national championship aspirations on their mind, and making a good conference tournament run will certainly give them steam. Their leading scorer and big man Clifford Omuroyi may be overpowered by the size and strength of Zach Edey. He averages 13.5 PPG and if Edey is able to keep him off the scoreboard, Rutgers may struggle to find other answers. Their only other scorer that averages double digits is Cam Spencer with 12.7. There may be a lot on his plate with this game.
Aside from scoring, rebounding will be a difference maker in this game. Rutgers was able to get 14 offensive rebounds against Michigan to move on. Expect Edey to not allow that many mistakes on the glass and keep the ball in Purdue’s hands. If Rutgers goes slow on scoring as well, the Boilermakers should be able to take advantage. It could be a scrappy game early, but Purdue will ultimately find a way to wear Rutgers down.
Rutgers vs. Purdue Betting Odds
Betting lines are not out just yet but Purdue will most likely enter this game as the favorite. In Kenpom’s analytical rankings, Purdue currently ranks 6th with Rutgers at 36th. Purdue is also currently 5th in AP poll rankings. Looking at Joe Lunardi’s mock bracket, Purdue is projected as a 2nd seed. Rutgers is currently a last four in projected team at the 11th seed. The win against Michigan could have what they needed to solidify their bracket hopes, but a win against Purdue would make that more certain. With both teams playing tight defense, expect a relatively close spread line of Purdue at -4 or -5.
Fletcher Loyer/Braden Smith vs. Rutgers
You can expect Edey to always be a problem for an opposing team, but the supporting cast is who will be the difference makers. Freshman guards Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith have been fantastic for the Boilermakers all season. They are also great at taking pressure off of Edey down low with good perimeter shooting and driving. Loyer averages 11.6 PPG with Smith averaging PPG. Their biggest problem has been looking like freshman at times in close games with freshman mistakes. If they are able to play poised and experienced, they can help this team make a deep run.