2022 College Basketball Preview: Healthy Illinois Could Be Trouble for No. 3 Purdue

No. 13 Illinois took No. 3 Purdue to double overtime before losing the first meeting 96-88 in Champaign on Jan. 17, when Illini center and top Wooden Award candidate Kofi Cockburn was limited to 22 minutes because of foul trouble. Purdue (+120) and Illinois (+190) are DrafKings’ top two choices to win the Big Ten.

No. 13 Illinois at No. 3 Purdue

Tuesday, 9 pm ET
TV: ESPN
Record: Illinois 17-5, 10-2 Big Ten; Purdue 20-3, 9-3 Big Ten
Spread: Purdue -6
Over/Under: 147
Moneyline: Purdue -250; Illinois +200
Series history: Purdue broke a three-game series losing streak in the earlier game this season after losing the lone meeting in 2020-21 and being swept in 2019-20. The Boilers are 7-1 straight up, 4-4 ATS, in the last eight at Mackey Arena.

A look at Illinois

Illinois finally has its full roster intact (knock on wood) after playing short bursts without 7-foot, 280-pound Cockburn and a long stretch without energetic point guard Andre Curbelo.

Cockburn is averaging 21.8 points and 11.4 rebounds — both in the top seven in Division I — and at +500 is tied with Kentucky center Oscar Tshiebwe as DraftKings‘ Wooden Award favorite.

Cockburn missed the first three games while serving an NCAA suspension and sat out the two games on either side of the Purdue loss because of concussion symptoms.

Curbelo missed about eight weeks with the residual effects of an early-season concussion before returning to get 20 against the Boilermakers, although he has had limited success since.

The pair has been on the floor together for only five games, including the last two, lopsided wins over No. 14 Wisconsin and Indiana. Two of Illinois’ losses came when Cockburn was out.

Illinois guard Alfonso Plummer is among the most significant transfer additions this season, mitigating Curbelo’s absence. 

Plummer, who spent his first two seasons at Utah, is averaging 15.3 points and 3.0 three-pointers per game, and with Trent Frazier (13.3 points) gives the Illini plenty of ways to spread the floor.

Frazier had 23 points and three threes in a 74-57 thrashing of Indiana on Saturday, which the Illini finished with a 32-11 run.

A look at Purdue

Maybe the best way to illustrate Purdue’s success is to look at its three losses— on a half-court three-pointer at the final buzzer at Rutgers, by five on the road at No. 14 Wisconsin and by three on the road at Indiana.

Purdue — and this is an engineering school — has built an offensive juggernaut.

Purdue is among the Division I leaders in points per game (fourth), field goal percentage (third), three-point field goal percentage (third), rebound margin (first) and assists (sixth).

The Boilermakers have the components of an NCAA title contender — height, depth, a star and a system. 

Explosive sophomore wing Jaden Ivey (17.3 points) leads four double-digit scorers and has risen sharply in NBA mocks drafts, currently sitting in the top-five in most projections.

Sophomore center 7-4 Zach Edey (14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds) has good feet and can use both hands in the paint, traits uncommon for a player his size. When he is off the floor, 6-10 Trevion Williams (12.4, 8.2) provides a different but just as effective piece.      

Purdue does not have a clamp-down defense, but that might count as a nit-pick.  

Three facts to know 

  •  Purdue has won five in a row; Illinois, four.
  •  Illinois has won eight of its last nine Big Ten road games
  •  Purdue has scored at least 80 points in its last five Big Ten games for the first time since a similar seven-game streak from Jan.18- Feb. 10, 1998.

Three numbers to know

  • 6:00 — total amount of time Purdue has trailed in its last five games, all wins
  • 9 — starting lineups Illinois has used this season, most among Power Six teams
  • 1 — Purdue’s adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom

The pick: Illinois 81, Purdue 78

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