For the first time in school history, Purdue is the No. 1 team in the land and they will put that on the line in their first Big Ten road game at Rutgers.
Will the Boilermakers hold up under the pressure?
Purdue Boilermakers vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Thursday, December 09, 2021 – 07:00 PM EST at Jersey Mike’s Arena
If you watched Purdue games last year, you could see it coming. Coach Matt Painter, in his 16th year, had veteran upperclassmen and brought in a haul of excellent freshmen last season. It’s unusual for a coach who has been at one school that long and who seldom had that top of recruiting class to hit paydirt. Everyone assumed the Boilermakers would be at least a Top 10 team and possibly more and now it’s come true.
However, with adulation comes pressure and now Painter’s pack is on every future opponent’s radar, wanting a chance to take down No. 1.
After a 3-0 start against lousy competition, Rutgers has dumped four of five and is even worse against the betting odds at 1-6-1 ATS. They would appear ripe for beat down by the Boilers.
What Makes Purdue So Tough
From this chair, we give Painter a lot of credit for seemingly changing his approach. A long-time disciple of his mentor Gene Keady in West Lafayette, Purdue regularly recruited hard-nosed players that might not have 4 or 5-star talent, but they played hard every game and were terrific practice players.
That’s what Painter was at Purdue as a player and understood those kinds of basketball players. Having pillars like forward Trevion Williams, sharpshooter Sasha Stefanovic and Eric Hunter Jr. set the right tone for the incoming freshmen a year ago.
Those three could have gone selfish, knowing minutes would be lessened in their remaining time. Instead, the trio provided leadership and showed how you do your work at Purdue and they realized how much better their team would be with the new cast.
With a full year of experience, Jaden Ivey, Zach Edey, Brandon Newman and Mason Gillis are all better players as their older teammates showed them the way.
Purdue is averaging 90 points a contest and is a great shooting team that can dictate the tempo of their choice, while, at least for now, avoiding scoring droughts.
What Happened to Rutgers?
One year removed from earning their first NCAA Tournament in 30 years, most thought Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell had a Top 50-something team coming back and with the newcomers, had a chance to return to the Big Dance.
The sense is one of two aspects that happened. One, the returning players felt such a feeling of accomplishment about reaching the tournament, the hunger has subsided coming into this year. Only those in the locker room or the coach could understand that.
The other possibility is Scarlet Knights are not used to the spotlight and not having the kind of success they anticipated has thrown them off-kilter.
No matter the reason, the Rutgers offense is pathetic in shooting 39.4% from the field and 27.7% from behind the three-point line. The lack of accuracy erodes confidence, which can leak to the other end of the floor. Facing Purdue would not appear to be a confidence-builder.
What Is the Best Side to Be On?
We were on the fence for the college basketball picks regarding this Big Ten battle with the opening line at 11.5. That number on early Thursday went up a full point to 12.5. Though on paper, Purdue should win by 15 or more points, this seems like the classic – buy low, sell high betting setup.
Purdue is moved to No. 1 ranking and Rutgers is vastly underachieving. The Scarlet Knight are at home, the crowd will be pumped and though it won’t be hard, the Boilermakers coast to a 10-point victory and fail to beat the number.
NCAAB Pick: Rutgers +12.5 (-110) at Caesars