Purdue out of the Big Ten will take on West Virginia out of the Big 12 in the nightcap of the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament First Round. Purdue is 3-0 to start the season and ranked 24th as they adjust to a new roster after a number of departures in the offseason. West Virginia has started the season red-hot at 4-0 but are still out of the top-25 entering this tournament. Game time for this Power-Five inter-conference matchup is scheduled for 11:00pm EST.
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Boilermakers Boiling OverAfter a 29-win season in 2021-22 and a run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, the Purdue Boilermakers are by no means satisfied. Purdue had one of their best team in decades but failed to win the Big Ten tournament and then were bounced in the Sweet 16 by heavy underdog, Saint Peter's. Now, with three starters gone from that time, Purdue head coach looks to continue a push towards meeting those lofty goals this season.
“It was a very good season; with that, it was disappointing also,” Painter told Blue Ribbon Yearbook. “We get third in the Big Ten. We get runner-up in the Big Ten tournament. We get to the Sweet 16. Ultimately, there’s a lot of positives there, but that wasn’t our goals.”
On Tuesday, Purdue was able to improve to 3-0 on the season with a 75-70 win over Marquette in a Gavitt Games matchup at home. It was the team's 17th straight win at home against a non-conference team. They have also won 10 straight games in the month of November, last losing in 2020. Big man Zach Edey led the way with his third straight double-double, scoring 20 points to go along with 13 rebounds in the win. Freshman Braden Smith chipped in with 20 points, three assists and two rebounds. Purdue committed just six turnovers overall in the win.
2️⃣4️⃣— Purdue Men's Basketball (@BoilerBall) November 21, 2022
Purdue enters the AP Top 25 for the first time this season.
✅: 8th straight year with a Top-25 appearance, longest streak in Purdue history. pic.twitter.com/ZE93zy25yO
The Boilermakers have played all of their games at home thus far and own a +18.3 point differential in their three wins. They are shooting 44% from the field but just 29% from long range. They have been active on the glass with a +11.3 advantage on the glass. The Boilermakers have a +1.7 turnover differential, which will be critical against the aggressive Mountaineers' defense. Defensively, they have smothered the opposition, holding them to 35% shooting overall and 23% from long range.
Mounting a ComebackAfter a disappointing season last year that ended at 16-17 overall and just 4-14 in the Big 12 conference, WVU head coach Bob Huggins revamped his roster this season looking for a team more equipped to his style. So far, at 4-0 on the season, the Mountaineers appear to be back on course. They have featured an aggressive defense that is causing turnovers and creating easy baskets in the paint. On Friday night, in their last game before this tournament, WVU took down Penn at home, 92-58. With the win, Huggins tied Jim Calhoun for third place on the Division 1 men's basketball wins list. He now is just 80 wins short of 1000 for his career. Senior guard Erik Stevenson went 8-of-9 from the floor for 21 points, including 4-of-4 from long range. The Mountaineers as a team shot 56% from the floor and 52% from 3pt range. Three other players all finished with 11 points, Tre Mitchell, Kedrian Johnson and Joe Toussaint.
"We had the right guys shooting it and that helps," Huggins said. "We didn't shoot it as well when James (Okonkwo) was shooting it from the corner as when Tre was shooting them from the corner. That's the key thing getting the right guys shooting the ball."
West Virginia has the look of a more traditional Bob Huggins' team this season after struggling through much of the 2021-22 season. They have a +23.7 point differential in their first four games and are shooting 51% from the field overall. This is more indicative of Huggins'-led teams, a willingness not to settle and get to the rim. They are shooting 37% from beyond the 3pt line. On the glass, the Mountaineers own a +2.8 rebounding edge overall. A true indication that this is a Huggins' team in on the defensive end. They have a +7 turnover differential per game and have held the opposition to 37% shooting overall and 31% from long range.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
When West Virginia is playing Huggins' ball, they are uniquely effective at home, the road or a neutral site. They get after it on the defensive end and drive to the basket for better looks. I expect the Mountaineers to go right after Purdue big man Edey to get him into foul trouble early. When they are clicking, few teams ever get to the rim more aggressively and with such force as West Virginia does. Purdue is still sorting out their roster and will hope to be playing their best basketball by the time league play kicks in. At this point, West Virginia has a slight edge in strength of schedule and has looked like the more consistent team, particularly with their ability to knock down open shots. Look for Huggins' team to dictate play and get a win in this opening round matchup.
Take West Virginia,
Full-Game Total Pick
Neither team is amongst the top teams in pace of play thus far this season. In fact, both teams are ranked in the bottom 50 through the early part of the season. In addition, with my money leaning towards the Mountaineers, I certainly like the under. To win this game, WVU will impart their will over Purdue and keep this game played in the trenches while defending the perimeter. There will be a number of turnovers, more by Purdue, and poor shooting in this one.
Take the under,