Sometimes you just have to pick the low hanging fruit. That is what we did yesterday when we backed the West Virginia Mountaineers getting +10.5-points in Kansas against the Jayhawks. The Mountaineers always play the Jayhawks tough, and I was shocked to see a number so high. So, I backed West Virginia and expected them to keep it close enough for the cover and thought they had somewhat of a chance at pulling off the upset if the Jayhawks didn’t play their A-game.
The Mountaineers came out fast in the first half and led by as many as ten points, and they actually took a six-point lead into halftime. The Jayhawks righted the ship in the second half and pulled away in the game’s final ten minutes to pick up the 60-53 win. At no point did Kansas ever even come within a possession of covering the spread, and the seven-point lead they finished with was the largest of the game.
No. 16 West Virginia falls at No. 3 Kansas, 60-53.
West Virginia will remain on the road and play at Oklahoma State on Monday at 9 p.m. on ESPN2. pic.twitter.com/pwAvs38tf1
— WVU Basketball (@WVUhoops) January 4, 2020
Many times, in rivalry games, you can basically throw the records out as these games are always going to be closer than you might think. We took advantage of that last night and picked up a nice win. We are right back at it looking for value today as we head to Illinois, where the Illini host the Purdue Boilermakers in a Big 10 battle.
- Purdue Boilermakers (9-5) at Illinois Fighting Illini (9-5)
- Assembly Hall, Champaign
- 5:00 PM PST
- TV: FS1
The Fighting Illini of Illinois will look to get back to .500 in Big 10 play tonight as they host the Boilermakers of Purdue. The Illini played a soft slate in the non-conference but the Big 10 is loaded this year, so they are going to get ample opportunities for resume-building wins in league play. Illinois picked up a huge win over Michigan already in conference play, and they would love to add another signature win to their resume tonight against a talented Purdue team.
For the Boilermakers, they are looking for a road win tonight, something that is going to be very hard to get this year in such a loaded league. Purdue has big wins over the likes of Virginia, VCU, and Minnesota already this season, and they have played one of the toughest schedules in the country, with a SOS of forty-three. While the five losses don’t look great at a glance, they were all at least somewhat understandable and came against tough competition.
The analytics love this Purdue team as kenpom has them ranked at number fourteen despite several early-season losses. I get it, they play great defense, they are efficient on offense, and their extremely slow pace makes them look like a worse team than they are, so I would tend to agree that they are likely better than the eyeball test would tell you.
But to see them just outside of the top ten right now is shocking to me. They have played three true road games this season, at Marquette, at Nebraska, and at Ohio. They lost against Nebraska and Marquette, and neither game was overly competitive as they lost by double digits in both games. They did manage to beat Ohio, who is ranked outside of the top-200 right now.
They haven’t been much better on a neutral floor either, as in three neutral site games, they are just 1-2. At home, they are 7-1, which is what is seemingly propping up their stellar rankings. In college basketball, there is a huge difference between being able to win at home and being able to go into hostile territory and win on the road. Purdue has yet to show me that they can do that, and that tells me that I need to look for ways to fade them in hostile environments.
— Illinois Basketball (@IlliniMBB) January 5, 2020
Illinois is another team that the analytics love, as they are currently at #44 on kenpom with five losses. Similar to Purdue, the losses were understandable as three of their five losses came against teams in the top-15, and the other two came against teams in the top-100.
While the big wins have been hard to come by, the only top-100 win on their resume right now is against Michigan, they have kept games close against good teams. Losses to Miami and Maryland came by a combined total of just three points, and they kept it tight with Missouri as well, losing by only seven in St. Louis. With a couple of late possessions going differently, the Illini’s record could look very different.
Who Do I Like?
In the Big 10, home teams win a lot. Home teams started out this season by winning the first fifteen games of league play. On the year, home teams are winning 85% of the time in the Big 10. We saw examples of this home team dominance from both of these teams already as Purdue lost to Nebraska on the road, a team currently ranked at #149. And we saw that when Illinois knocked off Michigan at home as big underdogs.
The Illini are 8-1 at home this season. The one loss came against a solid Miami team by two points at the buzzer. While this isn’t an elite team, I do like backing them at home. This number has moved around all over the place. It opened at Illinois -1, and shifted towards Purdue in the overnight action, before then adjusting again this morning to where it stands at Illinois -1.5.
I even see some -2’s and -2.5’s floating around out there. So, I will lock this one in now before it moves on me again at Illinois -1.5. I think Cockburn will dominate the matchup with Purdue’s seven-footer, Matt Harms, and expect the Illini to roll. Give me the Illinois Fighting Illini tonight laying -1.5 at home!