Preview & Prediction: By Evan Dorey
-- Evan Dorey's game previews & rankings are based on Elo Ratings. Elo Ratings are fairly simple, all teams are assigned an initial number of points, which is the same for all teams, eliminating preseason bias. Then, as the season progresses, when a team wins it gains points, and when it loses it drops points. The amount of points that are gained or lost depend on the level of the opponent (beating a cupcake gets you little, beating #1 will be a big increase), the scoring margin of the game (which is capped), and the game’s location. To take a look at Evan's College Basketball Elo Ratings, visit his website or blog where he discusses the rankings along with other statistical observations about big games and interesting teams.
-- After Big East play started last night, it’s the Big Ten’s turn for it’s own premier match-up, featuring #9 Illinois (12-1) at #12 Purdue (11-2).
Illinois’ lone loss came against Clemson in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and it has a couple of good wins at Vanderbilt and against Missouri in the Braggin’ Rights game last week. Purdue suffered both its losses in a four day stretch at the end of November, losing in overtime in the NIT Tip-Off final to Oklahoma and getting crushed at home by Duke. The Boilermakers’ only good win so far is beating Davidson in Indianapolis, as they shut down Stephen Curry very effectively.
The Illini are excellent shooters, taking most of their shots from inside the arc, but hitting very good percentages from three, two and the foul line. They manage this through good ball movement, as they lead the nation in assists/field goal. Despite taking most of their shots inside, they don’t show much strength in other areas typically associated with strong inside play, being only average offensive rebounders and very poor at getting to the foul line. Purdue won’t cause the Illini a lot of trouble on the glass, but the Boilermakers will defend the inside very well and force a lot of turnovers, and it’s this combination that has Purdue among the top defensive teams in the nation.
Offensively, Purdue isn’t a good-but-not-great shooting team, and really struggles in getting to the line and on the offensive glass. The Boilermaker’s offense depends on inside scoring and not committing turnovers, its two most successful areas so far this season. Like the Boilermakers, Illinois has a strong defense, especially on the perimeter, holding opponents to barely more than 25% from 3, and forcing a lot of turnovers without fouling much. The one area that Illinois has trouble with is defensive rebounding, but Purdue may not be able to take advantage of that.
The hosts feature a pair of CHN Preseason All-Big Ten sophomores, in guard E’Twaun Moore and forward Robbie Hummel. Hummel is an excellent scorer both inside and outside, leads the Boilermakers in rebounds, and has committed just 10 turnovers all season. Moore leads the team in scoring, but hasn’t been that efficient, shooting under 43% from the field, and not taking very good care of the ball. The other starters are guards Lewis Jackson and Chris Kramer, and forward JaJuan Johnson. Kramer, the team leader in steals, but a very poor shooter so far, missed the Boilermakers’ last game, but is expected to return for tonight’s. Johnson is a very effective inside scorer, shooting 57%, and is one of the Big Ten’s better shot blockers. Jackson, a freshman, plays relatively little, but is an effective ball-moving guard who doesn’t shoot a whole lot. A few other Purdue players see a fair amount of minutes off the bench, with junior Keaton Grant and senior Marcus Green serving in the backcourt, while Serbian Nemanja Calasan is a strong rebounder and scorer down low.
Unlike Purdue, which spreads the minutes out fairly evenly, four Illinois’ starters have played at least 70% of available minutes, led by the three guards, Chester Frazier, Trent Meacham and Demetri McCamey. Meachem is the best shooter of the three, hitting 50% of his three point attempts and 22-of-24 free throws. Frazier is the point guard, leading the conference with 6.5 assists a game, and posting an excellent 2.8 A/TO ratio. McCamey doesn’t shoot quite as well as Meachem, but takes a lot of shots and is still an above-average shooter. The fourth heavily-used player is forward Mike Davis, a good inside scorer who is second in the Big Ten in rebounding. The last starter is 7-1 Mike Tisdale, who has faced bouts of foul trouble, and often plays less than 25 minutes, but is a solid scorer who contributes on the boards as well. Calvin Brock and Jeff Jordan are the guards off the bench, while Dominique Keller and Richard Semrau are backups in the frontcourt. Of these players, the 6-7 Keller has the biggest offensive impact, averaging 6 points in just 11 minutes per game.
This is a tough one to call, but I see this defensive conference battle going to Purdue, as a strong defensive showing will be able to make up for their offensive shortcomings. I’d expect a very low-scoring contest, and a tight finish late wouldn’t surprise me.
Winner: Purdue Margin: 2-6