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Week 3: BTP Game of the Week: Purdue vs. Louisville

BTPowerhouse Previews Feast Week

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The week that was added some clarity to the Big Ten picture. Purdue looks great. New Northwestern seems a lot like Old Northwestern. Maryland still loves to win by 2, and Mark Turgeon looks more and more like an actual Terrapin after each close win.

Also of note: The Big Ten and the Big East split the Gavitt Games for the 3rd year in a row. You can probably count on one hand how many college hoops talking heads spared one breathe on this “series”, despite a few quality individual games. Petition to make the thing 9 games so we can declare a winner and maybe people will start to care.

There are some great games on the docket from November 22nd to November 28th, including the start of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Game of the Week:

-Purdue Boilermakers vs. Louisville Cardinals

The Boilermakers’ No. 18 ranking belies how impressive they’ve been. Everyone talks about the Edwards (not actually) twins, but what really sets Purdue apart is their ability to have a 7-foot-2 player on the floor at all times.

Many teams have transitioned away from having any true centers, much less two. Well, Matt Painter continues to buck that trend. Purdue’s depth at guard is finally allowing them to create matchup nightmares against smaller teams. Marquette had absolutely no answer for Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms, who scored 29 points on 11-for-19 shooting combined. Haas and Haarms went right after Marquette’s thin frontcourt: Forwards Matt Heldt and Theo John fouled out while playing only 26 minutes combined.

Purdue’s performance in the Battle 4 Atlantis will speak volumes, but a home date with Louisville in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge is arguably a better barometer of their long-term prospects. Whereas the Boilermakers will face off against a mediocre Tennessee team before either facing lesser competition (with a loss) or a pair of top five teams in Villanova and Arizona (if they make a run), Louisville appears to be a more even matchup.

The Cardinals are led by Deng Adel, a 6-foot-7 Junior who has really grown into a top-dog roll in the frontcourt. It is difficult to get a read on the Cardinals, who will face their first real competition in West Lafayette after rightfully losing their disgraced head coach last month. Louisville’s problems off the court have been well publicized, and this observer thinks its a minor miracle that Louisville is still allowed to have an athletics program after what has come to light over the last few years.

Not only do I favor the Boilermakers purely from a basketball standpoint, but for the sake of the Big Ten, and for the sake of the remaining righteousness of amateur athletics, I hope they beat the snot out of Louisville.

Honorable Mention:

-Maryland Terrapins at Syracuse Orange

A supremely strange Big Ten/ACC matchup, as both of these programs have won National Championships since a Big Ten team last did. It will be interesting to see how Maryland responds to having to play their first road game in the notoriously unfriendly Carrier Dome.

The Terps are led by an extremely talented group of sophomores. Anthony Cowan has paced a balanced attack for Maryland thus far, as Justin Jackson has yet to get it going offensively. Kevin Huerter is a three-and-D wing who has transitioned to more of a backcourt role. Darryl Morsell was named the Big Ten Week Two Freshman of the Week (the voters must have forgotten Mark Smith’s name when filling out their ballots…).

For the Orange, keep an eye on Tyus Battle, a lengthy wing in the familiar Boeheim mold. Shockingly, Syracuse will have actually played a few decent opponents in the run-up to this game. In particular, they are coming off a domination of Oakland, holding scoring machine Kendrick Nunn to just 12 points.

-Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Alabama Crimson Tide

Both teams play Thursday before facing off Friday in the non-tournament format “Barclays Center Classic.” Minnesota should dismiss UMass easily, while Alabama, with superstar freshman Collin Sexton back after a short period of ineligibility, will be favored over BYU.

This game will boil down to one big question: can Minnesota’s experienced frontcourt outduel Alabama’s superstar freshman guards? Sexton has been impressive, but it was another top recruit, John Petty, that recently poured in a school record 10 3s against Alabama A&M.

For the Gophers, junior forward Jordan Murphy has clowned opposing teams to the tune of 25 points and 13 boards a game. Reggie Lynch, meanwhile, is averaging over 5 blocks per game. Those figures, combined with steady contributions from Nate Mason and Amir Coffey, have resulted in big Gopher wins thus far.

Minnesota will be challenged, but should expect to leave the Barclays Center with a solid, resume-building win.

Worst Game of the Week:

-Augustana College (Illinois) Vikings at Illinois Fighting Illini

Don’t sleep on Augustana this year. They are expected to challenge for a national title, entering the season ranked #2 (after a runner-up finish last year) … in NCAA Division 3. As a former Division 3 athlete myself, I believe I have some appreciation for, to put it politely, the difference in competition between D1 and D3. With all due respect to Augustana, they’re going to have their hands full.

The Illini are legitimately fun to watch for the first time in a long time, and their newfound tempo should make this a high-scoring affair. A matchup with a D3 school might mean a little added tick for Illinois’ seldom-used freshman, but Brad Underwood will not want this to be a close game. He will not allow this to be a close game. Illinois’ first unit will occupy the court until Underwood is satisfied, which might not be ever. If you can find an O/U on this game, take the over.

Season Stats:

Game of the Week Appearances by Team:

  • Michigan State – 1
  • Wisconsin – 1
  • Purdue – 1

Game of the Week Honorable Mention Appearances by Team:

  • Minnesota – 2
  • Northwestern – 1
  • Wisconsin – 2
  • Maryland – 1

Total Appearances by Team:

  • Michigan State – 1
  • Minnesota – 2
  • Wisconsin – 3
  • Northwestern – 1
  • Maryland – 1
  • Purdue – 1

Worst Game Appearances by Team:

  • Wisconsin – 1
  • Iowa – 1
  • Illinois – 1