The Big Ten only has three games on Monday, but all three are marquee matchups. The biggest will come in the early afternoon when Purdue and Gonzaga meet in what could be a Final Four preview.
Let’s take a look at the schedule.
Game of the Day:
-No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers vs. No. 11 Gonzaga Bulldogs
- Time/TV: 5:00 PM ET (ESPN2)
- KenPom Spread: Purdue by 3
A year ago, Purdue and Gonzaga met. The Boilermakers were trying to assert themselves on the national level after a few productive seasons while the Bulldogs were hoping to make a statement about their national title hopes. The game eventually ended in a blowout win for Purdue and hurled the team toward a one seed in March. It was a season-changing win for the Boilermakers.
The team will hope to repeat that magic on Monday afternoon, as Purdue faces off against a really good Bulldog squad yet again. Both teams are ranked in the top 15 in the human polls and on KenPom and are looking for a valuable resume victory.
Generally speaking, things look relatively balanced on both sides. Each team has a nationally elite offense, led by a quality big man. Purdue has Zach Edey and Gonzaga has Braden Huff down low. Edey is certainly more experienced, but Huff is a diverse player that looks more mobile. This will be where most eyes are focued.
The battle in the backcourt should also be intriguing with Ryan Nembhard and Nolan Hickman matching up against Braden Smith and Lance Jones. This is the area where the Boilers fell short most often last season. If Smith and Jones can hold their own, a win seems likely. All told, expect an exciting and high scoring affair.
- Pick: Purdue
-Indiana Hoosiers vs. Louisville Cardinals
- Time/TV: 4:30PM ET (ESPNU)
- KenPom Spread: Indiana by 5
Few teams have disappointed more than Indiana and Louisville so far this season. Despite decent rosters and plenty of offseason chatters, both have underwhelmed. Each enters at .500 or above, but it’s largely been due to wins against bad opponents. In fact, the best win among the two to date was Indiana’s win against Army, who ranks 157th on KenPom.
Of course, that means the good news is both will have an opportunity to grab a win on Monday. KenPom favors the Hoosiers, but only modestly. And given how much of KenPom’s ratings are filled with preseason data, it seems likely this would be closer to a toss up if it was solely based on how the teams had played to date.
The matchup to watch will be in the backcourt. Can Indiana slow down Skyy Clark and Mike James? Do that and a win seems reasonable. Clark has been a key piece for the Cards so far this season and fans will remember him from his time at Illinois. It’s a chance for Xavier Johnson and Trey Galloway to make up for Sunday’s poor showing against UConn.
- Pick: Louisville
-Wisconsin Badgers vs. Virginia Cavaliers
- Time/TV: 6:00PM ET (FS1)
- KenPom Spread: Virginia by 3
The Badgers are another team trying to overcome a slow start. Wisconsin enters the game after beating Robert Morris at home on Friday, but lost its only games against top 150 KenPom opponents to date. That only raises the stakes on Monday when Wisconsin will face off against a solid Virginia squad.
Naturally, any game involving the Cavaliers will look the same. Virginia plays at a snail’s pace and limits possessions. That only amplifies the importance of turnovers, wasted shots, and mistakes. The key for the Badgers is going to be taking care of the ball and slowing down Blake Buchanan and Reece Beekman. They’ve put together decent campaigns so far. Fortunately for Badger fans, Wisconsin has a pretty solid defense. This feels like a game where Wisconsin can pull off the upset if Chucky Hepburn plays well.
- Pick: Virginia
Picks Record This Season: 27-7