(15-2, 10-4 ATS)
West Virginia Mountaineers
(11-4, 5-7 ATS)
Last year, the West Virginia Mountaineers came to West Lafayette in hopes of knocking off a Top 10 team on the road on New Year’s Day. This season, the site switches to Morgantown, where the Purdue Boilermakers hope that the second verse in this college basketball betting story is the same as the first.
Purdue is coming off of a bad loss at the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Thursday, and it really needs to rebound in a big way to keep its spot in the Top 10 in the country this week. The Boilermakers still have one of the best teams in the land, but they clearly were exposed as a team that doesn’t have a heck of a lot of depth right now. We all know that Robbie Hummel is out for the season with an ACL tear, but the man that really needs to get back in the lineup is John Hart, who is the team’s third leading scorer when he is in the lineup. Ryne Smith was on fire before heading to Minnesota when he scored just three points, and it is clear that this team cannot be a two man show and win games. The only two players that scored more than eight points in that game were Lewis Jackson and JaJuan Johnson. Johnson was an absolutely star, scoring 29 points and hauling down 11 boards. The problem was also that E’Twaun Moore only scored five points in 38 minutes. Don’t look for him to have that type of an effort again on Sunday against the Mountaineers.
West Virginia has won three games in a row, two of which have come on the road in Big East play, something that is clearly very difficult to do. Casey Mitchell is going to be the man that really has to come up big on Sunday to beat the Boilers. He is averaging 17.4 points per game this year, tops on the team. Kevin Jones and Darryl Bryant are both in great shape as well as double digit scorers, and men like John Flowers and Deniz Kilicli are both logging some quality minutes as well. Defense has been the key to the winning streak, though. The ‘Neers have now held three straight teams to 65 points or fewer, which is something that we really didn’t see on a night in, night out basis at the start of the year. WVU prides itself on its ‘D’, which ranks No. 153 in the land at 66.7 points per game, numbers which are not quite acceptable yet and will need to improve in Big East play and in games like this for it to make the dance.
Though the Mountaineers would love to get some revenge, we just aren’t so certain that they are good enough to win this game. West Virginia knows that it needs to play an absolutely perfect game on both sides of the ball. The problem though, is that the Boilermakers aren’t going to put up the same type of dud that they did against the Golden Gophers. Especially as dogs, we have no choice but to go with the visitors.
NCAA Basketball Expert Pick: Purdue Boilermakers +2