Purdue invades Minnesota in NCAA betting
By: Michael Robinson
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Trevor Mbakwe will remain with the team despite more legal trouble.
The resilient Purdue Boilermakers face their toughest test of the year Thursday night when they visit the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a Big Ten battle.
Purdue was a top candidate for the national title until shockwaves were sent through the program on Oct. 16. Star senior forward Robbie Hummel tore the ACL in his right knee and was lost for the season.
Hummel tore the same ACL last February to cut short last season, but coach Matt Painter and the Boilermakers didn’t pack in the towel. They won NCAA tournament games over Siena (72-64) and Texas A&M (63-61 in OT) before bowing to eventual champion Duke (70-57) in the Sweet Sixteen after trailing by just one at halftime.
Purdue (15-1 straight-up, 10-3 against the spread) has remained focused this year and is up to No. 8 in the latest Coaches Poll. Center JaJuan Johnson (19.4 PPG) and guard E’Twaun Moore (18.8 PPG) both spurned the NBA to return for their senior season and are putting up All-American type numbers.
The Boilermakers have opened up at 4-0 SU and ATS in the Big Ten and are 8-1 ATS in their last nine lined games. They’re scoring 76.2 PPG and allowing 57 PPG, both ranked third among Big Ten teams. Their 19.2 PPG scoring margin is second in the conference behind national No. 2 Ohio State.
That doesn’t mean Purdue is without questions. Minnesota is the first ranked team it has faced and the Big Ten opponents played (Iowa, Penn State, Northwestern, Michigan) were all predicted to finish at the bottom of the conference.
There’s also no consistent third scorer with Hummel gone. John Hart is next at just 8.4 PPG and he’s questionable (foot) Thursday after missing the last eight games. Guard Ryne Smith is averaging 17 PPG the last four games after shooting 18-of-27 (66.7 percent) from three-point land, but he can’t be relied upon.
Size is also an issue with the 6-foot-10 Johnson the only starter above 6-foot-5. The 6-foot-4 Moore is second in rebounding (6.0 RPG) behind Johnson (8.3 RPG). This could be a problem against the bigger and more physical conference teams.
The No. 25 Golden Gophers (12-4 SU, 7-9 ATS) have been in the news for the wrong reason lately with top scorer (13.4 PPG) and rebounder (10.4 RPG) Trevor Mbakwe arrested after violating a restraining order. He missed last season with an assault charge.
Mbakwe will not be suspended for this game according to coach Tubby Smith. The 6-foot-8, 240 pound junior forward provides a nice tandem up front with 6-foot-11 center Ralph Sampson III. Minnesota has a major size advantage in this game with 6-foot-10 Colton Iverson a decent ‘big’ off the bench.
The Golden Gophers are just 1-3 SU and ATS in the Big Ten. The three losses all came at ranked teams (Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State). The Ohio State game was last Sunday and Minnesota almost pulled off the upset (67-64) despite being 15 ½ point ‘dogs.
Point guard Al Nolen had 11 points against OSU and he’s a solid player along with starting shooting guard Blake Hoffarber (13.4 PPG) and small forward Rodney Williams (6.7 PPG). There’s a major lack of depth though with guard Devoe Joseph deciding to transfer and freshman big man Mo Walker (knee) out for the year.
The Golden Gophers are 8-1 SU at home this year, getting upset 87-79 as 13-point favorites by Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They’re 2-7 ATS at home, failing to ‘cover’ in six straight.
Purdue and Minnesota each won on the other’s home court last year, with Minnesota going 2-0 ATS. The ‘under’ went 2-0 and is 12-1 in the last 13 meetings overall.
ESPN will have the tip-off from Williams Arena at 4 p.m. (PT). The telecast is followed by the ACC matchup pitting North Carolina against Virginia Tech from Chapel Hill.