Purdue Boilermakers vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
Line: Purdue -7.5
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
When: Sunday, 3/12 at 3:30 p.m. ET
No. 10 seed Penn State will try to cap off its magical run through the Big Ten Tournament when it faces top-seeded Purdue in the title game Sunday afternoon.
The Nittany Lions have clinched their NCAA Tournament berth with their five-game winning streak, notching three of those victories in the conference tournament. They beat Illinois and Northwestern before taking down Indiana on Saturday.
Purdue extended its winning streak to four games with an outstanding second half against Ohio State on Saturday. The Boilermakers are trying to earn one of the four No. 1 seeds in the Big Dance later Sunday night.
Oddsmakers at Caesars Sportsbook opened Purdue as a 7-point favorite on Saturday night. The early betting action dropped the line to -6.5, but the number has moved up to -7.5. Sunday afternoon’s total opened at 134.5, which is where it remained as of late this morning.
Purdue won the outright Big Ten title during the regular season and is ranked fifth in the national polls, but it only has one conference tournament title (2005) since the event began in 1998. The Boilermakers lost in the championship game in 2016, 2018 and 2022.
They are led by Wooden Award favorite Zach Edey, who dominated Ohio State with 32 points and 14 rebounds. The Buckeyes opted to not double Edey in the paint like most teams do, and that strategy did not pay off.
“There’s kind of like a point halfway through the first half when one of our coaches, P.J. (Thompson), kind of came up to me, ‘This is just one of those days you’ve got to get 30,’” Edey said. “So I just kind of stuck with it. I executed the gameplan.”
Edey leads a Purdue offense that ranks fifth in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings and third in offensive rebounding percentage. The Boilermakers are even more dangerous when their shooters are knocking down shots, but they are No. 219 in 3-point percentage (33.1).
They won both regular-season meetings against Penn State, beating the Nittany Lions by 13 points in early January and 20 points in early February. Edey had 30 points and 13 rebounds in the first meeting, while junior forward Mason Gillis drained nine 3-pointers in a 29-point effort in the second game
“It’s never fun because they’ve beaten our brains in every time we’ve played them,” Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry, who used to be Purdue’s top assistant, said. “But it’s like the friendliest of rivalries. He (Matt Painter) is a guy I call and talk to all the time. Despite us being in the same league, we’re talking to each other throughout the year and we’re always helping each other.”
Penn State will be looking to make a statement on Sunday after winning three close games to get to the title game for the second time. No seed lower than eighth has won the tournament, so the Nittany Lions can make history.
“It’s really important for us,” senior guard Jalen Pickett said. “We have a poster in our locker room saying ‘Believe.’…We ended the regular season pretty well, on a high note, and now it’s showing in the tournament. I feel we’re playing our best basketball now.”
Pickett scored 28 points against Indiana on Saturday and has been the team’s leader in assists in every game but one this season. He leads an offense that ranks first in experience, sixth in turnover rate, eighth in 3-point percentage (38.7) and ninth in effective field goal percentage (55.7).
The Boilermakers have covered the spread in five of their last seven neutral-site games, but they are just 1-4 against the spread in their last five games overall. Penn State has covered in four of its last five games and has gone ‘over’ the total at a 15-5-1 clip in its last 21 games.
The pick: Penn State +7.5
Penn State is the most experienced of 363 Division I college basketball teams, and it has paid major dividends this week. The Nittany Lions have made a surprising run to the Big Ten title game, giving themselves a shot at redemption against a Purdue team that beat them by double digits twice in the regular season. I think this will be a much closer game, as Penn State has plenty of Edey data to work with, and it is in much better form than it was earlier in conference play. Purdue has only covered the spread once in its last five games and is winless against the spread in its last six games against a team with a winning record.