(8) Cincinnati v. (9) Purdue
Time: 7:10 PM ET
Spread: PUR -1.5
Betting odds c/o Bovada
This 8 vs. 9 matchup in the Midwest region promises to be a good one, evenly matching up two teams that both held their own in their respective conferences and sport a lot of weapons.
Early college basketball live lines at Bovada showed the Purdue Boilermakers as 1.5 point favorites according to college basketball oddsmakers at Bovada, and this game will be a tough one to call. Cincinnati is 22-10 this season and finished with a 13-5 mark in the AAC, while Purdue went 21-12 with a 12-6 record in the Big Ten.
The Bearcats had been riding a five-game win streak going into its season finale loss to the Connecticut Huskies. Cincy fell on a Ryan Boatright three-point shot, but still got strong performances out of Octavious Ellis, Shaquille Thomas and Troy Caupain, as the trio combined to shoot 13 of 25 from the floor for 33 points in total. Ellis has had a big season for the Bearcats, with averages of 10 points, seven rebounds and over four blocks/steals combined per game. He’s shooting a very efficient 57.8 percent from the floor, which helps account for Cincinnati shooting 45 percent from the floor as a team.
The Bearcats sport a lot of depth, with a seven-man rotation that is pretty strong 1 to 7, all players seeing 20-plus minutes a night and averaging six points or more per game. The question is whether that depth really matters in a tournament that is often defined by game-changing players. Ellis is capable of impacting a game in a major way, but could he be enough to sneak by Purdue?
Purdue closed the season by losing three of its final five games. In its defense, all three losses came to tough programs like Ohio State, Michigan State and No. 6 ranked Wisconsin, but it isn’t the kind of momentum the team wanted coming into the toughest part of the season, its end. The Boilermakers are similar to its opponent in this game, featuring a strong rotation without any true standout performers.
A.J. Hammons is a solid talent and leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 12 points and six boards per game, but the seven-foot junior center sees just 24 minutes a game due to conditioning issues. Even so, if Purdue is to advance in this tournament, it will be on his shoulders. He had a monster game in the 64-59 win over Penn State in the semi finals of the Big Ten championship, scoring 23 points while grabbing nine rebounds and blocking four shots. Over his past five games, he has blocked 13 shots and pulled down eight boards per game. His interior presence should be a game changer for the Boilermakers.
Rapheal Davis is also essentially the Boilermakers other big ticket player. Davis is second on the team in scoring with 10.9 points per game and leads the Boilermakers in playing time (31.1 minutes per game). The 6’5” junior guard had a very poor game against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Champ going just 4 of 14 from the floor, and he hasn’t hit over 50 percent from the floor in his past five games. His best recent performance came in an 18 points, five rebound, four assist night against Illinois on Mar 7, and Purdue is going to need him to play that type of aggressive basketball to have any chance of getting out of the third round, should it notch this victory. He got to the line nine times against the Fighting Illini, and for a team that ranks 99th in the nation in scoring, he’s going to have to put up some real numbers to make this Boilermaker squad any kind of Cinderella story.