This You Gotta See: Illinois-Purdue Monday arrives — and that’s game-of-the-year good
The highest-ranked squad in the Big Ten? The Boilermakers. The highest ceiling? We’ll see.
Purdue is right there with Gonzaga as the best offensive team in college basketball, according to KenPom efficiency ratings. The Boilermakers are the only team in the country with three players — big men Trevion Williams and Zach Edey and electric guard Jaden Ivey — on the midseason watch list for the Wooden Award. The highest-ranked squad in the Big Ten? The Boilers. The highest ceiling? It probably belongs to them, too.
Or does it?
Tune in Monday morning, when Illinois tries to pop Purdue’s balloon in a game-of-the-year setting at State Farm Center.
“Gotta bring it,” senior Jacob Grandison said. “Gotta do everything it takes to get a win.”
Winning is, after all, kind of the Illini’s thing. Amazing but true: Going back to last January, they’ve won 20 of their last 21 games against Big Ten opponents. How good is 20-1? Good enough that one might wonder how in the heck the Illini have been walking around as merely the fifth-highest-ranked team in the league.
When the new Top 25 comes out Monday, the Illini should easily pass Ohio State and might pass Michigan State — which is coming off a shocking loss to Northwestern — as well.
Purdue — and Wisconsin, too — will remain ahead of the Illini. Given that 20-1, though, it’s understandable if anyone is a bit fuzzy on why.
But if the Illini make it 21-1 by beating Purdue? Look out above.
“Another opportunity to just tell [everybody] what the deal is,” Grandison said.
And here’s what’s happening:
Purdue at Illinois (11 a.m., Fox-32)
Any chance the Illini have successfully cloned 7-footer Kofi Cockburn? Because the 7-4 Edey and 6-10 Williams are pretty gigantically good, too. Are NFL playoff games this rough down in the trenches?
Bulls at Grizzlies (2:30 p.m., TNT)
The Bulls have lost three straight, but nobody’s panicking. Worrying about the rest of the season? Maybe. Wondering if the last three months have been a mirage? Sure. But not panicking.
Blackhawks at Kraken (4 p.m., NBCSCH)
Talk about sleepless in Seattle — the Kraken must be a mess these days trying to figure out how to end an eight-game losing streak. The Hawks, winners of four straight, should feel zero guilt about tormenting them further.
Cardinals at Rams (7:15 p.m., Ch. 7, ESPN)
Remember this: The Rams are 9-1 over their last 10 games against Arizona. Also remember this: Rams QB Matthew Stafford has won as many playoff games as your dear, sweet Aunt Dotty.
Loyola at Evansville (7 p.m., NBCSCH+)
All these Ramblers do is win — nine straight and counting, with comebacks galore — but maybe this time they can just skip the part where they fall behind by double digits? Boring works, too, fellas.
Wisconsin at Northwestern (8 p.m., BTN)
If the Wildcats can win at Michigan State — without leading scorer Pete Nance — who’s to say they can’t get this one, too? Aside from all those red-clad folks in the Welsh-Ryan stands, that is.
Cavaliers at Bulls (7 p.m., NBCSCH)
You know who the Bulls could use these days to stretch defenses and provide some length inside? Lauri Markkanen. (Yes, that was serious. Kind of.)
Xavier at DePaul (8 p.m., FS1)
The Blue Demons knocked off ranked Seton Hall last time out. Now comes ranked Xavier. Wouldn’t it be nice if “ranked DePaul” became a thing someday?
Purdue at Indiana (6 p.m., FS1)
Nothing makes Hoosier blood boil more than the current nine-game losing streak in this great rivalry. But, hey, first-year coach Mike Woodson is 0-0 against the Boilers and hasn’t even thrown a chair yet.
WBB: UConn at South Carolina (6 p.m., ESPN)
The No. 1 Gamecocks already beat the Huskies in the Bahamas in November. Is it a violation of NCAA rules to hang multiple “Ls” on Geno Auriemma in the same season?
Illinois at Maryland (6 p.m., FS1)
Brad Underwood is only 2-4 in this series, but these Terrapins don’t have much bite and beating them should be a snap. Look, turtle humor isn’t easy, OK?
Bulls at Bucks (7 p.m., NBCSCH)
Just imagine what a rivalry this could become if both teams were legit title contenders at the same time. What, you think they already are right now?
Bengals at Titans (3:35 p.m., Ch. 2)
The Bengals are in the divisional round for the first time in 31 years. That’s so long ago, Boomer Esiason hadn’t even been called “boomer” on Twitter.
49ers at Packers (7:15 p.m., Fox-32)
Aaron Rodgers is 0-3 against the 49ers in the postseason, and we know what you’re thinking: It would be so gosh-darn sad to see him lose to them again.
Blackhawks at Wild (8 p.m., NBCSCH)
It’s the second game of a back-to-back against Minnesota, and you know what that means: Better keep your heads on a swivel, boys, because Dino Ciccarelli is taking a run at somebody.
Bulls at Magic (5 p.m., NBCSCH)
You know what? You’ve really gotta hand it to the Magic. They’re better at this tanking business than anybody.
Bills at Chiefs (5:30 p.m., Ch. 2)
Talk about impressive — these teams beat their wild-card opponents by a combined 51 points. And neither of them played the Bears.