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Purdue

at

Northwestern

College Basketball Pick

3/5/17

It's been an incredible season for Northwestern and it's far from over as the Wildcats look headed to their first NCAA tournament ever. They all but insured a bid in an incredible win against Michigan on Wednesday, but now get an even tougher Purdue team. To help, Purdue doesn't have much to play for in terms of the Big Ten as it already at least won a share of the regular season title. Of course, the Boilermakers still are playing for a 4-seed if not something more come March Madness.

When these teams met in West Lafayette on the first day of February, it was the first game that Northwestern's leading scorer Scottie Lindsey missed due to mono (Nathan Taphorn didn't play either). And so, the Boilermakers got out to a quick lead and never looked back in an 80-59 win. Without Lindsey, the Wildcats were a bit thin and only really played seven guys, which didn't help against a Purdue team that draws loads of fouls. And so, even in a blowout, Northwestern had six players with at least three fouls and three of them with four fouls. Caleb Swanigan finished with 24 points and 16 boards and Isaac Haas added 11 points off the bench. While Lindsey isn't going to stop those guys, it will limit the amount of time that freshman Isiah Brown has to play. Brown ended up playing a season-high 34 minutes in that loss.

But the main thing for Lindsey is that Northwestern needs to get him going. Since returning from illness, he's been a far cry from the player he was in mid-January when he went for 20-plus points in back-to-back games. If Lindsey continues to struggle, so will the team, no matter what Bryant McIntosh does. Of course, the biggest thing for the Wildcats is stopping the likes of Swanigan and Haas. While Lindsey gets all the attention, the absence of Taphorn can't be overstated from that first game. He doesn't play all that much, but gives Northwestern another guy with size that can battle and extend Purdue's defense on the perimeter. Still, this game is going to fall on Dererk Pardon, Barret Benson, Gavin Skelly and Sanjay Lumpkin to have a bigger impact on the game. Those four have to deal with Haas and also stop Swanigan from getting wide-open looks on the perimeter.

Northwestern hasn't been a good rebounding team all season, so that could end up being the difference again. And if they plan on doubling down low, it's a must they get out to the three-point shooters quicker than last game when Purdue went 12-of-23 from long range. This is a difficult matchup for Northwestern, but with Lindsey and Taphorn in the lineup unlike last time, this one should be a lot closer. Then you throw in this being the final home game of the season for the Wildcats in what is set to be their best season ever and you have an amped environment that could give Northwestern the added touch to winning this game.

Our Pick - Northwestern +3.5

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