#5 Virginia Cavaliers at Purdue Boilermakers Game Preview, Prediction

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“Defense Lives Here.” It’s a slogan in West Lafayette, and thus far, the Purdue Boilermakers have certainly embodied that, holding all but one of their first seven opponents to 65 points or less. Five of those opponents have scored less than 60, with two not even reaching 50.

However, Wednesday night’s opponent, the #7 and reigning national champion Virginia Cavaliers, are the embodiment of playing hard nosed defense on steroids. Only one of their seven opponents, Vermont, has even scored 50 on them. Three opponents scored 34 of less! Yes, you read that right. That’s why the over/under is 103 on this game. If you’re gambling at slotsify or other casinos taking action on this game, you’ll see Purdue favored by two points. When doing any kind of wagering, and especially so with sports betting, you got to pay attention to their numbers. And this game will be tight because points will be at a premium.

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In their last outing, the Cavaliers gave up just 26 points to Maine, which tied a program record for fewest allowed in the shot clock era (1986).

In other words, Wednesday night’s affair will be a speed limit 55 kind of game. 55 points?! Nah, what is this the early ’90s UNLV Running Rebels? Try 55 total shots (FGAs + FTAs), first team to get there wins.

#5 Virginia Cavaliers at Purdue Boilermakers FYIs

Tip: 7:15 EST

TV: ESPN2, B1G/ACC Challenge

Looking Back to Last Time

This is a rematch of the two sides’ instant classic 2019 NCAA Tournament South Regional final.

Virginia, albeit in very controversial fashion, won that Elite 8 game 80-75 in overtime. It gave the Cavaliers their first Final Four berth since 1984 and it denied the first Purdue basketball appearance in the Final Four since 1980. The Boilermakers, making their first Elite Eight appearance since 2000, might have advanced had the restart of the clock in Louisville that evening been more friendly to them.

The atmosphere at Mackey Arena will be electric, it will definitely be on par with, if not greater, than two recent headliner pre-conference games.

The 66-57 win over Louisville in the 2017 challenge, in the wake of the UL prostitution scandal, comes to mind. The other is the 79-76 loss to then #1 ranked and defending national champion Villanova, in the 2016 Gavitt Games.

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“We’ve had a handful of conference games, early that have been like that, like Big Ten conference games, an Indiana or Michigan State or Ohio State, Wisconsin, pretty much any Big Ten team,” said Purdue coach Matt Painter.

“We don’t need Virginia to come in for us to have a great atmosphere, but that being said, it will be incredible…We have a great atmosphere at Purdue.

#5 Virginia Cavaliers (7-0) Preview:

“Tony Bennett is a great coach, and it’ll be very difficult for us,” said Painter in the preseason. “They lost a lot, we lost a lot. But whenever you play them, it’s very difficult to go against them. They’re very stingy on defense, very efficient on the offensive end. But it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

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In their last game, Maine shot just 18.6 percent (8-43), the second lowest all-time for a Cavalier opponent. The Cavs come into this one with ranked #5 in the AP poll (with five first place votes). They are #2 in the coaches poll with two first place votes.

UVA has started 7-0 for the fourth straight season, and in holding the Black Bears to fewer than 40 points, they are now 26-0 all-time under Bennett when limiting their foes to below that mark. When keeping their opponents under half a hundo, the Cavs are 93-2 all-time under Bennett.

The 34 scored by Syracuse in the season opener is a Carrier Dome record worst for the tenants of that facility. Yes, Virginia is for lovers, but it’s also for not allowing opponents to score and for winning in the non-conference. The Wah Hoo Wahs will come to Mackey riding a 24-game non-conference winning streak.

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Arizona State is probably their most impressive win thus far, and taking on Purdue will definitely be a step up.

This Cuse team is not the Syracuse program you are familiar with. Look at their double digit losses to Oklahoma State and Penn State.

Virginia gave the ACC its fifth national champion this decade, and three of the last five. Painter discussed the secret of their success: “I think Virginia has done the best job of any program in the country evaluating, they go and get their guy.”

Painter then praised Bennett and his staff for winning a national title with just a couple players that were extremely highly rated coming out of high school, and filling in the rest with players who were evaluated positively by their staff.

Purdue Boilermakers (4-3) Preview:

While the defensive end of the floor has been stellar thus far for Purdue this season, the other end of the court has been “a struggle” to say the least. It’s definitely a group effort to be sure, but there are also numerous places where you can point fingers.

Start with Nojel Eastern, a highly rated player coming out of high school who was widely expected to make “the leap” this season, with his offensive, FINALLY catching up to his defensive prowess. It’s just not happening, as he’s been essentially a one-way player only (3.7ppg 39% FG), and thus his minutes are dropping (below 24 per game now).

Sasha Stefanovic was strongly expected to develop into the next Purdue sharpshooter, a Dakota Mathias type role, but he’s only at 38% from the floor on the season. Of course, he’s almost at 40% from distance. Aaron Wheeler and Evan Boudreaux have woeful shooting numbers this season, and they are really in shooting slumps right now.

Had they been able to produce at least a little something more, Purdue would have been likely able to secure an Emerald Coast Classic tournament title last night. It is impressive that the Boilermakers came even that close, taking Florida State, which was playing very close to home, to OT in the tourney finale.

They also beat VCU in the semis, despite a first 10 minutes that cannot be described as basketball for either side. It really evoked the last line of dialogue in Apocalypse Now: “the horror, the horror.”

Now let’s get to the sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. Graduate transfer Jahaad Proctor has been outstanding. He’s been such a welcome addition and pleasant surprise that the first thing I think of when I hear the name Proctor may be this guy soon; instead of the character in the Police Academy movies.

Matt Haarms has lived up to expectations this season and then some. The guards just need to work on their entry passing and getting him the ball more. The Purdue offense has really seen some stretches where the ball just gets stuck, and a big part of that is the feeding (or lack thereof) into the low post. Feed the bigs better, and maybe you might be on to something here at this end of the floor.

They’ll NEED IT in this one, where possessions, looks and shots will all be at a PREMIUM.

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Prediction: Virginia Cavaliers 45, Purdue Boilermakers 40

In a game like this is a six point margin “a blowout?” Well, not really, as the Boilers will take the Cavs down to the wire, but expect less scoring than a typical Big 12 September football game or your industry standard #Pac12AfterDark on an autumn Saturday night.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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