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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, February 25, 2018 3:50 pm

Pregame: No. 9 Purdue (25-5, 14-3 Big Ten), Minnesota (15-15, 4-13)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE — Today's game will likely be more of a celebration than a contest between two somewhat evenly-matched teams. Obviously no game is easy in the Big Ten, but Purdue should win this one. The Boilers beat Minnesota by 34 points in Minneapolis and will win comfortably again today with any performance that reaches C-plus level or better. With Michigan State edging out Wisconsin this afternoon, the Spartans have clinched the Big Ten and rendered this game essentially meaningless in the win-loss column for the Boilermakers (although a home loss to the Golden Gophers wouldn't be good for NCAA Tournament seeding). Purdue was already locked into the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

Instead of focusing on getting a victory, which should come anyway, Matt Painter can focus on getting his team back to full strength. The presumed return of Vincent Edwards to the lineup will require some re-integration, which the Boilermakers would like to accomplish today, when the stakes are low. Edwards will have to work his way back slowly and Painter said he likely won't be 100 percent. Still, it will be good for him to get some game action before tournament season begins and he becomes one of the focal points of opposing teams' gameplans once again.

Similarly, today will be an important game for Carsen Edwards. The sophomore is coming off the best game of his career, a 40-point explosion against Illinois on Thursday. With the senior Edwards back in the lineup, Carsen will not have to carry such a large offensive load going forward. He'll have to re-calibrate his game to that mentality, as he'll have more help on the perimeter than he did in the last few games (although Dakota Mathias did step up to take some of the scoring slack, finishing with 36 points combined in the last two games).

Meanwhile, the Mackey Arena crowd should be able to focus on enjoying the final game in West Lafayette for this senor class. Based on the relative fortunes of these teams in recent weeks, it seems unlikely this game will come down to the wire. A late-game ovation for each of the seniors as they exit the court in the final minutes would be a fitting exclamation point to their Mackey Arena careers.

What I'm watching for: Vincent Edwards' health. The assumption is that Edwards will play, but it's unclear how long he'll be on the floor or how close to full health he actually is. I'm sure most Purdue fans will be interested to see how Edwards performs today, and how much rust he shows in his first game in 10 days. Opposing teams who might have to play Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament will also likely be watching Edwards with interest. Will he immediately step in and be Purdue's best rebounder again, or will his ankle limit his athleticism and physicality? The final score of today's game doesn't matter nearly as much as getting Edwards back up to speed.

Prediction: Purdue 77, Minnesota 58

dsinn@jg.net