College Basketball Pick
Purdue is still in contention for the Big Ten regular season title, but it’s not going to come easy. The Boilermakers still have road Games at Michigan and Northwestern to close the campaign. As for the Wolverines, they have other goals on their mind, namely winning the final Game of the season at the Crisler Center. They may not have a great record on the road, but they’ve beaten a number of teams by large margins at home, from Michigan State and Indiana to Wisconsin (without Bronson Koenig).
However, this will probably be Michigan’s toughest home test of the season. This is the only meeting between these teams and that’s a positive for the Wolverines. Similar to teams like Michigan State and Northwestern, this Michigan team doesn’t exactly have the bigs to deal with what Purdue throws on the cOurt. Caleb Swanigan has been close to unstoppable in Big Ten play this season and not many can deal with Isaac Haas. There’s almost zero chance Michigan plays man-to-man, which means Swanigan and Haas will see loads of double teams.
But that is the reason why Purdue leads the Conference in three-point field goal percentage. Perimeter defenders start coming down and helping on the block, but Swanigan often finds the open shooter behind the arc. Vince Edwards, Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline all shoot above 42% from deep, so that’s a problem, as is Swanigan’s ability to stretch the floor. At the least, DJ Wilson can deal with that aspect against Swanigan, but the lanky sophomore will likely get pushed around in the paint. The same can be said for Moritz Wagner or Mark Donnal if they are asked to deal with Haas by themselves.
The Wolverines have been playing better and more consistently over the last couple weeks, but they haven’t seen a team like Purdue. To match what Purdue can do with its bigs, Michigan will need its role players to step up, especially on the outside. Derrick Walton has been one of the best players in the Conference in the last month, so his production is expected, but other guys like Zak Irvin, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson have to hit open looks when they get them. The same goes for Wilson and Wagner, however Purdue decides to guard the stretch big men.
The hope for the Wolverines is that Walton and company can do enough to match whatever Purdue does on the other end. But to get a win in their final home Game, the Wolverines need to find a way to limit what Swanigan and Haas can do and that means staying out of foul trouble. The Spartans lost almost their entire frontcOurt in a loss at Purdue last weekend and Michigan can’t fall into that trap. Michigan’s best bet will be to play tight defense on the perimeter, making any entry pass hard, while also limiting open threes from Purdue’s shooters. But stopping Swanigan hasn’t been done by many this season so that’s another test in itself.
All that said, Purdue already has road losses at lowly teams like Iowa and Nebraska, so there is a route to winning. This should be a close Game, especially if Michigan can get a rhythm offensively, but staying out of foul trouble may be the biggest thing the Wolverines have to worry about in order to get a win.
Our Pick – Michigan by 2