OUtside of the top couple teams in the Big Ten, the Conference has been in shambles for most of the early season. So much that Michigan has put its name into the ring as one of the main contenders even after showing little in non-Conference play. The Wolverines could make a real mark in this Game at home against what is widely thought to be the second best team in the Conference in Purdue.
The Boilermakers have jumped to the top of plenty of advanced metric rankings after a recent dominant run that’s been highlighted by seven straight double-digit wins. That looks great on the surface, but this is still the same team that lost on a neutral cOurt to Western Kentucky. The Boilers are undefeated in Big Ten play, although only one of those came on the road, and that was against a hard to trust Maryland squad 80-75.
This Game should be equally difficult with Michigan having won its last seven Games and still doesn’t have a home loss. In Conference play, the Wolverines have dealt with Indiana and Illinois in home Games, but neither of those teams are quite at the same level as Purdue. These two teams had great matchups a couple years ago with Michigan having Purdue’s number in both meetings, but both squads are different. For starters, Michigan lost two of its better players and had a slow start to the season for a reason.
There are a few stat outliers in this Game starting with Michigan’s ability to rebound on the defensive end (13th best in country), which should come in handy against guys like Isaac Haas and Vincent Edwards. Purdue’s advantage surprisingly comes in its defense, allowing just 40.7% shooting on two-pointers, while Michigan ranks 18th in the country with a 57.1% rate.
Purdue has dominated opponents with a balanced squad starting with monsters Haas and Matt Haarms in the frontcOurt. Conveniently for Michigan, Moritz Wagner was a matchup problem last season and Jon Teske has the size to deal with Haas. But if Haas struggles to guard Wagner, there’s a good chance Haarms, a better defender, will be used more frequently.
And while Michigan is still figuring out its backcOurt, Purdue has little to answer with a veteran squad. Power forward Vincent Edwards is their best scorer, while Carsen Edwards can beat most defenders off the dribble. Dakota Mathias and PJ Thompson fill in the rest with both of them a big reason why Purdue is so good defensively. They have the size and speed to defend most teams, while the two Edwards also give them dynamic scoring options.
Per usual, the Wolverines will use varied zone defenses to try and limit what the Boilers can do. On the other end, Wagner is the biggest piece for Michigan even though he’s dealt with a nagging injury for the last month. Guys like Charles Matthews, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson have to step up on a more consistent basis if the Wolverines want to win Games like this. All of them have the ability to go off for 20-plus points, but against better competition, that usually doesn’t come to fruition.
Playing at home, Michigan is always a tough out and that will be the case in this one. Even if Wagner can exploit Haas and Haarms on one end, it’s hard to see him being able to deal with Haas on the other. Unless Matthews has one of his better Games and someone else stands up, the consistency of Purdue may be a little too much. Then again, if the Boilers can’t make their outside shots, this is a spot for a Michigan upset.
Our Pick – Purdue -2