Big Ten Tournament Preview: Purdue

Submitted by Ace on March 11th, 2016 at 7:08 PM


WHAT #8 Michigan (22-11, 10-8 B1G) vs
#4 Purdue (25-7, 12-6)
WHERE Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Indianapolis, Indiana
WHEN 1 pm ET, Saturday
LINE Purdue -6 (KenPom)

Right: Michigan took the home leg against Purdue in their last matchup. [Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog]


Moe Wagner's extended playing time today has been explained, at least in part, by the revelation that Ricky Doyle hurt his ankle late in the Northwestern game. Doyle played four minutes, all in the first half, compared to 16 effective minutes for Wagner, who's likely to serve as Mark Donnal's primary backup given the injury and his strong showing today.


Zak Irvin scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half to lead a late Michigan rally for a 61-56 win over Purdue at the Crisler Center. Irvin was the only Wolverine in double figures, but Michigan held Purdue to only 0.92 points per possession and a 15/41 mark from inside the arc.


Michigan's victory over Indiana took them from clearly outside the field to very much in the at-large conversation, but a bid isn't sewn up yet. ESPN's Eamonn Brennan gives his outlook in ESPN's Bubble Watch:

In situations like these -- when bubble teams grab a huge win in conference tourney play -- it is typical for fans to assume their team must automatically be lifted into the field. Not so fast. As important as a late-season neutral-court tourney win against a top-20 RPI outfit is, and thrilling as it was, Friday was nonetheless Michigan's fourth top-100 win of the season. Its sub-200 nonconference schedule is still dead weight. The Wolverines' lack of bad losses compares favorably to other bubble teams, but a 4-11 top-100 record hardly makes for a sure bet. For now, it's more like a 50-50 bet. One more win like Friday's would do much to strengthen those odds.

With some potential bid thieves still out there, 50-50 seems accurate right now. ESPN's Joe Lunardi still had Michigan out of the field when he gave an update on TV following the game, though he had Vanderbilt ahead of the Wolverines, which I have a hard time seeing after the Commodores lost to a sub-.500 Tennessee squad in their SEC Tournament opener. Yahoo's Brad Evans, on the other hand, currently has Michigan as the last at-large in the field.

A win would seal up a bid. A loss and Michigan might need some help. Pull hard against Tulsa and St. Bonaventure tonight.


Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.

Pos. # Name Yr. Ht./Wt. %Min %Poss SIBMIHHAT
G 3 PJ Thompson So. 5'10, 188 56 12 No
Low usage, decent outside shooter, great assist:turnover ratio, high FT rate.
G 35 Rapheal Davis Sr. 6'6, 217 64 17 Not really
Last year's B1G DPOY, iffy shooter but can hit open jumpers. True lockdown guy.
F 12 Vince Edwards So 6'8, 225 66 21 No
Solid all-around player, 42% 3P shooter, PG-level assist rate.
F 50 Caleb Swanigan Fr. 6'9, 250 62 24 Yes
Beast on boards, playing very well lately, can struggle with turnovers.
C 20 AJ Hammons Sr. 7'0, 250 55 28 Not really
Living up to his potential: monster rebounder and shot-blocker, shooting 60%.
G 31 Dakota Mathias So. 6'4, 200 46 14 No
39% 3P shooter rarely ventures inside arc. Good distributor.
G 1 Johnny Hill Sr. 6'3, 187 44 18 Very
Strong finisher for a PG, TO-prone, no outside shot, surprisingly good off. 
C 44 Isaac Haas So. 7'2, 282 37 29 Very
Behemoth. Good finisher and rebounder, not nearly Hammons as shot-blocker.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]


Purdue has cooled off a bit since the first matchup, after which they moved up to #4 on KenPom only to promptly lose by 14 at Illinois. They've mostly held to form since, losing only at Iowa and Maryland and holding on for an overtime win over MSU on Tuesday, but they've dropped to #17 and the defense doesn't look quite as impenetrable.

The first preview and second preview still mostly hold true; here's a quick update.

AJ Hammons earned first-team all-B1G and Defensive Player of the Year honors this season after shooting 60% from the field with elite rebounding and shot-blocking rates. He dominated Michigan in the first matchup and had an uncharacteristically poor outing in the second. The other seven-footer in the rotation, Isaac Haas, combined to go 8/15 over the two matchups in just 26 combined minutes; at 282 pounds he's a load to handle, though there's a dropoff in shot-blocking when he's on the floor.

Freshman power forward Caleb Swanigan is one of the best rebounders in the conference and an effective inside scorer; he's been inefficient due to iffy shot selection—he's a below average outside shooter—and turnover trouble. Swanigan has proven too strong a post scorer for Zak Irvin to contain so far this season; he had a lot of trouble staying in front of Irvin on the other end in the second matchup. The Irvin-Swanigan battle will go a long way towards determining the game.

Sophomore PJ Thompson has a tiny 12% usage, an important caveat since he ranks as the second-most efficient offensive player in the country by O-Rating. He's got solid 48/43/82 shooting splits with a high free-throw rate and a solid assist-to-turnover ratio. Backup Johnny Hill is a good slasher and surprisingly productive offensive rebounder who struggles with turnovers and doesn't even have the threat of an outside shot (1/8 3P).

Rapheal Davis remains the most fearsome perimeter defender in the conference, if not the country, and while opponents still dared him to take three-pointers he made a respectable 37% this season—he did cool off to 33% in Big Ten games. He's made Duncan Robinson a relative non-factor in the season series. Vince Edwards is a good rebounder and passer with a 42% mark from three-point range. He hasn't finished well inside the arc in conference play and has been especially unproductive (3/14 2P) against the Wolverines.

Reserve Dakota Mathias made 43% of his threes in conference play and finished with the highest assist rate on the team; he attempts more than twice as many threes as twos. Kendall Stephens dropped out of the rotation—he hasn't played in 8 of the last 12 games—after the Just A Shooter™ lost his three-point shot this season. Freshman Ryan Cline took Stephens' role; he's made 41/104 threes this season... and 1/11 twos. He's a streaky player; he went 0/1 in the first Michigan game and 3/6 in the second (all 3PA).


Conference-only stats.

Four Factors explanation

While Purdue is merely decent at shooting inside and outside the arc, they make up for that with a great rebounding rate. Forcing a high number of turnovers, something Michigan failed to do against Purdue this season, is key to offsetting their overwhelming size.

The defense didn't maintain its national-best pace from early in the season, finishing seventh in the Big Ten with middle-of-the-pack two-point and three-point numbers. They were first in the conference in defensive rebounding and dead last in forcing turnovers—Michigan's coughed it up just 14 times combined in the two matchups.


Win the Irvin-Swanigan matchup. Zak Irvin had trouble handling Caleb Swanigan in the post in both regular-season matchups, but Irvin has almost entirely eliminated him as an offensive rebounder (one in two games). Irvin had a rough outing in the first matchup; Swanigan couldn't keep up with him in the second as Irvin went 4/8 from beyond the arc. With Rapheal Davis a good bet to shut down Duncan Robinson, it's paramount Irvin at least matches Swanigan's production.

Keep it even on the boards. Michigan has kept the rebounding battle even against Purdue so far this season; the Wolverines improbably emerged as a legitimately good team on the boards. Still, the Boilermakers rebounded 36% of their misses this season, boast two skilled seven-footers, and get solid contributions from the non-centers—Swanigan, Edwards, and backup PG Johnny Hill are all plus offensive rebounders. Everyone needs to block out; Purdue will capitalize on mental errors.

Win The Game. Find a way.




Purdue by 6.




March 12th, 2016 at 9:43 AM ^

If you look at our resume from scratch, without worrying about where we were bracketed last week or the week before, we should be solidly in.

We have 20+ wins, 12 wins in the P5 Big Ten, 4 wins against the Top 25, and no losses at all to bad teams.  That's a team that should be on the good side of the bubble.  Period.



March 12th, 2016 at 10:00 AM ^

If you want to make a tournament that has the best teams in it, Michigan is undeniably one the top 68 (minus auto-bids and such).

The only way you can justify choosing a school like Monmouth over Michigan is if you are hoping to create the Cinderella-type drama that the casual fan wants.  Michigan beating a team like California in the first round does not create as much of that than if Monmouth wins a game.



March 11th, 2016 at 9:29 PM ^

could be, but if they want to feel confident about getting in they need to beat Purdue.  They are now 4-11 against the top 100, with all four wins against the top 25.  They were blown out by Xavier, UConn, SMU, Purdue, Iowa twice, MSU, Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio State. 


March 11th, 2016 at 7:25 PM ^

It all comes down to shooting. If the Wolverines can hit shots, they give themselves a chance. We've seen what happens when they go cold from outside. Hopefully they're peaking at just the right time- they absolutely can beat Purdue tomorrow!

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March 11th, 2016 at 7:29 PM ^

I hate the top 100 record argument. If you look at other bubble teams, it's a lot of wins in the 80s and 90a for them, games UM doesn't have simply because NW and PSU are a bit outside. I get there still being some bid stealers, but it is starting to get hard to believe all the doom and gloom.

That said, win tomorrow and nobody has to worry.


March 11th, 2016 at 9:55 PM ^

Yeah, Kenpom seems more consistent, but sadly the committee still does seem to care, if for no other reason than narrative.  

But yeah, this team has a better resume than a couple of those early Beilein teams, and is closing better than they did as well.


March 12th, 2016 at 9:51 AM ^

I think you're right about the narrative. The NCAA gets a lot of mileage out of cinderella teams. If Michigan gets into the tourney and makes it to the sweet 16, it's not much of a national story.  If a mid major does the same, they're a cinderella team that everyone is talking about.


March 12th, 2016 at 9:51 AM ^

I think you're right about the narrative. The NCAA gets a lot of mileage out of cinderella teams. If Michigan gets into the tourney and makes it to the sweet 16, it's not much of a national story.  If a mid major does the same, they're a cinderella team that everyone is talking about.


March 12th, 2016 at 9:51 AM ^

I think you're right about the narrative. The NCAA gets a lot of mileage out of cinderella teams. If Michigan gets into the tourney and makes it to the sweet 16, it's not much of a national story.  If a mid major does the same, they're a cinderella team that everyone is talking about.

Stringer Bell

March 11th, 2016 at 7:46 PM ^

Kinda would like to have Doyle for this game just to have a big, bulky guy out there to throw at Hammons and Haas. Not sure I like the prospect of Wagner going up against their 2 headed beast. Oh well, win the game


March 11th, 2016 at 8:35 PM ^

I Will Not Underestimate The Basketball Dudes
I Will Not Underestimate The Basketball Dudes
I Will Not Underestimate The Basketball Dudes
I Will Not Underestimate The Basketball Dudes
I Will Not Underestimate The Basketball Dudes
I Will Not Underestimate The Basketball Dudes

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March 11th, 2016 at 8:59 PM ^

     Michigan has to do a lot right to win I believe, especially because all those Hoosier fans just sold their tickets to Purdue fans (it is a bit of a stretch to think most of them will root for Purdue now--based on having two Purdue graduates in the family, but they might).  

      We all know the strengths and weakness of Michigan and how they ebb and flow, but I would mention the center play as the most variable factor.  Donnal is much improved but has good games with bad moments (today) and sometimes just games everybody would like to forget.  Doyle is out after looking improved in the last few losses.  Wagner looked good today driving and defending, let's hope he can keep it up, but he is only a freshman.   I think they have a shot, and if they lose, I hope they lose close.  That'll help in many ways, including next year.


March 11th, 2016 at 8:59 PM ^

have MULTIPLE losses to teams outside the top 100 ? Look at St Marys?   when all your wins are against WEAK conference teams how does that make you a more attractive at large team.?  How many bubble teams have 4 wins against the top 30? Vamderbilt in no way should get a bid b4 Michigan with a worse record in a league thats Weak to begin with....some of this rationale is mind boggling...Michigan has wins over Indiana, Maryland, Purdue, Texas and their non con sched included  Conn, Texas Xavier and SMU..I mean as far as bubble teams go thats pretty darn good


March 12th, 2016 at 5:55 AM ^

1. Regular season > Conference tourney
2. Wisconsin -- win that game and there is no loss to overcome now -- same goes for the Ohio State loss. The two tourney wins balance out those late-season losses, but that only gets you back onto the bubble, back to where you were before those losses.


March 12th, 2016 at 12:14 AM ^

Well both Tulsa and St. Bonaventure lost. We have that going for us. I heard Joe Lunardi's argument on why M is not in yet. It is because mid majors do not get enough opportunities against top 100 but M does. And M went 4-11. Since they had more chances and didn't win they should be out. With that argument, you want to play in a bad league and win most of your games and you are in. F*** that guy.


March 12th, 2016 at 12:52 AM ^

i think we are probably in at this point. 12 conference wins, and 4 top 25 wins is quite impressive- and on the other end of the spectrum we have zero bad losses. After doing a bit of research, there are only one or two of the other bubble teams that have a similar stat line- and they are both in.

Stu Daco

March 12th, 2016 at 1:25 AM ^

If there is a more idiotic basketball stat than record vs. Top 100, I haven't seen it.  8 of Michigan's losses are to Top 30 teams, but they count as losses vs. the Top 100 because apparently nobody in basketball understands basic statistics.


March 12th, 2016 at 10:03 AM ^

Purdue's Big's are huge but slow.  It takes them a long time to "wind up" and go to the basket.  In our win against Purdue we were able to quickly double them - front and back - and swat at the ball as soon as they received the pass.  It bothered them and threw off their shots.  

We need to do more of the same today.  There needs to be help in front of them every time they get the ball low with their backs to the basket.  

Without any help, they will just leisurely back their way into the basket and drop the ball in over the head of whoever we have guarding them.  And of course, the Big Ten refs will also whistle a foul on us as that happens.


March 12th, 2016 at 10:19 AM ^

I appreciate the hard work, athleticism, and competitiveness of women's gymnastics but in March what is the point of the B1G Network if they can't show the men's tournament? Maybe I'm a little pissy because it's on CBS and Directv in Bowling Green, KY doesn't carry the channel but still.