|WHAT||Michigan at Purdue|
West Lafayette, Indiana
|WHEN||7:00 PM Eastern|
"I want to be a nacho man
nacho nacho man
I want to be a nacho man
who makes engineering"
-"I Tap Plains For Mana," Purdue fight song
Michigan hasn't seen Purdue since January 24th but the Boilers remain about the same team they were back then: a bunch of bricklayers who can get to the bucket surrounding mercurial man-mountain AJ Hammons. Hammons turned in his worst game of the season (two points, two rebounds, two turnovers in 24 indifferent minutes) and Michigan ran away late with a comfortable 68-53 win. Two games later he'd thunder in 30 points against Indiana, albeit in a 37-point loss.
Hammons maintained a high level of production the next few games but has gone cold of late, scoring six points in three of his last four. He did have a good game against Iowa with 12 points and 9 rebounds despite being limited to 18 minutes with foul trouble.
Overall, Hammons is only a decent shooter; he is a high usage, extremely-high block guy who rebounds okay for a seven-footer. Jordan Morgan and company will probably encounter a much more motivated version of him this time out. If he's shooting over a defender, okay.
The guys surrounding Hammons are mostly guys named Johnson. Terone, the junior, is the only one who can shoot it from the outside. He's at a 35% clip. Ronnie and Anthony are at 15 and 21, respectively. All of them shoot about 41% from two—ugh—and the more-heavily-used Terone and Ronnie are under 60% from the line. Those are ugly numbers from your highest-usage players, especially when they're coupled with a high TO rate from Ronnie.
The non-Johnson starter is DJ Byrd, a remorseless chucker who somehow manages a TO rate above 20 despite launching 77% of his shots from behind the arc. Sometimes well behind the arc, as Nik Stauskas found out in the last meeting. That meeting was the foundation for a short-lived Tim Hardaway Lockdown Defender meme after Byrd went from 11 points in the first half to 0 in the second half, but six of those points came on threes that were either banked or shot from 35 feet.
He's a less extreme Marshall Henderson, but he's knocking down 37% of his somewhat inadvisable threes. Since no one save backup wing Raphael Davis gets an appreciable number of twos in at a 50%+ clip, that is Purdue's best shot by some distance.
Purdue will run out large men like Sandi Marcus, Travis Carroll and Donnie Hale when Hammons is on the bench or they're looking for a little more size. Carroll is invisible offensively and has Egwu-level rebounding rates (ie, decent offense, terrible defense); Hale puts up an array of midrange jumpers that fall at the usual 42% rate. Marcus is a clubbing OREB guy who mysteriously only gets 16% of Purdue's minutes despite having good numbers. Must be bad positionally.
The only perimeter backup of any note is the aforementioned Raphael Davis, a freshman who shoots okay in limited opportunities but turns the ball over a great deal.
Purdue's coming off by far their best performance of the year, a 69-56 win at the Trohl Center. That's God's work, Boilermakers. DJ Byrd was 6 of 9 from behind the line, Terone Johnson managed to shoot 50% from the floor on 14 attempts, and Purdue was +6 in OREBs largely because Wisconsin couldn't grab an offensive board to save its life.
This brought them to 7-9 in the Big Ten, king among the conference dwarves. Their other conference wins have mostly come against teams with no shot at the tourney, with exceptions at home against Iowa (in OT) and Illinois (by seven in the opener). But hey Michigan lost to Penn State so everybody's nervous.
Four factors, now conference-only (small sample, yes, but numbers are equally skewed by various cupcakes on the non-conference schedule):
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||44.6 (9)||19.4 (11)||35.4 (3)||32.7 (6)|
|Defense||46.1 (4)||15.3 (12)||32.6 (8)||29.5 (5)|
Purdue shoots poorly and doesn't quite make up for a large TO deficit with good rebounding. Fast break points should favor the Wolverines, as Purdue is 11th in the league at giving up steals and 12th at acquiring them. They're also 11th in free throw shooting, 10th in 2 point shooting, and last in threes attempted, because obviously.
All of this would be much more assuring if not for Penn State, of course.
Keep them away from the bucket without sagging off of Byrd. Surprise, right? Michigan picked up their pick and roll defense in their most recent game after the mother of all wakeup calls and should be on point here, but the defensive suck is a much larger trend than one good game against the Spartans. In any case, help off guys and force short pullups, prevent layups, and keep DJ Byrd from doing what he did against Wisconsin and Purdue won't touch a PPP.
Sag off pretty much anyone else. Maybe not Terone Johnson, but he's the nominal PG so that's more a matter of being alert to a jack coming your way.
Pick and roll Hammons. Hammons is a force inside, but he's a bit sluggish on the perimeter and can be foul prone when he's trying to move and defend at the same time. Meanwhile Hammons's backups are nowhere near the defender he is. Or rebounder. Or shooter. Hammons is a lot better than other big guy options.
No easy buckets. If Michigan has a choice between giving up a layup and putting a dude on the line, put the dude on the line. Only Byrd is a quality FT shooter on this team. You'll save yourself some points by making them earn transition opportunities at the line.
Shoot a three pointer. And preferably some additional three pointer after the first one. Hammons makes life difficult inside. Winning games without making threes is hard.
Don't suck on the road no mo'. srs
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 6.