#27 Michigan (18-10, 8-7 B1G) vs
#11 Purdue (23-5, 12-3)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||4 pm ET, Saturday|
Purdue -1 (KenPom)
Michigan -1 (Vegas)
PBP: Dave Flemming
Analyst: Dan Dakich
Right: Senior Day has arrived for Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton. [Marc-Gregor Campredon/MGoBlog]
Tomorrow is Senior Day for Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton, Mark Donnal, Sean Lonergan, and Andrew Dakich. For those heading to Crisler, the festivities begin at 3:40 pm, and it'd sure be nice to see seats fill in earlier than usual. Yes, Spike Albrecht will be back in the building, too—as a reserve for Purdue.
Michigan is holding strong as a ten-seed listed in every projected field comprising the Bracket Matrix. Purdue provides the Wolverines with one more shot at a top-25 RPI win, something that may be more critical than expected now that Wisconsin has dropped to 27th, leaving SMU (#18) as M's only win to fit that criteria. (Infuriatingly, Minnesota has risen to #15.)
THE LINEUP CARD
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.
|G||11||PJ Thompson||Jr.||5'10, 185||70||12||132||Not At All|
|Very efficient, low-usage PG. Majority of shots are threes. Strong defender.|
|G||3||Carsen Edwards||Fr.||6'0, 190||59||24||95||No|
|Solid outside shooter, poor finisher. Can be turnover-prone.|
|G||31||Dakota Mathias||Jr.||6'4, 200||76||15||124||Not At All|
|Three-point sniper leads B1G in eFG%. Good assist rate but has turnover issues.|
|F||12||Vincent Edwards||Jr.||6'8, 225||68||21||118||Not At All|
|Does a bit of everything on offense, good defender.|
|F||50||Caleb Swanigan||So.||6'9, 250||79||28||114||Not At All|
|NPOY candidate. Beast in post, three-point range, great rebounder.|
|C||44||Isaac Haas||Jr.||7'2, 290||52||30||108||Very|
|Behemoth. Strong post scorer, rebounder, shot-blocker.|
|G||14||Ryan Cline||So.||6'5, 190||45||12||122||Not At All|
|Just A Shooter™, makes 43% of his threes.|
|G||55||Spike Albrecht||Sr.||6'0, 180||24||11||109||Yes*|
|Still not right after hip stuff. Tiny usage, only 4-for-22 on threes this year.|
*Man, that hurt to type.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Wisconsin has lost three of their last four and Maryland has lost two in a row, giving Purdue an effective two-game lead in the conference standings (they won each of their one-offs with the Badgers and Terps). While the Boilermakers are quite good, they fall short of dominant; they've lost road games at Iowa and Nebraska and were taken to overtime at Penn State on Tuesday.
Dominant is a fitting description for star big man Caleb Swanigan, however. The sophomore logs a huge minute total for a post player, a hidden source of great value at a position that often sees a major dropoff to the backup. (Michigan fans nod knowingly.) He's one of the country's best rebounders. He's shooting 52/44/80 (2P%/3P%/FT%) with a free throw rate just shy of 50 in Big Ten games. He's a solid passer out of the post, albeit prone to turning it over on occasion. That post on SI featuring anonymous coaches scouting other teams is contradicts itself on how to defend Purdue because a player as good as Swanigan—when surrounded by good shooters, which Purdue has—makes it very difficult to come up with a sound defensive approach:
Obviously it all starts with [sophomore forward Caleb] Swanigan. [Junior forward] Vince Edwards is really good. He got taken out of the starting lineup, but he didn’t sulk and worked his way back in. The guy who has taken his game to the next level is [junior guard] Dakota Mathias. His assist-to-turnover numbers are phenomenal. He’s not the point guard, but he leads them in assists. He makes it harder to double Swanigan. Last year I thought [junior guard] P.J. Thompson was just O.K. This year I think he’s really good. His on-ball defense is spectacular, and his decision making is very good. I think you can run on them. They’re not real deep, but that team is really together. I don’t see any selfishness at all. Their biggest weakness would be point guard play. They’re adequate, but I don’t know if they can make enough plays. If you can rotate and chase them off the line, the guards are pretty ordinary. The bigs will turn it over. You have to double Swanigan and try to confuse him.
Also complicating matters: the presence of 7'2", 290-pound center/kaiju Isaac Haas, who's currently fourth in KenPom's Big Ten Player of the Year standings (Swanigan is first) even though he usually comes off the bench. Haas eats up an even higher percentage of possessions than Swanigan and does so with impressive efficiency for a post-only player; he makes 58% of his shots, all two-pointers, draws a ton of fouls, and makes 73% of his free throws. As you'd expect, he's a force on the boards and as a rim protector. Turnovers are his primary weakness.
The biggest difference between last year's Boilermakers and this year's squad is three-point shooting; they're fourth nationally with a 41.3% mark from beyond the arc, a figure that's held steady through conference play. Swanigan isn't a frequent outside shooter, but he hits at a 47% clip. Guard Dakota Mathias is at 48% on a high rate of attempts; Michigan must run him off the line, as he's prone to coughing up the ball when he has to put it on the deck. Forward Vincent Edwards is a 44% three-point shooter who adds a whole lot more than that: he's a decent inside scorer, an excellent free-throw shooter, a willing passer, strong on the offensive glass, and a good defender.
Point guard PJ Thompson has the best ORating in the conference, though that's largely a product of his low usage rate. Once the ball gets into the post, Thompson mostly serves as a spot-up shooter, and he's making 40% of his threes. His primary contribution comes on the other end of the court, where he's an excellent on-ball defender. Thompson's backup is one Spike Albrecht, who hasn't returned to form since the dual hip surgeries; on very low usage, his turnover rate surpasses his assist rate and he's made only 4-of-22 three-point attempts this season.
Freshman Carsen Edwards is the weak spot offensively. He's not quite up to the shooting standards of the other guards at 34% on three-pointers, and while he creates a decent number of looks, he shoots only 41% on twos. Despite being their least efficient scorer among the main options, he takes the highest percentage of the team's shots when he's on the floor.
Backup guard Ryan Cline gives Purdue another 40%+ three-point shooter. He's a Just A Shooter™ type.
Purdue's offense is second only to Michigan's in the Big Ten due to their combination of strong post scoring and league-best three-point and free-throw percentages. They're held back a bit by turnovers and surprisingly mediocre offensive rebounding, but this is still a dangerous offense.
The Boilermakers eschew going for turnovers in favor of avoiding fouls, cleaning the glass, and preventing open looks from beyond the arc; they're first in the Big Ten in the former two categories and second in the latter. Perimeter defense is their strength; they're surprisingly bad at blocking shots (13th in B1G) for a team with Literally Godzilla playing half their minutes. By avoiding fouls, closing out strong on threes, and allowing few second-chance points, they force opponents to make do with relatively inefficient shots.
Avoid foul trouble. Michigan can win this game with Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson using their quickness to make the Haas/Swanigan matchup a mismatch for both teams. The outlook gets a whole lot worse if John Beilein is trying to keep the team afloat with Mark Donnal and Zak Irvin taking those matchups. Sometimes it's best to concede the easy two and live to see the end of the game; the importance of Wagner and Wilson not taking unnecessary fouls is hard to overstate.
Crisp rotations. Swanigan and Haas are probably going to draw the occasional double team as Michigan looks to stop them in the paint and create some turnovers, but Purdue's outside shooting makes that a risky tactic. The onus falls on the guards to communicate, rotate, and at least force the bigs to make difficult skip passes when they're trying to escape the double. Leaving the guards open isn't an option unless—man, this is weird to type—that guard is Spike Albrecht.
Walton and Irvin. It's been one or the other for Michigan: when Derrick Walton has a good offensive performance, Irvin struggles, and vice versa. Against the best team in the conference, both need to play well.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Purdue by 1.
Purdue's knack for drawing fouls inside is a huge, possibly game-swinging concern.
Even if you look solely at post-season results, with an appropriately wide perspective it’s pretty clear that the Big Ten is doing fine. Titus laments the lack of championships since 2000. But, as he notes, the Big Ten has produced six teams that went to the finals since 2002, and all but one of those teams—Indiana in 2002—were championship-level teams. Only the ACC has sent more teams to the finals since 2002, and it is just one more (7). Basically, the Big Ten has been very unlucky not to produce a champion in this period: by my calculations, using Kenpom numbers, the chances of the Big Ten failing to produce a national champion in this period are less than 10%.