Hoops Preview: Purdue

Submitted by Ace on February 24th, 2017 at 2:54 PM


WHAT #27 Michigan (18-10, 8-7 B1G) vs
#11 Purdue (23-5, 12-3)
WHERE Crisler Center
Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 4 pm ET, Saturday
LINE 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.)


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 ORtg SIBMIHHAT
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.


Conference-only stats.

Four Factors explanation

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.


Purdue by 1.

Purdue's knack for drawing fouls inside is a huge, possibly game-swinging concern.


UMHoops preview. Mark Titus on the Big Ten's current mediocrity. New Big Ten Geek Bart Torvic with a worthwhile rebuttal:

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%.



February 24th, 2017 at 3:15 PM ^

We won this game at home with Donnal at the 5 and Irvin at the 4, which I think had Donnal and Doyle on Hammons/Haas and Irvin (!?!?!?!) on Swanigan.  Swanigan had an efficient game, but Zak was outstanding last year to better him.

Looks like Purdue is starting a smaller lineup and featuring Swanigan at center more. Swanigan and Haas only play together for about 10 minutes a game this year.  Will be interesting to see if Wagner starts out on Swanigan. He's upped his game since last year to, like you said, dominance. No matter who it is, it probably won't go well.  Need to stay out of foul trouble there, and hope the threes aren't falling for Purdue.


February 24th, 2017 at 3:53 PM ^

in 3pt shooting and were 50 percent against us last year.  The crazy thing is that we won the game inside and on the glass (!?!?!).  They only shot 37 percent from 2 and only rebounded 20 percent of their misses, which seems crazy given the size they were playing with last year, and that was the difference in the game.  We only shot 5-20 from three!

We were oddly a very good defensive rebounding team last year at 2nd in the conference!!! Irvin and Donnal did a much better job of boxing out last year than DJ and Wagner do, it seems.

They are getting more scoring from the PG spot this year, but PJ didn't turn it over much and they actually turn the ball over more this year.

Uncle Rico

February 24th, 2017 at 3:57 PM ^

In the first matchup he did quite well, as Swanigen really had a tough time keeping up with Irvin on the perimeter and driving.  Purdue adjusted in the second game, and the matchup was much more even, probably a nod to Swanigan.  

Swanigen is much better now obviously, but he will be guarded by Wagner or Wilson, not Irvin.  Purdue very rarely ever puts both Hass and Swanigen in the game at the same time.


February 24th, 2017 at 3:27 PM ^

"Not at all" seems a bit too laid-back for sports fandom.  If a guy on the opposing team hits a 3, dangit, it bugs me.  

(I still enjoy this metric a lot.)


February 24th, 2017 at 3:36 PM ^

I thought it was dumb at first.  Against Rutgers when #33 hit that 25 footer, I cocked an eyebrow and was like, ummmm, no way that guy is a 3pt shooter.  Glanced at that metric, and sure enough, Ace confrimed that I could indeed be very mad about that one.

But I agree that I usually am also very mad about a good three point shooter making a three if he was left open.  Like Walton leaving Keonig for the backbreaking 3 at Wisconsin or Duncan inexplicably leaving Loving for MAAR to defend two guys.  


February 24th, 2017 at 4:24 PM ^

That line seems really low, even though I think Michigan can play Purdue better than some expect.  

It will all come down to foul issues, I think.  If they let the teams play like Minnesota, then Michigan is screwed.  If they swallow their whistles, I could see Purdue just slamming it inside and Michigan maybe being able to throw enough bodies at Swanigan to keep it close.  And if they can shoot decently, which they have at home, then this feels like a winnable game.


February 24th, 2017 at 4:24 PM ^

"Purdue is on the brink of a Big Ten championship. When you think about it, it is odd to say that. The women’s track team could win the conference indoor championship this weekend, but it would be the first team Big Ten championship of any kind for us in four years. If they win, and the basketball team wins, Purdue can finally tie Chicago with 73 Big Ten championships."

-Hammer and Rails


February 24th, 2017 at 4:39 PM ^

But frankly I think it all comes down to Walton and Irvin hitting their threes.  If they do, we win.  Our defense is dramatically improved since the "white collar"/Fire Beilein Illinois game

Year of Revenge II

February 25th, 2017 at 7:11 AM ^

With Walton a consistent leader, and Wilson/Wagner improvement, Duncan is now a primary barometer as much as any.  If he provides a spark, hits some threes, and contributes some to rebounding, we likely are having a good game no matter who we are playing.

Because Purdue presents big match-up problems for us with their bigs, Wilson/Wagner is going to be key also.  Will they be totally owned, and will they do something close to holding their own.  If it is the latter along with good Robinson, we stand a good chance of victory.

Would be Yuge. 


February 25th, 2017 at 12:55 PM ^

This will stretch Purdue's bigs. Mo & DJ will get plenty of open lanes (40% 3's required). Teams that can put 4 players on the court that hit 3's will beat these guys.

We should hold our own with pts in the paint. Purdue's gonna get alot of O rebounds, and Mo & DJ can not hack when it occurs.

DW has to hit his season aves and we honestly have the make up to wipe the court with this slow, overated team.


February 25th, 2017 at 1:07 PM ^

Purdue has not been a good senior day opponent from what I remember. Zak and Stu lost to them in 2012, and LaVell's senior day was a L to them back in ...02? 03?

Here's hoping today turns that around.