First off, I've been overwhelmed and uplifted by the outpouring of support from my post earlier today. Thank you so much to everyone who's reached out with words of support or shared their own personal stories. It means the world to me to be a part of such a remarkable community.
#32 Michigan (14-3, 3-1 B1G)
vs #5 Purdue (15-2, 4-0)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||9 pm ET, Tuesday|
Purdue -2 (KenPom)
Purdue -4.8 (Torvik)
Purdue -1 (Vegas)
PBP: Dave Flemming
Analyst: Dan Dakich
Right: It's gonna get physical. [Paul Sherman]
Purdue's visit to Crisler gives Michigan its best chance at a marquee win from a Big Ten schedule that doesn't have MSU travel to Ann Arbor. Given the way the nonconference schedule broke, pulling out at least one victory against the Boilermakers or Spartans is probably the only way the Wolverines can get above a 7 or 8 seed—there just aren't many resumé-boosing wins to be had when most of the conference is moving in the wrong direction.
In rotation news, Zavier Simpson took the starting job back from Eli Brooks for the Illinois game, and that's all but assured to be a permanent change. Brooks could be in a fight for the backup job with Jaaron Simmons, who Beilein inserted for a brief stretch that wasn't in garbage time. Jordan Poole has definitively moved in front of Ibi Watson as the primary backup at both the two and the three. (He's previously just played the two.) Isaiah Livers continues to impress and this could very well be the game he overtakes Duncan Robinson regardless of who starts the first half; the Boilermakers pose a terrible matchup for Robinson.
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||Sr.||5'10, 185||71||13||135||Not At All|
|Very efficient, low-usage PG. Hitting 49% of threes. Strong defender.|
|G||3||Carsen Edwards||So.||6'0, 190||67||28||114||No|
|B1G's most improved. Shot creator who's greatly improved finishing.|
|G||31||Dakota Mathias||Sr.||6'4, 200||76||19||129||Not At All|
|Three-point sniper, also threat inside arc, good passer when D overcommits.|
|F||12||Vincent Edwards||Sr.||6'8, 225||74||24||118||Not At All|
|Does a bit of everything on offense, good defender.|
|C||44||Isaac Haas||Sr.||7'2, 290||54||27||124||Very|
|Behemoth. Strong post scorer, rebounder, shot-blocker.|
|C||32||Matt Haarms||Fr.||7'3, 250||46||14||112||Very|
|Low-usage Haas, basically. Some offensive dropoff but none on defense.|
|G||14||Ryan Cline||Jr.||6'5, 190||45||13||117||Not At All|
|Just A Shooter™, makes 40% of his threes.|
|G||20||Nojel Eastern||Fr.||6'6, 220||30||20||86||Yes|
|Big combo guard at best around hoop. Turnover-prone.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Purdue is 1b to Michigan State's 1a in the Big Ten this year. They're 7-2 against KenPom top-100 teams and boast one of the most impressive single-game results of the season in a 89-64 neutral-court pasting of Arizona. Despite losing national player of the year candidate Caleb Swanigan, they've improved on both ends of the floor, and they boast a starting lineup of four seniors and emerging sophomore star Carsen Edwards.
Edwards has been the most improved player in the conference this season. Last year, he was an inefficient chucker who had to take on a significant role for a team lacking shot creators. This year, he's pulled off the difficult feat of improving his efficiency while simultaneously taking on a leading role. He's the bucket-getter, and the offense suffers noticeably when he's not out there.
The rest of the team should be pretty darn familiar to you. The senior holdovers are led by 7'2" center Isaac Haas, who's been overwhelming in the post, making 64% from the field while drawing 8.2 fouls per 40 minutes. While he no longer has Swanigan as a bruising partner in crime, he has a 7'3" backup in freshman Matt Haarms who provides similar efficiency in the post—albeit on much lower usage—while deterring (and swatting) shots in the pain.
Power forward Vincent Edwards, who considered entering the NBA draft early, instead returned to provide his usual bit of everything—he can rebound, defend multiple positions, and score inside and out. While he doesn't necessarily wow you, he's a versatile weapon who'll come up with some big plays.
Purdue gets great outside shooting from guard PJ Thompson and wing Dakota Mathias, who have essentially swapped the roles of point guard and small forward. Thompson is tiny but is mostly used as an off-ball shooting threat. Mathias, a former Just A Shooter™ type, leads the team in assist rate and is more of a threat to score off the dribble. Junior Ryan Cline, a true JAS™, gives them another 40%+ marksman off the bench.
Small sample size caveats apply.
They're really good.
If Purdue has a weakness offensively, it's that they can be a little turnover-prone; they're susceptible to steals when opponents dial up the pressure on the bigs, though that comes with its own costs. They're a top-25 shooting team both inside and outside the arc, draw a lot of fouls, and make free throws at a top-50 rate.
Defensively, Purdue's size has the expected impact on opponent two-pointers—they're fifth against twos and 20th in block rate—and they do a remarkable job of avoiding fouls given how often they contest shots.
Figure out the rotation early. I expect John Beilein to start Duncan Robinson. I don't expect that to go well; there's nobody in Purdue's starting lineup you can reasonably hide him against and he exacerbates the existing defensive mismatch of Haas against Moe Wagner. I'd be pleasantly surprised if Beilein stuck with the Wagner/Livers, Teske/Robinson pairings as much as he can. Trying to slow the Purdue offense with both Wagner and Robinson out there is going to be a lost cause.
Slow Edwards. When looking at lineup data, the impact of Carsen Edwards on Purdue's offense stands out. It makes sense—he's the primary shot creator, and nobody coming off the bench replicates his skill-set. It'd be a huge step in the right direction if MAAR or Charles Matthews can stick with his drives and maybe even harass him into some turnovers. It won't be easy; they won't get much help with so many good shooters spreading the floor.
Spread and shred. Michigan laid down the blueprint for beating Purdue last year: go five-out as much as possible, put their huge but somewhat ponderous big men in space, and use the threat of guards blowing past those bigs to open up the perimeter. Zavier Simpson's breakout couldn't have come at a better time; tonight will be the biggest test of how far he's come.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Purdue by 2.
DJ Wilson was a big part of that five-out, spread-and-shred success against Purdue last year. Robinson doesn't provide the same matchup problems (at least not without adding one for Michigan on the other end) and Livers, as much as I love his game, may not be there yet. This should be a fun, tight game, but I expect size and experience to win out.