|WHAT||#6 Michigan (6-0) vs
#12 Purdue (5-2)
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||3:30 PM Saturday|
|LINE||Michigan -5 (KenPom)|
A reasonable best-case scenario for Michigan basketball before the season may have included a 7-0 start, but not in the manner Michigan accomplished it. If you drop out preseason projections, Michigan is the top team in the country per Bart Torvik. That's true for the most recent 20-game stretch. There is only one way to respond to this:
There's going to be a bump or three down the road, and the Big Ten's expanded conference schedule provides a potential bump tomorrow: Purdue. Last year's three-game series was electric, with the Matthews Zapruder game at Crisler and then the delirious 1.3 PPP game at Mackey going to Purdue. Michigan picked up a modicum of revenge in the Big Ten title game.
Those games, and the 2016-17 ones, were a battle between Purdue's giant, conventional centers and Moe Wagner's ability to spread the court. They featured Isaac Haas switching onto point guards and Wagner trying not to foul out in three minutes as Haas went to work on the block. Those days will not recur, but the last few years have taught us that a Painter-Beilein matchup is going to be a hell of a thing.
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||3||Carsen Edwards||Jr.||6'1, 200||80||36(!)||116||No|
|Do-everything G was already top 100 in usage last year, now at Happ level w all four other 2017-18 starters gone. Maintaining his efficiency so far. Shooting 50/39 at 36% usage. Dang.|
|G||14||Ryan Cline||Sr.||6'6, 195||83||19||129||No|
|Just A Shooter. 41% from deep on 382 career attempts. 33 career FTAs. Rep is he's a pretty good defender.|
|G||20||Nojel Eastern||So.||6'6, 220||64||14||112||Yes|
|Deeply strange "point guard" who's mostly good on the offensive boards. Shooting almost entirely at rim. Pesky, good defender.|
|F||24||Grady Eifert||Sr.||6'6 220||61||10||135||Probably|
|Invisible shortish stretch four type only dunks off putbacks/assists and takes the occasional 3. 5/15 from there.|
|C||32||Matt Haarms||So.||7'3, 250||45||24||109||Yes|
|Dutch windmill is close to same player he was last year but has improved rebounding and usage significantly. Too many TOs to be efficient. Top 30 block rate. Averaging 5.1 fouls/40.|
|F||12||Evan Boudreaux||Jr.||6'8 220||47||25||137||No|
|Dartmouth transfer looks and plays like 40-year-old Frenchman. Giant OREB rate (21%, third nationally) and non-existent block rate don't match. All his minutes as a stretch 5.|
|G||55||Sasha Stefanovic||Fr.*||6'4", 195||40||12||111||No|
|Just A Shooter. Composite #374. From Indiana so this isn't a Moe Wagner thing.|
|G||2||Eric Hunter||Fr.||6'3, 170||37||14||117||Maybe?|
|Composite #151 freshman can't find his shot early on. Too early to really say much, but looks more like a PG than SG.|
|F||1||Aaron Wheeler||Fr.*||6'9, 200||30||15||90||Yes|
|Stretch four is 4/15 from three on the year and has a bunch of turnovers. #174 composite freshman.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
This is a very different Boilermaker outfit, but one that's not much worse than last year's version. They've suffered narrow losses in fun, well-played games against Kenpom top 20 foes Virginia Tech (neutral court) and FSU (road). The have a 20-point blowout of A-10 favorite Davidson to their credit.
Only three things about Purdue last year are relevant to Purdue this year: they've still got Carsen Edwards, they've still got that giant Dutch guy with the Stretch Armstrong arms, and they've still got that white guy running around screens for threes who was impossible to distinguish from that other guy. The other guy is gone and so is the rest of the Boilermaker starting lineup aside from Edwards.
But hey, if you were going to pick one guy to get back it would be Carsen Edwards. Edwards tore up the Big Ten last year with 51/41 shooting on top 100 usage. He got to the line, converted at 82%, chipped in some steals, and had a solidly positive assist to turnover ratio. This was enough to get on the Kenpom Player of the Year board at #9.
Even more impressive than that: he won a matchup against Zavier Simpson. His 19 points on 15 shot equivalents and 132 ORTG powered Purdue to a 70-69 win in Crisler last January. A furious Simpson did not let that recur, however. The delirious return game at Mackey was not an Edwards production as he had 5 turnovers and scuffled to a 92 ORTG; the Big Ten title game saw Edwards put up just 12 points on 18 shot equivalents.
After a flirtation with the NBA draft Edwards looked at the Purdue roster, saw a bounty to be harvested, and returned. And lo: Edwards's usage has shot up to Ethan Happ territory. He's at a stunning 36%, and hasn't lost any efficiency despite climbing to the very top of Usage Mountain. This isn't an enormous surprise since Edwards has always been outstanding at tough off the dribble shots. Only half his threes are assisted; virtually none of his twos are. He's still shooting 42% on "other twos" and 41% from three. There's only so much even Simpson can do about him because he's elite at contested shots. But even that only gets you so far if you're not supplementing with good looks.
Edwards is going to have to generate those almost by himself. The rest of the roster is bereft of drivers and playmakers. The nearest thing right now is senior sniper Ryan Cline, who's an extreme Just A Shooter except for his decent assist rate. Cline has 382 attempts from three and 33 free throw attempts in his career; while he's been a tad more active inside the arc in the early going he remains a guy who's going to attack a couple closeouts a game and otherwise run around trying to screen himself open.
Eastern does check point guards sometimes [Campredon]
Michigander Nojel Eastern is continually referenced as a point guard by the media and recruiting services, but if there's a recent comparable in Big Ten basketball it's Jae'Sean Tate. Eastern is a 6'6" junkyard dog who can't shoot even a little (41% FTs, 3/11 career 3s) but pounds the offensive boards and is a versatile, superior perimeter defender. Purdue's 2PT and EFG defense drops ten points when he's on the bench. He is in no way a "point guard." His TO rate is twice as high as his assist rate.
Unfortunately for Purdue, Eastern is a guy you can sag off of with impunity and his efficiency is probably going to drop off a cliff once Purdue gets past the cupcake-heavy section of the schedule. He had six turnovers against FSU and VT and an ORTG under 100 between those games despite shooting 6/10 from the floor. If he's going to have a positive impact in this game it'll be as an Iggy antidote.
Nominal power forward Grady Eifert stands about 6'6", and "stands" is about it. His 10% usage comes on putbacks and assists Edwards and occasionally someone else hand him, and that 10% usage might be generous. He had three shots in 44 minutes against FSU and VT.
Eifert was a benchwarmer for two years before getting about 8 MPG last year; he will shoot the occasional three but was 52% from the line last year and probably isn't a plus from behind the arc. Data is just too thin.
Haarms is a block machine [Campredon]
At center Matt Haarms returns for his sophomore year. So far he's the same guy he was a year ago: a giant windmill person built to swat shots. He's greatly increased his usage and rebounding rates in year two but this has come at a cost: a TO rate of 25%. His outings against VT and FSU were not very productive. He took one shot against VT, that a thee, and had 6 points and two turnovers against FSU. He has evidently not developed much, or any, of the back to the basket game that Isaac Haas brutalized Michigan with over the last couple years.
Haarms had trouble staying on the floor last year and that has cropped up again this year. He's been hit with four fouls in three of Purdue's seven games so far despite not cracking 20 minutes in any of the three.
Co-starter Evan Boudreaux is getting the other ~20 minutes and is the exact opposite of Haarms. Boudreaux transferred from Dartmouth after two years there and looks exactly like you'd think an Ivy League C would if he popped up on a Big Ten team. He's athletically deficient, a skilled shooter, a defensive nonfactor, and also looks like he should be riding a bike down a French street with a beret on his head and a cigarette in his mouth.
Boudreaux's on/off splits aren't based on much this early in the season but you can see the reasons he's playing, and the reason he's not playing more. Key bits in this table include TO rate on both ends, Purdue's offensive eFG%, and their defensive 2PT%.
Purdue's offense flows much more smoothly when Boudreaux is facilitating things and drawing bigs out of the paint. Also since he provides zero help defense (he has a 1% block rate) Purdue is much better at grabbing defensive boards than when Haarms is trying to swat everything near the basket.
A couple of things are probably not sustainable. His OREB rate of 21% is third nationally and almost has to be an illusion based on a small sample size. His OREB rates in two years as a starter in the Ivy League were 7.5 and 8.2. Similarly, he's hitting 65% from two after years of 47% and 45% at a lower level. Boudreaux no doubt improved over the course of his transfer-mandated redshirt year, but nobody improves that much.
Purdue's non-Boudreaux bench consists of a few low-rated freshmen. G Sasha Stefanovic and F Aaron Wheeler redshirted last year. Both are Just Shooters thus far in their career. Stefanovic has been effective (9/20); Wheeler not so much. Both have 20+ TO rates that are very bad for JAS types. G Eric Hunter also takes most of his shots from behind the arc but has hinted at some ability to get to the bucket; he has a respectable early A:TO rate.
The turnover has created a very different kind of Purdue team. Last year's Ogre Surrounded By Four Rip Hamiltons approach led to the #2 three-point shooting team in the country on a relatively large number of attempts. Purdue shot the lights out, got a ton of assists, and were bleah on the offensive boards.
This year's offense is:
- Perhaps overly three-dependent. Over half of Purdue's shots come from behind the line and their FT rate has dropped to the edge of the 300s. They're still shooting it well.
- Crushing the offensive boards. Purdue went from 208th last year to 11th this year. Cupcake heavy scheduling explains some of this but at this point in the season most teams have played about the same number of cupcakes.
- Slower. Purdue fell from pretty fast on O to about average.
- More isolated. Purdue also fell from a lot of assists to slightly above average.
The defense has experienced a major decline in eFG% based in large part because Purdue's gone from a pretty good team at preventing threes from going up to an awful one. They're 311th at preventing threes; opponents are hitting them at a slightly above average rate. Also Boudreaux's kind of a Mark Donnal in the post.
Z vs E. Last year's edition of Purdue was plenty good enough to beat Michigan even if Edwards had an off day (and Glasses MAAR was unconscious). This year's absolutely cannot. Last year's team had Edwards, Haas, and Dakota Mathias above 18 usage and Mathias actually led the team in assist rate. This year Cline's chipping in a little against the meatball teams but took two shots inside the arc against FSU and FSU and had a 1:1 A:TO ratio. Other than that it's the centers, who project to get Teske'd in the same way Luke Maye did, and turnover prone low-usage youth.
It's hard to see a way for Purdue to win that doesn't include 25 points from Edwards. Have fun storming that particular castle.
Win the three point line. This is the #10 offense at launches vs the #11 team at preventing said launches. Michigan can help off Eastern and maybe Eifert but they've got to know their scouting reports and get in Cline and Boudreaux's grills. There's not much they can do to prevent Edwards from getting his shot off but they can prevent catch and shoot opportunities. Or at least try.
Meanwhile on the other end this is a three-point defense that suddenly looks a lot like Carolina's, and Michigan went 11 for 22 against them. Continuing to can open looks both wins this game and brightens up the future that little bit more.
Rebound. Michigan's coming off a solid W in the defensive rebounding department against a top-ten outfit and faces another team in Carolina's range. Most of the game will feature three guys who are threats; it'll take a team effort. It'll start with Simpson, as a large number of OREBs for Purdue are Edwards putting up Kobe assists as he draws help.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 5.