|WHAT||Purdue at Michigan|
|WHERE||Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||7:00 PM Eastern, Thursday|
|LINE||Michigan –17 (Kenpom)|
Purdue came to Ann Arbor for last year's Senior Night and spoiled Michigan's chances at an outright Big Ten title. While this Michigan outfit has markedly improved from last year's version, the Boilermakers have gone in the opposite direction without Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson, and Ryne Smith.
6'2" guard Terone Johnson, Purdue's leading scorer, takes over 27% of the team's shots when he's on the floor, and they aren't all good ones: according to hoop-math, 52% of his shots are two-point jumpers, of which he makes just 33%. He's a decent finisher around the basket and can knock down threes (35.2%), but shot selection is obviously an issue, one exacerbated on a team lacking viable shot creators. His overall efficiency is salvaged somewhat by a healthy number of assists and a low turnover rate, at least.
Freshman starting point guard Ronnie Johnson has much the same statistical profile as older brother Terone—right down to 52% of his shots being two-point jumpers, of which he makes 33%—except with a high turnover rate. Oh, and he's shooting 3-for-26 on three-pointers this year. Efficient, he is not.
Rounding out the starting backcourt is 6'5" guard Raphael Davis, though he's only playing about 35% of the team's minutes. Davis is one of the team's most effective shooters, hitting 56% of his twos and going 5-for-13 from downtown, and he's also a solid defensive rebounder. For some reason, he doesn't play more—I'm guessing because he also struggles with turnovers.
6'5" senior DJ Byrd is listed as a guard/forward but spends nearly all his time on the perimeter—70% of his shots come from beyond the arc. After hitting 43% of his threes last year, Byrd is down to 36.5% this season as defenses are able to devote far more attention to him. He's not much of a rebounder on either end despite playing the four at times.
Seven-footer AJ Hammons has quietly put together one of the best freshman campaigns in the conference, averaging a hair over ten points in 23 minutes per game while doing solid board work on both ends. He's very effective around the basket, where he hits 75% of his shots, but like the Johnson brothers often settles for too many two-point jumpers—those comprise 56% of his shots, and he's hitting them at a 35% rate. On the defensive end, Hammons is a very good shot-blocker and a major reason why Purdue boasts the conference's best two-point defense (39.3 2P% allowed).
6'3" sixth man Anthony Johnson is not related to the two starters of the same name, but he joins the low-efficiency party anyway, connecting on 42.7% of his twos and 24.2% of his threes. Forwards Jacob Lawson, Donnie Hale, and Travis Carroll provide good size off the bench (all are in the 6'8"-6'9" range). Lawson is a stellar defensive rebounder and decent finisher around the hoop. Carroll doesn't hit the defensive boards hard but rebounds well on offense and has started the season 15-for-21 from the field. Hale doesn't rebound at all and has hit 27 of his 69 shots this year, so naturally he gets more minutes than Carroll and is a higher-usage player than Lawson.
The Boilermakers went just 7-6 in non-conference play, with their lone KP100 win coming on the road against #65 Clemson. Other games against KP100 teams didn't go so well, with losses to Bucknell and Xavier at home and Villanova and Notre Dame at neutral sites. They also lost at Eastern Michigan, a team Michigan destroyed to the tune of 39 points.
Purdue does have a 3-2 record in the Big Ten, including a seven-point win at home over Illinois, but wins over Penn State and Nebraska are nothing to write home about. Michigan State crushed them by 23 at Breslin, while Ohio State pulled away late at Purdue for a ten-point margin.
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||45.4 (8)||16.3 (4)||35.6 (3)||30.4 (8)|
|Defense||43.7 (3)||15.7 (12)||32.5 (8)||24.8 (2)|
Offensively, Purdue doesn't shoot the rock well, but they manage a just-below-average offense thanks to offensive rebounding and not turning the ball over. They're hitting their threes in Big Ten play (37.7%) but the numbers inside the arc are ugly (42.6%) and they've been terrible from the line (54.4 FT%(!)).
Strong interior defense has been a constant for the Boilermakers, as their impressive 2P% against has held steady from non-conference to conference play. Big Ten opponents have caught fire from outside, but Purdue actually allows the second-fewest attempts in the conference, so that is likely a fluke.
Don't give Byrd open looks. The only way I see Michigan losing this game is if Purdue catches fire from downtown, and Byrd is their best outside shooter. He's seen his shooting percentage plummet (albeit from "ridiculous" to merely "quite good") now that defenses don't have to worry about Robbie Hummel and Ryne Smith lighting them up from the outside; if Michigan devotes the same level of attention as Purdue's previous opponents, they should be able to limit his output.
Forego post touches. Brian has covered in detail why Michigan doesn't need to try and establish their post players as back-to-the-basket scoring threats, and with Hammons patrolling the paint this isn't the game to try and do that, anyway. Expect the centers to spend much of the night setting picks as the Wolverines try to draw Hammons away from the basket—if they can get a few ticky-tack fouls on him, that's a bonus.
Cede the jumper to anyone named Johnson. The numbers speak for themselves. Michigan should be able to get their transition game going given the volume of jump shots that Purdue usually misses. Terone Johnson pulling up from 18 feet, as he is wont to do, is about as likely to result in a Michigan basket going the other way as it is one for Purdue.
Get Stauskas going again. Just for my own sanity, it'd be nice to see Mr. Swag crack 50% from downtown after struggling in the last couple games.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 17.
I'll stick to KenPom here with that kind of a margin. As stated above, Purdue's proclivity for taking—and missing—the worst shot in basketball should spark more than a couple fast break opportunities. If Michigan can find a way to score inside the arc—and we're talking about the nation's best offense by a decent margin here—they should be able to run away with this one.
As much as I would love to say I have a good feeling about this game (and I kind of do), realistically it is hard to see us winning this. Maybe later on in West Lafayette if everything goes right Purdue can stun them, but we're asking a team that is still very young to go into Ann Arbor and knock off one of the best teams in the country. I think it only happens if Hammons stays out of foul trouble while delivering a 20-10-5 game, Davis or TJ also has a big game, and Purdue hassles them into an uncharacteristically bad game.
BoilerTMill predicts a 15-point Michigan win despite the admitted optimism.