Who: Michigan (10-8, 3-3) vs Purdue (15-3, 3-3)
Before the season, Pat Forde listed Michigan and Purdue as one of his ten “red hot rivalries”. The game being on that list felt weird and there was certainly exaggeration involved but “red hot” is the last phrase I would use to describe today’s game. Michigan’s season has been extremely underwhelming and Purdue limps into Saturday’s game after losing three of their last four games.
Sure there is intrigue. Manny Harris’ elbow connected with Chris Kramer’s face last year and video of the blow will probably be played more than necessary throughout ESPN’s telecast. Later, Michigan played one of their best games of last season and knocked off the highly ranked Boilermakers, inching closing to the NCAA tournament. But at the end of the day, the lack of excitement surround this game is a sign of just how disappointing Michigan’s season has been.
Pete summed up the Boilers pretty well in our Q&A yesterday so I’ll keep this preview a bit light.
Statistically Purdue is very strong across the board. Their offensive and defensive adjusted efficiencies both rank in Pomeroy’s top 25. Their game revolves around turnovers. Purdue doesn’t turn it over (16.5% of possessions) and forces a bunch (25% forced turnovers). They are great at making twos (52.2%) and defending twos (41.6%) but they have struggled behind the arc, shooting only 30.7% and allowing opponents to shoot 36.6%.
Purdue relies on the three headed monster of E’Twaun Moore (17 ppg), Robbie Hummel (16 points and 7 rebounds), and JaJuan Johnson (14 points and 7 rebounds). Michigan doesn’t really have a great answer for any of them defensively but they will have to figure out a way to at least slow them down.
Outside of the big three, Purdue doesn’t have much more. Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant have been underwhelming and were actually benched versus Illinois. Last game Kelsey Barlow and John Hart came out of nowhere and gave the Boilers an unexpected boost.
The key for Michigan is to get JaJuan Johnson in foul trouble. Michigan managed to negate Johnson in their win last year and it allowed Sims to go wild for 29 points. Johnson is a defender who is capable of forcing Sims into an off night but Sims has been playing first team All Big Ten basketball in conference play so Michigan needs to get him the ball.
I’m off to West Lafayette for this one, hoping that Michigan’s inability to win on the road has something to do with me not being there.
PS: Is Kelvin Grady returning? Message board rumors say yes. I am definitely a bit surprised but it seems like this is actually going to happen.