|Who: Purdue (11-1) at Michigan (10-2)|
|Where: Crisler Arena, Ann Arbor, MI|
|When: Tuesday, December 28th, 2PM ET|
|Radio: MGoBlue / WTKA 1050 AM|
|John Beilein Presser / Player Video Interviews|
Michigan’s recent games versus Purdue have been memorable for some very different reasons. The frustration of playing in West Lafayette the last two years was magnified by a Manny Harris ejection and suspension. However, John Beilein’s best Big Ten win was over the Boilermakers in 2009. That game might not be as memorable as Michigan’s win over Duke, with the students away on spring break, but it was one of the best wins on Michigan’s NCAA tournament resume. It was also the best offensive performance from any team against Purdue over the last three and a half years. Today’s game might lack the star power of the Michigan side of the ledger but it is a great opportunity for a young Michigan team to make an early statement.
It’s tough to figure out what to make of this Purdue team. The loss of Robbie Hummel was crippling, as Hummel was a likely Big Ten Player of the Year candidate. Without Hummel, the Boilermakers remind me of a more efficient version of last year’s Michigan team. JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore are two of the top players in the country but they combine to take 60% of Purdue’s shots when they are on the floor – the same proportion that Harris and Sims took last season. The duo averages a combined 39 points per game which accounts for over half of Purdue’s offensive output.
Johnson and Moore are All-American candidates but the question is who can provide them with help offensively. John Hart, the Boilers third leading scorer, remains sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot. The main candidates for secondary scorers include DJ Byrd, Kelsey Barlow, Terone Johnson, Lewis Jackson, and Ryne Smith, five players that all average between 4 and 6 points per game. Barlow is a lock down defender and a great athlete but an average offensive player. Byrd (37%) and Smith (40%) are capable three point shooters but they don’t provide much else as 73% of their field goal attempts are from three point range. Freshman guard Terone Johnson was a heralded recruit but has an effective field goal percentage of just 36%. Jackson is an able set-up man but still turns the ball over too often despite being one of the more experienced players in Purdue’s rotation. If you want to stop Purdue’s offense you have to do everything that you can to stop Moore and Johnson and hope that the surrounding cast can’t get it done. It should come as no surprise that those two were a combined 8 of 28 (29%) in Purdue’s loss to Richmond.
The problem is that even if you can slow down Purdue’s offense, it’s near impossible to score on the Boiler defense. Ken Pomeroy ranked Purdue’s defense 5th in 2009, 3rd in 2010, and now has the at number 3 in 2011. Only one team has topped the 1.00 point per possession mark this year – Richmond with 1.01 points per trip — and the recipe for defensive success is the same as its ever been for Matt Painter. Purdue forces their opponents to turn the ball over on 25% of their possessions, that’s once every four trips up the court. Purdue’s opponents have just a 41.7% effective field goal percentage and the Boilers have the 4th best three point defense in the country at 27%. How Michigan’s offense, which revolves around the three point shot and has struggled versus pressure defenses this season, can score enough points to win is anyone’s guess.
The first step to beating Purdue’s defense is valuing the basketball. Michigan has been great in the turnover department under John Beilein and they have been solid once again this year. On the other hand, Purdue is the best defense that Michigan has faced and it’s hard to forget the UTEP debacle where Michigan was barely able to get into their offensive sets versus the Miner’s pressure defense. Dealing with the pressure is one thing but hitting some shots is another. When Michigan’s offense was successful versus the Boilers it was because DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris had career nights.To be successful this year, Michigan is going to have to run their offense beyond just isolation plays. Hitting a few early threes would go a long ways toward opening the offense up for backdoor cuts and more flexibility.
Pomeroy gives Michigan a 32% chance of victory a predicts Purdue to win by a score of 61-58 in a 63 possession game. I’ll shy away from a score prediction but here are three more specific thoughts:
- The team that breaks 1 point per possession wins – points will be at a premium.
- Michigan manages to slow down one of Purdue’s big two but the other scores over 20 points on 50%+ shooting.
- Zack Novak has his best three point shooting game of the season and first where he makes 3 or more three pointers.