Game 29: Purdue at Michigan Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Purdue (18-10, 8-7) at No. 13 Michigan (21-7, 11-4 B10) 25831[1]
Where: Crisler Center (Ann Arbor, MI)
When: 6:00 p.m. ET, Saturday, February 24th, 2012
Radio: MGoBlue, 950AM, 102.9 FM, Sirius/XM 91
More: Pick to Click / First Game

With 258 games and 185 starts between them, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass will take the Crisler Center floor for the final time on Saturday night. The duo committed to Michigan with little fanfare and, bit by bit, have reestablished the program. Neither player ever averaged double digits or posted glamorous numbers but Zack Novak broke the 1,000 point plateau and Stu Douglass is likely to graduate as Michigan’s all-time leader in games played. Most importantly when all is said and done they will have taken the program, which hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament in a decade, to the Big Dance in three of their four seasons. Both players would tell you that the memories can wait as Michigan hosts Purdue with a chance to remain perfect at home and within striking distance of a Big Ten championship.

Photo: Dustin Johnston

In West Lafayette…

Michigan’s win at Purdue came a month ago today and was its first road win of the season. The Wolverines got off to a strong start, carrying a lead through the majority of the game before allowing Purdue back in late. Purdue rattled off a 17-3 run to take the lead before the Wolverines pulled a Houdini act, tightening up their defense down the stretch and escaping with the narrow victory. Michigan out-shot and out-rebounded the Boilermakers but, in an uncharacteristic occurrence for the Wolverines, Purdue won the turnover battle.

Since the First Meeting…

Purdue is 4-2 since losing to Michigan and now sits at 8-7 in Big Ten games. Looking like a probable NCAA tournament team, Matt Painter’s team appears to have the sixth best tournament resume in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers have won three of four games and Robbie Hummel likes how Purdue is coming together, “it’s a thing where you don’t want to peak too early, but we’re peaking at the right time.” Kelsey Barlow was kicked off of the team after a recent bar incident, but the Boilers have surpassed 1.3 points per possession in three of their last five games.

Despite ranking near the bottom half of the Big Ten in shooting, offensive rebounding and free throw rate, Purdue has the Big Ten’s fourth best offense. The Boilermakers are as turnover averse as it gets in the Big Ten which means when their shots are falling, they are deadly. The shooting has been all or nothing. Purdue has failed to surpass an effective field goal percentage of 45% in six Big Ten games but topped 65% on three separate occasions.

A year after touting the Big Ten’s best defense, Matt Painter has one of the league’s worse. Purdue is allowing 1.10 points per possession in Big Ten game and has held opponents under 1 point per trip in just three of 15 league games this season. Purdue ranks 11th in shooting defense, 9th in turnovers, 8th in defensive rebounding and 9th in free throw rate allowed.

Keys & Match-Ups

Robbie Hummel at the five

Similar to the Northwestern look with John Shurna at the five, Purdue has gone to a small-ball lineup with Robbie Hummel playing center this season. Hummel is the best defensive rebounder on the Purdue roster, so the move doesn’t necessarily hurt in that regard and he’s infinitely more skilled offensively than Purdue’s other options. Michigan did a great job against John Shurna on Tuesday, which should help prepare for a mobile player at the five, but guarding Hummel is a challenge that will require great discipline for both Jordan Morgan and Evan Smotrycz.

Photo: Dustin Johnston

Lewis Jackson on the pick-and-roll

When Michigan struggled defensively in the first game, allowing a 17-3 second half Purdue run, it was because the Wolverines couldn’t keep Lewis Jackson out of the lane. The screen-and-roll with Hummel at the five was particularly difficult to defend because Hummel will shoot threes (even though he’s making less than 30% in Big Ten games) but can also put the ball on the floor and drive past Michigan’s five men on the perimeter. Jackson is one of the few guards in this league that is quicker with the ball in his hands than Trey Burke and the 5-foot-8 senior got the best of Michigan’s freshman in the first meeting.

Who guards Hardaway?

Tim Hardaway Jr. had one of his strongest performances of the past two months in West Lafayette and should have the opportunity for another big game. Kelsey Barlow wasn’t a great offensive player but he was the Boilermakers best perimeter defender and Hardaway should be able to take advantage of his absence. Michigan’s sophomore scorer has seemed to play with more confidence of late, despite somewhat mixed results, and could continue to build heading down the stretch.

Photo: Dustin Johnston

Exploit Purdue’s weakness at the five position

As when the Wolverines played Northwestern, Michigan needs to take advantage of Purdue’s five men when the Boilermakers aren’t playing small-ball. Travis Carroll and Jacob Lawson are the traditional big men on the Boilermaker roster and the duo combines to make just 1.6 field goals and .5 free throws per game in Big Ten play. They aren’t great defenders and Michigan should be able to exploit the match-up on both ends with quickness. Jordan Morgan and Evan Smotrycz combined for 22 points on 12 shots in the first meeting and the Wolverines controlled both backboards. Morgan needs to run the floor hard for open looks while Smotrycz should be able to stretch the defense for open threes or dribble past either big.

Know your scout

D.J. Byrd and Ryne Smith are lethal shooters and Byrd has been particularly spectacular of late, connecting on 51% of his long range efforts in Big Ten play. Michigan has to overplay the three defensively against both players because they aren’t nearly as comfortable attacking the basket.

Terone Johnson and Lewis Jackson aren’t three point threats. Jackson is 0-6 on threes in Big Ten games while Johnson is 8-of-29. Johnson loves to attack the basket, making 44% of his twos, but he connects on just 41% of his free throw attempts. Jackson is the most difficult to guard because he can do so many little things and has the strength to finish around the cup.

Michigan’s defensive match-ups would seem to work best with Douglass and Novak on Smith and Byrd respectively with Hardaway and Burke guarding Johnson and Jackson. If Burke struggles on Jackson then Douglass is likely to takeover that match-up leaving Burke with one of his more difficult off-ball assignments of the season against Smith.

Bottom Line

Michigan is undefeated at home this season and has beaten a number of teams that are better than Purdue. The Wolverines should win this game on paper and Ken Pomeroy’s numbers agree, giving Michigan a 72% chance of victory and predicting a 67-61 final score. The stakes are high, with Michigan still in the Big Ten title hunt, but the Wolverines need to take care of business at home one last time.

  • Mith

    I usually don’t care about Senior Night at all, but this one is a big deal to me.  Zack and Stu have made a lasting impact on the program and I doubt I’ll forget about them as I follow the program over the next few decades.  They helped get us out of the dark ages, hopefully for a very long time.

    On top of that, it’d be really great to finish the season undefeated at home and stay in the thick of the race going into the last week of the regular season.  Purdue has the ability to pull the upset if they get hot from 3.   Hopefully that won’t happen. GO BLUE!

    • JimC

      Well said. 
      I’m a grown man but I’m gonna get misty-eyed tomorrow night.

  • I was able to choose one game to go to this year and this is the one I chose. I am seriously going to miss Zack and Stu like they are my own teammates. I still remember watching them when they looked like a couple high school kids hitting big shots against UCLA and Duke.

    Protect home court! Go Blue!

    • Mith

      I have this image of Novak hitting a 3 from the corner during the Duke win his freshman year and it was at that exact moment that I suddenly got very fired up about Michigan basketball again.  I’ve followed it my whole life, but I guess I was just worn out from all the disappointments of 1998-2008. 
      Hiring JB as coach and then getting the UCLA win had gotten my enthusiasm up, but something about Novak’s shot(and that game) made me “all in”.

  • Alex

    Stu and Zach have done some remarkable things. I will miss seeing them on the floor but I know that they have had an impact not just on us but on the players also.

    Whatever happens tomorrow night they have a special place in my memory. I hope they can find a way to continue to be involved with the program a la David Merritt and CJ Lee.

    Nothing but the best wishes of luck and success Stu and Zach. Keep fighting the good fight and making us all so proud.

    I will definitely be there tomorrow night.

  • Kenny

    will be an emotional evening for many fans. Stu and Zach represent the university as well as anyone possibly can. 

  • Peter

    Not sure how this season will finish out, but when all is said and done the contributions those two have had to this program are far greater than history will remember.

    Hopefully something is done to honor them, not sure if the rafters is the right place since no championships (hopefully that changes!) but perhaps leadership, heart, grit, toughness, determination etc. awards that are named on their behalf.

    • ScottGoBlue

      Hey, I say hang up there jerseys. Any championships we win are done so on their backs.

      • Peter

        I certainly wouldn’t object to it, but I am sure that there are some who will.

        Either way, something should be done

  • Blueinflorida

    Dylan—do you have any info on possible changes to the format of the big ten tournament this year since we have 12 teams now? Will the top 4 seeds get byes now instead of the top 3? Thanks.

  • Don’t forget Ben Cronin.  He may have only played in 6 games, but he stuck with the program and is still a part of this team.  Real shame that he wasn’t able to continue with playing basketball.

  • jemblue

    The year before Novak and Douglass arrived, we went 10-22.

    This is a chance to go undefeated at home for the first time since 1977.  Chance to win our first Big Ten title (with two more wins and a Sparty loss) since 1986.  Yep, these two have seen the program come a long way.

    • JimC

      Wow I forgot about that, how phenominally bad we were.  I guess JB should get some credit too.

  • gobluemd16

    I’ve posted it a lot on here but to everyone going STAND UP for zack, stu, corey, and ben cronin!

  • Tom

    If someone at the game can record the entire senior day festivities and upload them to youtube, those of us no longer near AA would be forever grateful!!!