Game 19: Purdue at Michigan Preview

Basics
Who: Purdue (10-8, 3-2 B1G) at No. 2 Michigan (17-1, 4-1 B1G) purold[1]
Where: Crisler Center (Ann Arbor, MI)
When: 7:00 p.m., Thursday, January 24th, 2013
TV: ESPN
Radio: MGoBlue, 950 AM, 102.9 FM, Sirius/XM: 91
More: Notebook, Beilein & Morgan Video Previews, Pick to Click

On paper this is one of the easier games remaining on Michigan’s Big Ten schedule. It’s not Penn State or Nebraska but a home game against a Purdue team in the midst of a rebuilding season should be an easy win for a title contender. This Purdue team still defends like a vintage Matt Painter team but it lacks the top flight offensive talent required to be a legitimate league contender. Within the friendly confines of Crisler Center, Michigan should cruise to its fifth conference victory.

But Michigan should know better. Purdue has won six of the last eight against the Wolverines including the last two games in Ann Arbor – one of which was a deflating Senior Night loss that looked like it would cost Michigan a Big Ten Championship. It’s a new season and these two teams are vastly different squads with divergent goals, but that loss should serve as a very real reminder of the mental intensity needed to win any game in the Big Ten.

Purdue’s offense has struggled this season, failing to reach 1 point per possession in half of its games. On the season the Boilermakers rank 136th in adjusted offensive efficiency and they are managing just .99 points per trip in league games, 7th best in the Big Ten. However, Purdue enters Thursday’s game on the heels of its best offensive performance of the season: 1.19 points per trip in a 27 point blowout home win over West Virginia.

Purdue’s offensive struggles have been rudimentary and boil down to the simple fact that the Boilermakers struggle to make shots inside (47%) or outside (32%) and don’t get to the line often enough to make up for those shortcomings.  The Boilermakers don’t attempt many threes but their three point accuracy has been steadily increasing as they are shooting 50% (21-of-42) over the last four games. The bread and butter of the Purdue offense is the offensive rebound. The Boilermakers are the third best offensive rebounding team in the Big Ten, grabbing 36 percent of their misses in league games, but shouldn’t pack nearly the sort of offensive rebounding punch that Michigan faced last week in Minnesota.

Despite a young roster, Purdue plays the sort of defense you would expect. Purdue’s defense is on par with Michigan’s in league play, surrendering .97 points per trip thanks to incredibly stout interior defense. Opponents have made just 41% of their twos, 39 percent in league play, against Purdue. The Boilermakers are able to defend shots effectively while avoiding foul trouble but they aren’t without their issues. Purdue rarely forces turnovers and Big Ten foes are rebounding 33% of their missed shots. So while Purdue has defended twos better than anyone else in the league, the Boilermakers inabilities to finish possessions with defensive rebounds has been troubling.

Gone are the majority of the names that fans have associated with Purdue basketball over the last five years. Robbie Hummel and Lewis Jackson have moved on and Matt Painter is left with the youngest team in the Big Ten other than Michigan.

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D.J. Byrd and Terone Johnson are the names you likely remember. Byrd is primarily a three point threat and the only true long range threat on the Purdue roster. A remarkable 73 percent of Byrd’s field goal attempts have originated from long range and his 115 attempts account for 47 percent of the Boilermakers’ three point attempts this season. Johnson shredded Michigan in Ann Arbor last season for 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting. He’s not the most efficient player (41% on twos, 35% on threes and 58% on free throws) but he’s a strong bodied guard that can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim.

Johnson’s younger brother, Ronnie Johnson, has stepped in as the starting point guard in his freshman season. Johnston struggles shooting from the field (40% on twos, 12% on threes) but is able to attack the basket and get to the free throw line often. Johnson is a promising prospect but his halfcourt offense leaves something to be desired as he’s not a great pick-and-roll player or spot up shooter.

7-foot, 280 pound big man A.J. Hammons anchors the middle for Matt Painter. Hammons is a solid offensive player that makes his presence felt in the paint. He’s Purdue’s best rebounder on both ends of the floor and is the Big Ten’s best shot blocker to boot. Purdue’s other bigs are limited, with Donnie Hale and Jacob Lawson leading the way, but Hammons could demand the attention of Mitch McGary given his size.

Rapheal Davis has been an emerging bright spot for the Boilermakers. The 6-foot-5 swingman has stepped into the Purdue starting lineup and is averaging eight points per game over Purdue’s last nine after being little more than an afterthought for the Boilers early on. Davis replaced Anthony Johnson in the starting lineup after the third (unrelated) Johnson struggled to find any sort of offensive groove this season.

Transition offense and defense could tell the story in this one. We’ve already covered Michigan’s transition offense is ad nauseam but transition offense and defense has meant a lot to Purdue this season as well. The Boilermakers score effectively in transition opportunities but struggle in the half court. Defensively, Purdue is an elite defensive team in the half court but struggles in the full court.

Purdue Off. PPP Percentile Def. PPP Percentile
Transition 1.10 74% 1.13 27%
Half Court 0.78 40% 0.73 92%

The drawback for the Boilermakers is that they need to crash the offensive glass to score points in half court situations. Crashing the glass against Michigan has been a death knell to opponents this season as the Wolverines aren’t just a great defensive rebounding team, they are devastating in transition off of clean rebounds. If Michigan is able to get out and run early on, this is a game that could get out of hand in a hurry. However, if the Boilermakers are able to limit Michigan’s transition opportunities, they appear to have the defensive mettle to turn this into a typical grinding Big Ten game.

The No. 1 ranking appears to be back on the table for the Wolverines after Duke’s blowout loss at Miami. Wins over Purdue and at Illinois would seem to cement Michigan’s chances at finally overtaking the No. 1 ranking for the first time in over 20 years (at least in the AP Poll). Ken Pomeroy’s numbers like Michigan by a final score of 76-59, giving the Wolverines a 94% chance of remaining perfect at home. Purdue looks like a team headed in the right direction, playing some of its best basketball right now, but this is still a game that should be a comfortable Michigan victory.

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