Big Ten Tournament: Michigan vs. Purdue Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Purdue (24-7, 12-6 B1G) vs. Michigan (22-11, 10-8 B1G)  2000px-Purdue_Boilermakers_Workmark.svg[1]
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
When: 1:00 p.m., March 12th, 2016
Radio: 950 AM, 102.9 FM

Michigan is looking for its third win in three days as it gets set to face Purdue just 24 hours after its buzzer-beating win over Indiana on Friday.

The Wolverines were downtrodden and defeated a week ago after losing at home to Iowa, but have found their footing in Indianapolis. Suddenly the NCAA tournament is an attainable goal, one that might have already been reached. If Michigan wants to remove any doubt, it’ll have to knock off the other Indiana team in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

There aren’t many teams in the country constructed more differently than Purdue and Michigan. Purdue is massive, playing multiple big men and throwing the ball in the post more often than anyone in the country. Michigan plays four guards and won’t hesitate to have Zak Irvin guard Caleb Swanigan despite a 3 inch, 45 pound differential between the two.

In the first meeting in West Lafayette, Purdue’s size and physicality overwhelmed the Wolverines inside. In the second meeting, the Wolverines flipped the script and buckled down on defense to pull out a narrow home victory.

The Boilermakers

Purdue finished the conference season at 12-6, outscoring league opponents 1.13 to 1.04 points per possession. That ranks the Boiler offense 3rd in the league and the defense just 7th as what appeared to be a dominant Purdue defense in the non-conference season turned into an average defense in league play.

Purdue’s offense follows the generally reliable recipe of shooting the ball well and attacking the offensive glass. The Boilers shoot 50.8% on twos (4th) and 38.3% on threes (3rd) for a 52.9 eFG% (3rd) in conference games. Despite the solid three-point shooting percentage, only 31.8% (3rd fewest) of Purdue’s shots are 3PAs.

While Purdue does a great job of minimizing possessions on the glass — ranked second in offensive rebounding and first in defensive rebounding — but turnovers have had an inverse effect. Purdue gives the ball away 17.8% of its possessions (11th) or only forces giveaways on 12.4% of its league opponents (14th).

Purdue’s defense is ranked just 7th in the league and allows league foes to shoot 47.8% on twos (6th) and 34.4% on threes (6th). Those numbers are far lower than you’d expect for a Boilermaker team that has the sort of defensive players and shot blockers that Matt Painter has to work with. However, Michigan has shot the ball poorly in both meetings with eFG% marks under 47%.


Senior big man AJ Hammons has always boasted an impressive collection of size, strength and skill, but he’s finally put everything together as a senior. Hammons was named First-Team All-Big Ten and earned Defensive Player of the Year honors. He’s the most productive post-up player in the conference, and he’s ranked second in the league in block rate. He shoots 59% on twos this season and can even step out and knock in the occasional jumper.

aj ham

Isaac Haas comes off the bench behind Hammons and provides more of the same. He has a massive frame, blocks shots, grabs offensive rebounds and scores with his back to the basket on the block.

Five-star freshman Caleb Swanigan has had an up-and-down season. He loves to attempt the occasional three, but is shooting just 27% from distance. On the interior, he’s the best defensive rebounder in the conference and he’s also shooting 52% on two-point attempts.

On the wing, Vince Edwards does a bit of everything. He’s shooting 48% on threes in league play and has made 9 of his last 14 long distance attempts over the last three games. His shooting ability, combined with his ability to pass the ball from the wing makes him a perfect option to pair alongside Purdue’s frontcourt because he can attack closeouts off of doubles down low via the pass, shot or drive.

vince e

Rapheal Davis is a game-changing defender. He eliminated Duncan Robinson from the first meeting and is capable of pretty much wiping any single player out of the offensive equation. Davis is shooting 40% on twos and 37% on threes in Big Ten play and Purdue is tough to beat if he’s hitting jumpers in addition to his strong defensive play.

Purdue will rotate between a few primary perimeter shooting threats in Dakota MathiasKendall Stephens and Ryan Cline. Mathias (44%) has been the best from three in league games while Cline is hitting 40% of his triples and Stephens just 30%.

Point guard minutes are split between PJ Thompson and Johnny Hill. Thompson, the recent starter, shoots 47% from three and does a great job of valuing the basketball. Hill isn’t a perimeter threat (1-of-7), but he’s a good setup man, defender and shoots 48% inside the arc.


  • Irvin v. Swanigan III: This matchup has told the story in both meetings. Irvin had 7 points and 4 turnovers in the first loss compared to 22 points in the second. Michigan needs Irvin’s offense to exploit Swanigan’s inability to guard perimeter players and force the Boilers to play with a smaller lineup. While Irvin has been wildly inconsistent this season, he posted an offensive rating over 100 in the last two games, a mark he failed to reach in the five final games of the regular season. Swanigan has also been locked in, averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds over his last two games.
  • Know-your-personnel: Purdue has shooters, drivers, post players and defenders. Given their ability on the block, Michigan is going to have to double at times, but it has to double off the right players. That means double off Hill not Thompson and Davis not Mathias. On the other end of the floor, attacking the designated shooter (Mathias/Cline/Stephens) off the dribble will be important.
  • Rebound: Michigan has been surprisingly effective on the defensive glass this season and is actually ranked 2nd in the conference in defensive rebounding rate. That wasn’t evident on Friday when Indiana grabbed almost half of its missed shots and it will have to be shored up before facing the Boilers.

Bottom Line

KenPom gives Michigan a 29% chance at another upset, projecting a 75-69 Purdue win. A win would almost certainly cement Michigan’s spot in the NCAA tournament, but a loss could also leave the Wolverines with a long wait until the brackets are unveiled.

  • bobohle

    Just like the last two games. REFUSE TO LOSE!!!!!!!

  • Carl

    Unfortunately unless we win again, it’s looking the NIT..

    • Rich74

      Not so fast. No bubble team can say that they have 4 top 25 wins and no bad losses. All of the Mid Major bubble teams don’t come close to those resume builders. I predict that (unless Michigan gets blown out by Purdue) we get in with a loss with a 10 or 11 seed. A win against Purdue would give us an 8 or 9 seed.

      • GTFOmycourt

        Honestly, if you look at our resume in a certain light, which involves playing with rpi numbers a lot :) we compare favorably to everyone except maybe West VA. Going through the season with our worst loss being rpi 73 ohio state is a huge accomplishment. It is rare but it appears that it is under appreciated accomplishment.

  • gobluemd16

    Gunna be really hard to play a third straight game after two close, hard fought wins requiring plenty of minutes from our starters. Hope we come out with the same energy and urgency as our wins in Indy.

  • Chris y

    Why is Michigan on the bubble name one other bubble team with 4 top 25 wins.

    • Carl

      Also no losses outside the top 100..

  • AAtoLA

    Let’s stay positive. I think the big win today will be a catalyst for the team. I expect s ton of energy and grit tomorrow. Go blue! Killa Kam in the clutch!

  • Carl

    Jerry Palm has now moved us way up. Now we are the 1st of the last 4 in.. Everyone except Lunardi pretty much has us in. I even seen a few 10 seeds floating around. Tulsa losing was also huge.

    • GTFOmycourt

      That is more like it.

    • bobohle

      That’s good. Like I said yesterday Lunardi is pro East teams when it comes to the bubble.