Game 29: Purdue at Michigan Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Purdue (23-5, 12-3 B1G) at Michigan (18-10, 8-7 B1G)
Where: Crisler Center (Ann Arbor, MI)
When: 4:00 p.m., Saturday, February 25th, 2017

In a match-up that will be pitched by many as finesse vs. brawn, Michigan and Purdue will face each other for the first and only time on Saturday afternoon.

Apart from the literal size of Purdue’s massive front line, this match-up is a little more complicated. Purdue is emerging as the class of the Big Ten, leading the league in efficiency margin and heading down the home stretch with the best record in the conference.

But while Purdue has the reputation of a grind-it-out, bully ball type of program, this is also a match-up of not only the Big Ten’s two best offenses. It’s also a showdown between the two most three-point reliant offenses in the league.

The two teams might have a different means to an end — Purdue’s threes often come out of post-ups and Michigan’s out of ball screen action — but there will be plenty of three-point attempts on Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor.

The Boilermakers

Purdue’s offense is humming along at a 1.10 point per possession clip and features one of the best three-point attacks in the country. The Boilers shoot 50.1% on twos (4th) and 41.2% on threes (1st) for a 54.7 eFG% (3rd) in Big Ten games. Despite their massive frontcourt, they aren’t all that aggressive on the offensive glass, rebounding just 28.2% (11th) of their misses. Turnovers have been an issue at times, with giveaways on 18.6% of Big Ten possessions (9th), but this is the best offense that Michigan has faced for quite some time.

Over a quarter of Purdue’s offensive possessions end out of post-ups (shots, turnovers, pass outs or fouls) and they have the most-efficient post-up offense in the conference, per Synergy. Gonzaga is the only team in the country that comes within 100 points produced compared to the 668 points that the Boilermakers have generated out of post-up looks this season. Despite those impressive post-up numbers, Purdue is ranked last in the Big Ten in percentage of points scored inside the arc. What gives? Purdue’s big men are excellent at finding shooters out of the post when the double-team comes and just about anyone that they’ll pass the ball to can make a three. Purdue has a 70 eFG% on Hass’s pass-outs and 67 eFG% on Swanigan’s pass-outs, per Synergy.

The Purdue defense has been solid all year, but Matt Painter’s team seemed to lock in after playing a horrible defensive game at Nebraska on January 29th. Purdue hasn’t allowed better than a point per possession in the six games since (all wins) and is allowing .97 points per possession in league play for the No. 2 defense in the conference.

It sounds overly simplistic, but when the Boilermakers lose its generally been their defense that lets them down. Purdue is undefeated when it holds its opponents below a point per possession and just 1-4 when it allows 1.1 points per trip or more. Michigan averages 1.14 points per possession in Big Ten play and hasn’t been held below a point per possession since December 6th vs. Texas.

Purdue’s defense does everything but force turnovers. Big Ten teams are shooting just 46% on twos (5th) and 31.9% on threes (3rd) for a 46.6 eFG% (2nd) and Purdue allows the second-fewest three-point attempts in the league at just 30.3% of attempts. So it’s hard to make shots and even take threes against the Boilermakers and the are also the best defensive rebounding team in the league, grabbing 75.5% of their opponents misses while giving up the fewest free throws.


National Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan is naturally the first name on the scouting report. There’s not much that he can’t do well. He’s an elite defensive rebounder and a very good offensive rebounder. He can post-up to pass, score or get fouled and while his three-point shooting felt like a gimmick last year, it’s a legitimate weapon as a sophomore.

Big man Isaac Haas measures in at 7-foot-2, 290 pounds and is simply hard to move off the block. He might not be as versatile as Swanigan, but he can carve out so much space that it’s almost impossible to stop him if he catches the ball on the block. He’s shooting 58% on two-pointers and draws 7.8 fouls per 40 minutes (2nd in the league) which could prove a big problem for Michigan’s bigs.

Freshman guard Carsen Edwards is one of Purdue’s primary ball handlers and leads the team in used ball screen possessions. He’s not the most efficient player, but he has plenty of confidence in his ability to get shots off despite shooting 39% on twos and 39% on threes in Big Ten games. Edwards is capable of getting hot, but he’s the least-efficient player on the team and takes 28% of Purdue’s shots while he’s on the floor so he’s the guy you want shooting.

Junior forward Vincent Edwards is almost a forgotten man in West Lafayette. He’s an incredibly versatile combo forward who can hit open threes (42%), pass the ball, attack the offensive glass and doesn’t turn the ball over.

Dakota Mathias is one of the best shooters in the Big Ten and he’s 31-of-67 from deep in league games. He also has a reliable pull-up jumper and is a very good passer. He’s a guy that you can’t help off defensively and if you do he can obviously make you pay.

PJ Thompson starts at point guard but plays a limited role offensively. When he does shoot, he’s usually efficient as he knocks in 52% of his twos and 42% of his threes. Ryan Cline is a great three-point shooter above the wings and he comes off the bench with one job: shoot the triple. He’s a scouting report guy that you need to run off the line and he won’t be able to do much more.

Spike Albrecht needs no introduction, but he hasn’t shot the ball this well this year. He’s just 5-of-13 on twos and 4-of-22 on threes for the season, but he’s played some better basketball over the last three games.


  • Big man match-ups: Michigan’s bigs have the mobility, Purdue’s have the size. The storyline to watch is just how much can Isaac Haas play defensively and how much does Caleb Swanigan play the five. Swanigan usually starts at the five and plays about 20 minutes per game there and 12 minutes per game at the four while Haas plays around 20 at the five. It’s hard to muster much confidence in Michigan’s bigs defensively against the duo and the best hope for John Beilein and his staff will be to create enough mismatches on the other end to try to even it out.
  • Guard shooters: Basically every Purdue player that will see the floor — other than Spike Albrecht who is liable to hit one anyways — shoots 40% or better from three. Purdue has 4 of the Big Ten’s 5 best three-point shooters over the whole season. How Michigan figures out a way to deal with Purdue’s size inside while sticking to shooters is the million dollar question. I don’t have an answer and I’m not sure that many do, but that’s the task at hand.
  • Senior Night: While Michigan’s defense has improved of late, the offense has sputtered a bit in the last three games. To knock off a team of Purdue’s caliber, Michigan is going to need to score the ball early, often and consistently. The best way to do that would be a big performance from both senior guards — Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin — in their last home game.

Bottom Line

The KenPom projection is Purdue by 1, 72-71, with a 48% chance of a Michigan upset. It’s Senior Night in Ann Arbor and a win could help cement Michigan’s NCAA Tournament chances, but Purdue is also playing for a Big Ten Championship and should have plenty of its own motivation.

All shot charts via Krossover.

  • gobluemd16

    I have thought this for a few weeks, but now it has played out as such — Purdue is clearly the best team in the Big Ten. Not only that, but I think they are definitely our worst matchup in the conference. I would be really surprised if we win this game. I think to do so, we will have to shoot lights out from three and really just outscore them. On another note, despite the up-and-down nature of the seniors’ play, I really hope the crowd gets there early to give Derrick, Zak, and Mark (plus Dakich and Sean) a big ovation. Similarly, I hope the fans give a similar ovation to Spike when he checks in the game! They have all done a lot for this program. Go Blue!

    • ChiMan

      Totally agreed with your assessment here and would just simply add that stomaching Spike playing for Purdue is almost too much to bear. :-/

      • ZRL

        Why do I have a feeling that Spike is going to brake out of his season long slump and hit 3 3’s on Saturday…

        • ChiMan

          I’m also concerned with him likely running the scout team this week and him knowing our plays and sets. Thoughts on that?

          • That sounds like a bigger worry to me, he certainly knows the offense. But then again, what Michigan does is on film it’s not like there’s any sort of massive trade secret beyond some terminology and such. I’m sure that Spike will be able to read situations better than just about everyone Michigan has ever played when he’s on the floor, but can he actually teach that much more than a normal game prep from the coaching staff would? Not sure.

          • Coltrane

            I think his advantage might be in knowing particular player’s games a bit more intimately and what jams up Michigan’s offense having rescued the Wolverines more than once off the bench. Most of that though can be seen in film as you say. The flip side is also true, Michigan knows him and his defensive limitations. If he’s getting open threes or stealing an inbound pass, I’ll be made.

    • ChathaM

      I will definitely be there early for the Senior Day honours. I think it’s scheduled to start at 3:40. Those guys all deserve some support for their careers.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    Big game! I think we can pull off the win on senior night. Need a big performance by Walton/Irvin…if we do pull out this win, we are the ncaa tourny…our resume will be too strong…win or lose its senior night and you would hope our fans and team bring the intensity up a notch… Go Blue!

    • MAZS

      Maybe tomorrow will be the long-awaited day that Walton and Irvin play well…….in the same game.

  • UMHoopsFan

    Creating TOs on defense is a key. Make the guards be playmakers — i.e., make things more complicated than a simple kick out from the post. On offense, a lot of motion is key — back door cuts, moving the shooters around, etc. PU’s good straight up but can get turned around. Swanigan plays not to foul and Haas is pretty slow. DJ and Mo could have big games if they stay out of foul trouble and stay active.

    Purdue is really good and the best team in the conference, but they’re a step below what the better teams of the past few years. We’ve also had pretty good success against them lately (6-3). I think at home, on senior day, we have a better than even shot at winning.

  • Tony DeMaria

    Win this and I think we’re locked up even if we lose the last 3 games (@ NW, @ NEB, BTT QF). Look at the bubble teams that are currently in people’s last 4 in, first 4 out. I know the bubble will get stronger with conference tourney upsets, but right now the average bracket has Michigan 8-10 spots from the last at-large. A win over Purdue will continue to add to Michigan’s late season resume that includes blowout wins over Indiana and MSU as well as wins over Wisconsin and Purdue. I can’t see them slipping by losing to a top 40 team on the road, top 70 team on the road and someone like PSU in the BTT. I think we’d be playing in Dayton but we’d be in.

    Lose this one, and we will need to win 1 of our last 2 regular season games (preferably NU) and 1 BTT game to feel relatively good about our odds.

  • rlcBlue

    Sure would be nice if Teske could stay between Haas and the basket, put his hands straight up in the air, and box out. 8 minutes, 4 rebounds, 2 fouls, 1 turnover would be a fantastic line for Jon to put up in this game.

    Still seems like the way to beat Purdue is to pressure their guards out beyond the three point line, denying the entry passes and forcing turnovers. Unfortunately, that’s just not us, though we might see Simpson get turned loose at some point in the game.

    I still hold a grudge against Purdue for spoiling Senior Day for Novak and Douglass. Hope we settle that score this time.

  • MaizeBlue10

    Two questions I have:
    1) Personnel-wise, if DJ is off or in foul trouble, how much do you stick Irvin on Swanigan? Off the top of my head, hasn’t Zak held up well against him and won these recent matchups? Would be a nice advantage if he can again at times.

    2) Team-wise, is Purdue lackluster on the road or just not focused against lesser teams? They lose at Iowa and Nebraska, barely beat OSU in Columbus and go into OT at Penn St. Yet they win at Indiana, MSU and Maryland. Which Purdue ahows up?

    • For #1… Swanigan plays a lot of 5, so not always a huge concern. Last year he played almost entirely the 4 with Hammons still around.

      • MaizeBlue10

        Do you see Irvin guarding him at all when he’s on the floor with Haas if DJ is struggling?

        • Don’t think Michigan would open like that, but potentially that could happen if Duncan and Irvin are on the floor at the same time as Haas and Swanigan.

          • MaizeBlue10

            Wouldn’t bother me if that happened based on recent history. I know DJ has played well recently so probably a moot point, but off memory I seem to recall Zak taking good advantage of Swanigan offensively versus the other way around. Might welcome going to that matchup at times.

          • rlcBlue

            Irvin did win the head-to-head matchups with Swanigan last year, but this time I think we’ll need Zak to neutralize Vince Edwards and hope Wilson doesn’t come up small against Biggie.

  • Wayman Britt

    Sure would like to see UM make 13 three pointers Saturday. Or just replicate the first half of UCLA for the whole game. If so, I like our chances.

  • bobohle

    Not too much more to ad from all the other comments except Just WIN!!!!! Doesn’t matter how but just WIN!!!!!!!!!! GO BLUE!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Cory

    I hope Spike is one the court as much as possible against us. I love the kid, but we will exploit his defensive deficiencies much more than he can have an effect on what he knows of our offense.

  • A2MIKE

    Excited for the game today… I will be there and be loud. My favorite DWalt memory is his and 1 at the Breslin. My favorite memory of Irvin is his shot to beat Northwestern last year. Go Blue!!!!!

  • ChiMan

    On a side note here, already some good bubble results so far today:

    – Pitt lost by a ton to North Carolina
    – Clemson loses a heartbreaker at home to Florida State
    – SMU sneaks by UConn (great for our RPI, doesn’t affect the bubble)

    We need West Virginia to beat TCU, South Carolina to beat Tennessee, Northern Iowa to beat Illinois State, and Furman winning their game that’s in progress right now would help too. Lots more games tonight but that’s what I’m seeing so far.

    • ChiMan

      Marquette beating Providence would also be real cute!