The Michigan Wolverines (18-7, 8-4 in conference play) take on the Purdue Boilermakers (20-5, 8-4) at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Saturday in a rematch from Purdue’s 87-70 victory last month in West Lafayette. Michigan comes into the contest having won their last game against a scrappy Minnesota team, but having lost their last three games against ranked Big Ten opponents. Purdue is currently ranked #18 in the country, and they’ll likely be moving up the ranks after beating #8 Michigan State in a dramatic, one-point victory on Tuesday night.
The last time these two teams matched up, it was in true blowout fashion, as Purdue held Michigan to under 38% shooting in one of the Boilermakers’ best defensive efforts this season. Purdue’s big men dominated the interior in that game, accounting for 42 points and 21 rebounds, while the team out-rebounded Michigan 30-19. Center AJ Hammons added 4 blocks, and the team shot 56% overall in the rout.
Michigan hopes to reverse those fortunes on Saturday, starting with revamped inside play led by resurgent center Mark Donnal. Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin will spearhead the Wolverines’ offensive attack after combining for 30 points against Minnesota. The team seems to have recovered its three point stroke as well, connecting on 56% of their triples last time out.
The Wolverines currently find themselves on the bubble for the NCAA tournament, sitting fifth in the Big Ten, and they need another strong victory to cement themselves as tournament worthy. Michigan only has one victory over a ranked team, and only two victories over teams with RPI’s lower than 104. They’ll have a tough time getting that third victory on Saturday.
These teams may sport the same conference record at 8-4, but they couldn’t be more different. Purdue is coming off of an impressive victory, while Michigan continues to be uninspiring with theirs. Purdue will likely lean on their seven footers in order to take command of the paint against a Michigan team light on productive big men. Unfortunately, this strategy will pay off Purdue, as they take care of Michigan on the road, 78-63.