Michigan Basketball (17-5, 6-3) will play at No. 3 Purdue (19-2, 8-0) on Thursday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. (ET) and the game will be televised on ESPN. What will it take for the Wolverines to pull off an improbable road win and derail the red-hot Boilermakers? Before we get to that, here are the details on Matt Painter’s squad.
Since surviving at Michigan the Boilermakers have reeled off three more victories, running their winning streak to 15 consecutive games. They are a deep and talented team led by the reigning co-Big Ten Player of the Week, Carsen Edwards, who is averaging a team-high 17.2 points per game along with 4.0 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
Over Purdue’s last four games, Edwards is averaging 19.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.3 steals while shooting 17-of-29 (.586) from long distance. He also has 19 assists against one turnover.
It’s not just Carsen Edwards though. The Boilermakers also have one of the most complete players in the Big Ten in Vince Edwards. Dakota Mathias is a great defender and pure three point shooter. On top of that, Purdue has a pair of seven-footers in Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms. In short, they are one of the most complete and well-rounded teams in the country. Knocking them off on their home court won’t be easy.
Keys to victory for Michigan
If Michigan is going to have a shot in this game, they have to avoid the slow starts that have been plaguing them recently. They can’t afford to fall behind by double digits early in this one. Purdue isn’t the kind of team you can engineer a large comeback against.
One key to avoiding a slow start will be to get Moe Wagner going early. Analysts are reporting that teams have solved Michigan’s offense by switching on every screen with Wagner. Purdue and Nebraska did this with success. Expect John Beilein to come up with a solution to counter that.
If Wagner can’t get loose, it might be time for a big game from Michigan’s leading scorer, Charles Matthews. He has played well this year, but has yet to really take a game over. If both Wagner and Matthews get hot, this game will get real interesting.
The other obvious key is going to be free throw shooting. The Wolverines have been improving in this area, but Zavier Simpson and Matthews have struggled at the line, particularly late in games. To pull of this upset, Michigan is going to have to make whatever free throw opportunities they get.
Then, of course, Michigan will have to continue to play good defensively. They have greatly improved their team defense this year and will need to be at their best in this game.
Purdue ranks 10th in the nation in scoring defense, Michigan ranks 13th.
Michigan is the only team in the country with two players ranked in the Top 20 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio; Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman ranks second and Zavier Simpson ranks 17th.
Michigan leads the Big Ten and ranks sixth nationally in fewest turnovers per game (9.8).
Moe Wagner ranks ninth in the Big Ten in rebounding (7.1) and 15th in field goal percentage (54.4%).
Purdue is the heavy favorite here and I expect them to win. However, Michigan could give them a run if Wagner or Matthews can get hot. Purdue wins 64-61.
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