One of the Big Ten’s top teams in Michigan will travel to take one of the hottest teams in the conference in Purdue in a significant B10 clash.
TV schedule: Friday, January 22, 7:00 pm ET. FS1
Arena: Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana
The latest team to fall from the undefeated, the Wolverines (12-1) rebounded from their disappointing loss at Minnesota with an 87-63 home win over Maryland on Tuesday evening. Prior to their loss to the Gophers, there was, arguably, not a hotter team in the country to open up January than Michigan. The Wolverines toppled Northwestern, Minnesota, and Wisconsin – all at home, and all nationally ranked when they played – by over 19 points apiece.
Michigan’s most recent outing against the Terrapins yielded a four-person double-digit offense, headlined by one of Isaiah Livers‘ best performances this season, where the senior poured in 20 points (4-5 3PT, 6-6 FT) to go with five rebounds and three assists. Joining him were Franz Wagner (15 points), Mike Smith (11 points and six assists), and Brandon Johns Jr. (11 points) off the bench.
The Wolverines are just one of a handful of teams to rank in the top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency – and their stellar offense was on full display against the Terps. Averaging a mark of 1.24 points per possession, Michigan actually tied Maryland from the charity stripe (17 each) and on two-pointers (17-32 for both), but the Wolverines’ 44th-best 3P% mark powered them to victory, going 12-24 from beyond the arc while holding the Terps to just 21.1% (4-19).
Purdue (11-5), meanwhile, enters on a four-game winning streak, having toppled Michigan State, Indiana, and Penn State before capping off the stretch with a nail-biting 67-65 victory at 15th-ranked Ohio State, made possible by a game-winning three from freshman Jaden Ivey with just five seconds left. The win is Purdue’s second over the Buckeyes this season and helps pad out a resume complemented by a 7-5 record against Quad 1 and 2 teams.
Currently sitting fifth in a deep Big Ten at 6-3, the Boilermakers are the lone conference school to have over 10 overall wins – and have a .500-plus record in conference play – and not be ranked. The architect for Purdue’s success has been big man Trevion Williams, one of the best players in all of college basketball. Williams tallied a team-high 16 points (7-12 2PT) and game-high seven boards against the Buckeyes, with Sasha Stefanovic and Ivey joining him in double-figures with 15 apiece.
In a game where their largest lead was four – at 4-0 in the first half – and where they shot just 25.0% (5-20) from long range, the Buckeyes were blistering inside the arc while shutting down Ohio State’s inside game, going 21-34 (61.8%) on two-pointers to just 6-18 (33.3%) for Ohio State. That defensive mark is a reversal from what Purdue has typically done this season, where they rank 102nd (31.5%) in 3P% defense but just 177th (50.2%) on 2P% defense.
Guard play will obviously be important in this game, particularly between Michigan’s Livers and Purdue’s Stefanovic and Ivey – but all eyes should be on the battle inside. Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson – who posted just three points against Maryland – has not only been one of the best freshmen in the country but one of the best players in Div. I. At 7-1, Dickinson has led the Wolverines in both scoring (15.7 ppg) and rebounding (7.5), posting stellar clips of 72.2% (83-115) on two-pointers and 71.7% (38-53) on free-throws.
He will have his hands full with both Williams and freshman Zach Edey. Williams – who ranks second nationally in percentage of possessions used (35.3%) and ninth in percentage of shots taken (35.8%) – also leads his team in points (15.4 ppg) and rebounds (9.5). Joining him at the center position is Edey, who – at 7-4 – has been impressive in his debut campaign, posting clips of 57.8% (48-83) inside and 68.0% (34-50) from the charity stripe. Edey, who records 8.1 points per game, is coming off an eight-point performance at Ohio State – his highest output since December 19th.
The Wolverines are more efficient on both ends of the court than Purdue, and that is reflected in their points per possession numbers. Michigan – in posting a 40th-best 80.5 points per game – averages 1.03 points per possession, whole holding teams to 0.83 points. Purdue struggles a bit more in scoring, getting just 0.92 per possession. That is just slightly better than their defensive average of 0.89.
What could play a crucial part in this game – as much as it can in a year with little to no fans, at least – is home-court advantage. In 13 games, the Wolverines have played just three games on the road – with two wins coming against Maryland and Nebraska, and their loss coming at Minnesota.
The Boilermakers, meanwhile, have proven they can win anywhere – three of their last four wins have come on the road – but they are also currently 6-0 this season at home, which includes wins over Ohio State, Maryland, and Penn State.
If Purdue hopes to win this game, they will need to improve upon their 25.0% mark from long range in their previous game. The Wolverines are average in defending the three-ball (32.9%, 153rd) while Purdue shoots 35.1% (105th) – and sees 33.6% of their offensive production come from long range, the 93rd-highest mark in college basketball.
Likewise – and what may ultimately ail them in this game – is that they need to shut the Wolverines down inside. Largely because of Dickinson, Michigan ranks eighth in the nation in 2P% (59.2%) and sees a 71st-best 54.7% of their offense come from two-pointers. Contrarily, the Boilermakers are below-average on the defensive end, allowing teams to shoot 50.2% (177th) inside.
Dickinson is the key to this game for the Wolverines, and he will have to rebound after two lackluster performances in his last two outings. Again, he recorded a season-low three points against Maryland – and before that, posted just nine points – his first single-digit performance of the year – at Minnesota. Purdue’s stats imply that he should feast inside – but he will have to do it over two colossi in Williams and Edey.
A lot hangs on this game. Michigan cannot afford to drop this game if they hope to continue as a legitimate Big Ten and national championship contender, and a win would do well in helping to solidify their reputation. For Purdue, however, a win could finally catapult the Boilermakers into the national top 25 – and potentially into the top four of the Big Ten. This is one of those games that could legitimately go either way.
Prediction: Michigan 77 – Purdue 72