There was a lot on the line this afternoon as Michigan and Purdue met on the court at Banker's Life Fieldhouse. The Wolverines came in sitting firmly on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, while the Boilermakers were out to prove that they belong among the conference's elite and exorcise some demons from the game they fumbled away in Ann Arbor. In the end, Purdue got it done in impressive fashion. So, what lessons were there to be learned from this one?
1. This is A.J. Hammons' world and we're just living in it.
27 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks and a steal, that's what the eldest member of Purdue's skyline put up. No one on Michigan seemed very eager to try and stop him and he made them pay for it. One reason A.J. makes things look so easy in games? He plays against the second-most dominant center in the league every day in practice. To my point, Isaac Haas added 11 points of his own in just 9 minutes of playing time. Hammons has been racking up impressive performances lately, and awards too. He's won a first team All-Big Ten selection, DPOY in the conference and today's performance almost assures he will be on the All-Tournament team after tomorrow's game. The Kareem Abdul-Jabar award finalist made opposing players look silly today, and he might be doing it for the rest of the month.
2. Michigan is going to have a nervous evening on Sunday.
The Wolverines' win over Indiana yesterday gave their NCAA profile a big boost, but a win today would've all but guaranteed them a spot in the field of 68. Unfortunately, they suffered another blowout loss to a good opponent, which is the biggest knock on a team that has more quality wins than most bubble teams. Right now, I think Michigan deserves to be in, but fans of bubble teams should never feel safe until their school shows up on the TV Sunday night.
3. Michigan doesn't give up.
Much like their namesake, this Michigan team fights like crazy. Purdue outplayed the Wolverines most of the game, but impressive amounts of effort from Michigan really helped keep them in the game longer than they should have been. They even managed to cut it to 6 in the second half, when other teams might have rolled over and died. The last three days have proven that when you're playing UM, you better finish them off early, or they're going to find a way to have a shot at the end of the game. If they get into the NCAA Tournament, they should be a trendy pick to upset at least one team.