Coming off a convincing 20-point victory over Illinois in the first round of the 2017 Big Ten Tournament, Michigan will look to capitalize on its momentum. While Purdue is looked at, by many, as the team that will likely manufacture the deepest postseason run from the Big Ten, Michigan has an opportunity to instill some doubt in Purdue with a win on Friday.
Despite the Boilermakers being the top team in this year’s tournament, the Wolverines’ 82-70 win in their previous matchup this season in Ann Arbor, will help make this an intriguing battle.
Here are three key points to this game, which tips off at Noon ET.
1. Michigan must contain Purdue’s big men.
In its previous meeting with Michigan earlier this season, Purdue displayed an abnormal performance, as its star players fell short in the loss. One factor that contributed to the player’s poor showings, was Michigan’s ability to limit sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan and junior center Isaac Haas’ production on the boards. In spite of averaging a double-double throughout the 2016-17 regular season, Swanigan was held to just five rebounds, while Haas brought down six. Though Swanigan’s rebounding wasn’t ideal, he was able to contribute 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
Michigan must be able to repeat aspects of its previous matchup with Purdue, in order to capture an imperative win that would help strengthen its postseason aspirations. If sophomore forward Moritz Wagner is able to put up comparable numbers to his previous 24-point performance against the Boilermakers, his presence, along with the team’s perimeter play, will give the Wolverines a solid opportunity to pull off the upset.
2. Will Purdue further its dominance this postseason?
Now that the regular season has concluded, Purdue must further its dominance in the postseason. As we saw on Thursday afternoon in Kansas’ loss to TCU at the Big 12 tournament, every team, no matter how good, is prone to an upset in the month of March.
In order to prevent an upset, Swanigan must continue to play at a National Player of the Year level, as Haas cements himself as a force in the paint. With junior forward Vincent Edwards also posing a threat on the post, Purdue must work together and feed its big men down low. In spite of its loss to Michigan in late February, expect Purdue to have a different look on the conference’s biggest stage.
3. Watch out for Michigan’s three’s.
If Michigan is able to heat up from beyond the arc early, Purdue will find itself in trouble fast. There’s no denying that Wolverines’ coach John Beilein enjoys his team’s perimeter play. It’s vital that the Boilermakers step out on the Wolverines, in an attempt to limit and contest their scoring opportunities from three. As shown in Iowa’s last win over Maryland, if a team is able to get hot from three, it’s extremely difficult to narrow the deficit.
However, lets not forget that Purdue sits on top of the Big Ten. The Boilermakers are the 2016-17 Big Ten regular season champions; whose surplus of talent this year has helped propel them to a 25-6 record. If Michigan expects to do the unexpected and win this game, the Wolverines will undoubtedly need to put on a noteworthy showing.