There’s a doubleheader today with Purdue and Michigan set to tip things off tonight in Ann Arbor.
Game of the Night
- Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (FS1)
Imagine if Purdue had an offense? The team is 13th in scoring defense, 28th in opponent three point shooting percentage and 49th in field goal percentage. They held the defending champion to 40 points and if not for a streaky offense could have won almost all of their six defeats. Of course the offense has been the issue and that was on display at Illinois when they shot 25% from the field and scored 37 points.
It’s not a huge surprise. Trevion Williams and Matt Haarms are solid in the frontcourt but not always game changers on offense. Sasha Stefanovic can shoot from three but he’s more of three point specialist and doesn’t always shoot lights out. Eric Hunter Jr. and Jahaad Proctor have struggled this year, Nojel Eastern is a defensive minded guard and the team hasn’t gotten much of anything offensively from Aaron Wheeler and Isaiah Thompson this year. Purdue is desperately waiting for someone to take control of the offense and so far there doesn’t appear to be anyone willing to rise to the occasion.
As for Michigan, they’re currently 3-4 over their last seven games and went from a team that looked like they could contend for a Big Ten title to a team that is a postseason team more likely fighting for third or fourth in the conference. Also problematic is the fact that Isaiah Livers is still day-to-day with an unknown status for tonight (as of Wednesday night). Livers is second in scoring and shooting 50% from three. Of course Jon Teske has had a solid season down low and the team has gotten strong production from Zavier Simpson, but the offense struggled from outside against Michigan State and clearly missed Livers.
Winning on the road in the Big Ten is hard and tonight’s game is in Ann Arbor. Purdue has the defense to contend with anyone and a win at Michigan would be the perfect way to bounce back from their loss to Illinois. Of course Michigan would also benefit from a win as the team hasn’t looked as good their last five games since dropping 103 on Iowa.
In the end Purdue’s inability to consistently score the ball and Michigan playing at home should help the Wolverines bounce back from their 18 point loss to the Spartans.
- Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (ESPN2)
At 8-6 it’s starting to look like Minnesota is set to miss the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years. Pitino’s squad has had plenty of chances for quality wins but outside of a win at home against (at the time) third ranked Ohio State, they haven’t been able to get the job done, going 1-5 in games decided by single digits. Now at 8-6 they have ranked opponents set in five of their next six games and Michigan State up next. Ouch.
Riding a seven game winning streak and an 18 point win over Michigan, the Spartans are looking like the title contender people considered them to be. Last time out Cassius Winston dropped 32 points and Xavier Tillman added 20 points and 11 rebounds. The Spartans bring one of most talented rosters in the country and are strong at home. Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu has dominated the Big Ten and they’ve had a boost in their backcourt from Marcus Carr and Gabe Kalscheur, but the team still struggles in close games.
If Minnesota could simply have won a few of their close defeats the opinion on the team would be completely flipped. There’s definitely talent here but for whatever reason they can’t win close games. And with a road trip to East Lansing on deck, it’s hard to see that changing tonight. They might hang around for awhile, but the Spartans are playing fantastic basketball right now and should pick up an another W.
Pick: Michigan State