The Big Ten only had one game on Saturday, but it was a significant one, with Michigan going on the road to battle a desperate Purdue squad. While the game was competitive, the Wolverines started pulling away in the first half and were in control throughout.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
With the weeks rolling past and March approaching, the pressure is beginning to build across the country for teams hoping to hear their names called on Selection Sunday. And that’s no different for the various Big Ten teams desperately clawing to grab a few more wins as the regular season comes to the close.
And all of that set the table for a great matchup between Michigan and Purdue in West Lafayette on Saturday. The Wolverines had won four in a row, but still needed to secure their NCAA bid. And Purdue was reeling after three straight losses. In a lot of ways, Saturday felt like a final stand for the Boilermakers.
Early on, the two teams kept things close. However, Michigan began pulling away as the first half continued thanks in large part to Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner. And while Purdue did put up a fight for segments in the second half, it wasn’t enough as Michigan cruised to a 71-63 win that probably wasn’t as close as the final score.
It’s difficult to overstate just how big of a win this was for the Wolverines on Saturday afternoon. Michigan came in with some momentum, but this felt like the kind of game that could elevate the Wolverines from a “bubble” squad to one genuinely competing for a top seed in March, and perhaps more. Michigan has now won five straight, and seven of the team’s last eight games. It’s been a remarkable turnaround.
Unfortunately for Purdue, this felt like a nail going into a coffin. The team dropped to 14-14 overall with this defeat and now has just three regular season games remaining. And while Purdue could still go on a run and do some damage in the Big Ten Tournament, it’s hard to see an at-large NCAA Tournament bid as likely at this point. It’s going to take something surprising for the team to make the Big Dance at this point.
And what’s going to be the toughest for Boilermaker fans to stomach moving forward is that Purdue isn’t a bad team. The Boilermakers are a solid group. The team just fell short against an absolutely brutal schedule. Of Purdue’s 14 losses this season, 11 came against teams ranked 31st or higher on KenPom. The Boilermakers haven’t been losing to bad teams. They just haven’t been able to get enough wins against a tough slate.
Moving forward, both teams will return to action on Thursday night. Michigan will face Wisconsin at home and Purdue will get arch-rival Indiana in Mackey.