The Big Ten only had one game on Friday night, but it was a significant one between Michigan and Purdue. The Wolverines were coming off a huge win over Maryland and the Boilermakers had just beaten Ohio State on the road.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-No. 7 Michigan Wolverines 70, Purdue Boilermakers 53
While there are plenty of things to take away from this one, it was actually the news before the game that will reverberate more in the days to come. That’s because Purdue star Sasha Stefanovic tested positive for COVID-19 before tip, meaning he will be out for the next 17 days. It also raised serious concerns about whether the two teams should play at all:
Juwan Howard said he talked to every player before agreeing to play tonight's game to make sure it wasn't just him. Said he was very impressed with Purdue's handling of things and being proactive to take additional PCR tests.— Zach Shaw (@_ZachShaw) January 23, 2021
Unfortunately, this is the reality of college basketball in 2021 and likely will be for at least the rest of this season. Personally, it seems a bit odd to play a game hours after a player on one of the teams tested positive for COVID-19 and a needless risk. Let’s hope it doesn’t lead to anything worse for the two teams. We certainly don’t want anymore pauses or health complications in the weeks to come.
As to the actual game, Michigan rolled in this one. The Wolverines took advantage of Stefanovic’s absence and stifled Purdue’s offense, holding the the Boilermakers to the team’s lowest scoring total of the season. Isaiah Livers led things for Michigan offensively, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists. Eli Brooks also had 11 points.
Michigan improved to 13-1 overall and 8-1 in Big Ten play with the win and is now has a game and a half lead in the conference standings. The Wolverines also moved up to third nationally on KenPom and seem to have a pretty manageable slate moving forward:
Michigan’s Next Five Games (KenPom Odds To Win):
- 1/27 - at Penn State (71%)
- 1/30 - Indiana (76%)
- 2/3 - at Northwestern (80%)
- 2/6 - Michigan State (83%)
- 2/11 - Illinois (67%)
Going 5-0 or even 4-1 against that slate won’t be easy, but it’s possible. And if that happens, Michigan would be in great shape for a one seed in March.
On the other side, Purdue fell to 11-6 overall and 6-4 in Big Ten play with the loss. The Boilermakers had a four-game winning streak coming into tip, but weren’t able to keep things going on Friday night. Unfortunately, this probably marks the end of the team’s realistic conference title hopes as Purdue fell to fifth in the league standings with the loss. We’ll see how the team can rebound next Saturday at home against Minnesota.