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1/26 Big Ten Preview: Purdue Travels to Michigan

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight there’s a doubleheader of Big Ten action on FS1 tipping off at 7 pm. Let’s take a look at tonight’s slate of games.

Game of the Night

#1 Purdue Boilermakers at Michigan Wolverines

  • Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET FS1
  • Line: Purdue -5.0

In the late game tonight Purdue heads to Ann Arbor to face Michigan. The Boilermakers hold a 2.5 game lead over the Wolverines and with this being the only game between the two schools, they could effectively eliminate Michigan from the conference title race with a win. Purdue has won six in a row since losing to Rutgers and has seen their defense tighten up even more (worth mentioning they haven’t given up more than 70 points all year).

On the other side of the court is a Michigan team that has had a rough run the past couple of weeks. After a 3-0 start the Wolverines have gone 2-3 and almost lost at home to Minnesota last time out. Their schedule is pretty favorable after tonight’s game, with Penn State, Northwestern, Ohio State and Nebraska making about as “easy” of a four game run you can get in the conference. A win for Michigan would be huge, both for a potential late season push in the conference race and to solidify a postseason resume that is currently looking pretty rough.

Purdue may only have one loss but they’ve been heavily inconsistent all season. And by inconsistent I mean their backcourt has struggled with shooting. The benefit of having Zach Edey, arguably the best player in the country this year, is Edey has been consistently fantastic all season (leading Purdue in scoring in 14 of the 19 games he’s played). With Edey anchoring the frontcourt, Purdue has found a way to take care of business even when the team struggles shooting the ball.

Tonight’s matchup will be somewhat interesting because Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson can spread the floor. Problematic for Purdue as Edey has played off on opposing big men away from the rim, a move that has helped Edey’s minutes stay up and avoid foul trouble. If Dickinson can start shooting from outside it could force Painter to switch things up defensively.

Of course with the game on the road Purdue will need better performances from their backcourt. Even when Purdue has struggled shooting the ball they’ve typically had plenty of open looks, they just need to find ways to convert. Michigan has some weapons offensively, but against a Purdue defense they’ll need to clean things up and take advantage of any mistakes Purdue makes.

The Wolverines seemingly play up (or down) to the level of their opponent so tonight’s game should be close. But until someone shows they’re capable of slowing down Edey it’s hard to pick against the Boilermakers.

Pick: Purdue

The Rest

Iowa Hawkeyes at Michigan State Spartans

  • Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET FS1
  • Line: Michigan State -2.5

In the first game of the night two middle of the pack teams square off. Of course middle of the pack is essentially the entire conference, with 3rd-11th being separated by 1.5 games.

Michigan State has struggled as of late, going 1-3 over their last four games. Of course two of those losses were on the road and the other was a one point loss to Purdue. Iowa has turned things around after an 0-3 start, winning four in a row before losing by 16 on the road to Ohio State. That Buckeyes loss was especially bad considering the current state of Ohio State basketball.

Tonight’s game is interesting because you have a Michigan State team with a so-so offense but very good defense playing against an Iowa team with a solid offense and horrid defense. Can the Michigan State defense slow down Iowa enough to pick up the win? Will Michigan State offense have an explosion against an inept Hawkeyes defense? Ultimately Michigan State will try to keep things slow and force their brand of basketball on Iowa, likely being successful as long as they can limit turnovers and unnecessary mistakes. Michigan State takes full advantage of playing in East Lansing and gives Iowa a second loss in a row.

Pick: Michigan State