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Hoops Preview: Michigan at Purdue

WIth the tallest peaks out of the way, Michigan looks to not trip on the remaining molehills on its way to a possible outright Big Ten championship.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Date: February 26th
Time: 7pm
Place: Mackey Arena; West Lafayette, IN

Purdue Boilermakers (15-12, 5-9)

Game One Preview

When Last We Met: The first time these two teams met this year, Michigan had won nine straight games including three straight over teams in the top ten. Of course, the home tilt against Purdue wasn't the cakewalk it seemed on paper, as Purdue forced Michigan into its worst TO% game of the season. Of course, Michigan cleaned up its early case of the yips and held off Purdue for a nine-point win.

Since Then: Things weren't great for either team. Michigan would lose its next game to Indiana and the Wolverines ended up going 3-3 overall between games against Purdue. Purdue, meanwhile, would go 2-4 including a loss to Penn State and a three overtime win against Minnesota.

What Will Be Different: Probably very little. If things are going to be different, you would expect Michigan's statistical profile to even out in the second matchup. Last game's four factors

Michigan posted uncharacteristically high TO% numbers, but also eFG% numbers. The Wolverines made 7/13 from three and 21 of 33 from two for an eFG% of 68.5 — easily the best number Michigan has put up in Big Ten play in that category. Of course, the reason Michigan was unable to translate this kind of shooting success into a huge final margin was the turnover issues. Michigan turned the ball over 16 times.

The Wolverines won't be able to match those shooting numbers again, but if Michigan is able to clean up its turnover problems — and there is no reason to believe it won't have success doing so — that will keep Michigan with a sizeable advantage.

What Should Be The Same: Michigan isn't going to have an easy time on the defensive glass. Last time these teams met, Purdue won the rebounding war with a 39% offensive rebounding rate. This wasn't a function of one player dominating the glass either. Ten players recorded at least one offensive rebound and five of those players notched two in the game (the 16th was a "team" rebound). In Michigan's last three losses the Wolverines have struggled on the glass. If Purdue can match its rebounding effort this time, the Boilermakers can keep things close. Purdue's overall OR% for the season (36.4) is 38th in the nation, so it would lead one to believe that this was no fluke for the Boilermakers.

Keys For Michigan:

- Hold onto the ball. Michigan did not do this in the first game, and while Michigan ended up winning with a comfortable margin, the Wolverines squandered the opportunity for a blowout win, and Michigan needed every bit of its 68.5 eFG% performance to keep the margin respectable. If MIchigan gets those turnover numbers closer to its season average, Purdue's offense won't have extra chances to score — chances it needs if it hopes to keep pace with Michigan's offense.

- Box out. When one guy on the other team is abusing you and dominating the offensive glass, you can mark it up to a superhuman effort by that individual (usually). When almost every single player with any time on the floor ends up with at least one offensive rebound, it means your defense wasn't boxing out like it needed to. Michigan should do that.

Outlook: This is a road game, and as Big Ten road games are wont to be, it should offer a stiff challenge and could end up being an upset that shakes the conference title race up. This is not outside of the realm of possibility.

However, Michigan is clearly the class of the league when it comes to offensive output, and Purdue is quite honestly not even close to that. The Boilermakers are one of the worst shooting teams in the Big Ten and aren't careful with the ball (10th in the league in TO%).

If Michigan's offense settles into a rhythm and doesn't allow turnovers to leach away good shot attempts on offense, Purdue will have a hard road trying to match Michigan in offensive efficiency over the course of 40 minutes.

Kenpom has Michigan winning by seven. Even accounting for the road environment, that seems conservative if Michigan keeps rolling on offense like it did against Michigan State.