Who: #20/18 Purdue Boilermakers (13-2, 1-1 B1G)
When: Thursday, January 7th, at 7:00 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Where: Mackey Arena -- West Lafayette, Ind.
Spread: Vegas: +7.5 | KenPom: L, 62-71 (19% WP)
Michigan is 12-3 (2-0 B1G), but no one considers the Wolverines a serious Big Ten title contender because they have yet to beat or even compete with a top-25 caliber team. They will have that opportunity tonight, traveling to West Lafayette to challenge #20/18 Purdue, who has a 13-2 (1-1 B1G) record and is #7 on KenPom. What makes Purdue so special is its defense, which is the best in the country. Not only do the Boilermakers excel at grabbing missed rebounds and not fouling, they have the best shooting defense, using their seven-footers to protect the rim while their stingy perimeter defenders lock down the three-point line. That forces offenses to settle for taking one or two dribbles inside and pulling up for mid-range jumpers, which is not an optimal strategy. Purdue isn't in that stratosphere offensively, but PU loves to run its offense through the post and has the size to punish U-M on the block with Caleb Swanigan, Isaac Haas, and A.J. Hammons.
There are two key questions for Michigan. First, will Caris LeVert play? LeVert missed the Penn State game with a lower left leg injury and will be a game-time decision tonight. It's hard to imagine that U-M will upset the Boilermakers without one of the best players in the country. Second, how will Mark Donnal hold up against Purdue's two skyscrapers? Donnal had a breakthrough last week (21.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.0 BPG) and could be the reliable option at center that Michigan desperately needs. However, he hasn't faced a frontcourt as imposing as Purdue's. We will learn a lot more about Donnal tonight.
If you haven't yet, read my extensive Purdue preview and prediction. Personally, I think Purdue is the worst matchup for Michigan, and, if LeVert is absent, I think it will get ugly. Also, make sure to check out our Q&A with Hammer and Rails manager Travis Miller, who offered his insight about Purdue and whom he thinks will win.
What do you think? Will Michigan upset the Boilermakers on the road? Tell us below!