Oh, how sweet those three words sound.
Down. Goes. Sparty.
The Spartans came into Saturday on a 13-game winning streak, eager for redemption after getting blown out at the Breslin Center on Jan. 13, 82-72.
But John Beilein’s bunch, a team that nobody in the nation would be comfortable playing right now, beat up on their in-state rivals again, 75-64.
All that’s in Michigan’s way of back-to-back B1G Tournament titles are the Purdue Boilermakers, who have beaten the Wolverines twice this season.
In order to clinch another title, here are the three keys to a Michigan victory.
Edwards and Edwards
Purdue owns the best offense in the B1G after Saturday, scoring 81.6 points per game. They now also lead in three-point percentage (42.4) and scoring margin (+16.2).
The Boilermakers are loaded with weapons up and down the bench, but what the Wolverines must do is contain Carsen Edwards and Vince Edwards. Carsen Edwards’ 18.7 PPG mark is good for third best in the conference with Vincent Edwards short behind at 14.8.
The two combined for 29 points on 6-for-8 shooting beyond the arc in Purdue’s 70-69 win over Michigan on Jan. 10.
Two weeks later, Vincent Edwards dropped a career-high 30 piece, converting on 12 of 14 shots. Carsen Edwards chimed in with 13, including three made three-balls.
The two are such dynamic players in all facets of the game, but the ability to take away their three-point shooting could flip the script.
Michigan owns the B1G’s best defensive unit, and after the defensive effort Saturday against MSU, it’s certainly a possibility to limit the damage from the two Edwards kids.
Get Duncan going
This is something I’ve preached since the opening round on Thursday.
The Michigan Wolverines are absolutely lights out when Duncan Robinson is scoring the basketball. When Robinson has the three-ball going, and he typically does as a 40 percent shooter, the Wolverines look untouchable.
He’s scored double-digit points in all three contests so far this tournament, and it really proves to be the difference. His three long balls Thursday — the only Michigan three-pointers that afternoon — could not have come at a better time against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
He was electric the following day, hitting 4-for-7 from three with 16 points in 29 minutes. Saturday against the Spartans, he played 21 minutes but contributed with 13 points.
When he’s locked in, the attention from opposing defenses tends to shift. It opens up scoring opportunities and open looks for guys like Moritz Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.
He combined for just nine points in the two meetings this season with Purdue.
If Robinson is able to get hot, the Boilermakers could be in trouble.
Taking it all in
There are a ton of mismatches the Boilermakers present Beilein and the Wolverines with. It’s the biggest reason as to why they’ve squeaked out two wins this season against Michigan.
Isaac Haas is a mismatch for even a big, physical guy like Wagner. Haas, standing at 7-foot-2, is just bigger and more physical. Carsen Edwards, Vincent Edwards and Dakota Mathias are three of the best three-point shooters across the B1G.
Michigan needs to do what they’ve done extremely well these past two B1G Tournaments, and that’s to take it all in. They might be mismatched or bested twice by this team, but no team is hotter than the Wolverines right now.
I wrote in the preview against the Iowa Hawkeyes that it’s extremely tough to bet against this Michigan team right now with the way they’re performing.
Against a team that seems to have their number this season, the Wolverines will be in a good position to win their second consecutive B1G Tournament title if they play with the confidence and swagger we’ve seen them play with these last three days.
What we saw Saturday against Michigan State is the exact reason why this team’s such a likeable one to watch. They’re fun. They’re spunky. They’re chippy.
They also don’t back down from a challenge, often relishing the opportunity to be doubted.
That same sort of storyline goes for Sunday’s affair against Purdue, in which Michigan is relishing a chance at redemption, and more importantly, a B1G Tourney title.
Teams: No. 5 Michigan Wolverines (27-7, 13-5 B1G) vs No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers (28-5, 15-3 B1G)
Date: March 4, 2018
Location: Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York
Tipoff: 4:30 p.m. ET