The Michigan Wolverines (7-4, 1-1 Big Ten) host the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons (5-5, 1-1 Horizon) for their last home game before the New Year. Michigan opens as the heavy favorite on ESPN’s Power Index and should win this game handedly. The Wolverines came away with a win against Southern Utah this past weekend as they found solid footing while working through their early season woes. Michigan will continue to move past the losses earlier this year, looking to contend for the Big Ten and return to the AP rankings.
This game leans heavily in Michigan’s favor, as it leads the Mastodons across every metric except steals and points per game, where both average 73.5 points per game. The Wolverines performs the best when they’re able to get into a shooting rhythm early while out rebounding Purdue Fort Wayne at the basket. They currently average 47.9% from the floor to the Mastodons 45%.
Michigan leads in blocks (3.3) and its height differential should play to its advantage as Purdue Fort Wayne’s tallest starter stands at 6-foot-9. Michigan should be able to stretch the floor and force the Mastodons to make tough shots. If Purdue Fort Wayne can imitate Tarleton State’s game plan of forcing Michigan to turn the ball over, it could make this game competitive. They certainly have the ability to as they average 8.1 steals a game compared to the 4.7 per game Michigan forces. They’ll need everything in their favor to pull off an upset in Ann Arbor.
The Mastodons are led by senior guard Jarred Godfrey, who averages 17.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.9 steals a game. Godfrey averages the most minutes of anyone on Purdue Fort Wayne’s roster. He shoots 50% from the floor and 32.8% from three. Jalon Pipkins, a senior guard, follows suit, averaging 14.1 PPG 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game off 44.6% shooting from the floor and 31.8% from three. Ra Kpedi, a senior forward, leads the team in rebounds, pulling in 7.2 per game. Kpedi averages 11.1 PPG off 70% shooting from the floor.
Bobby Planutis, a senior forward, and Damian Chong Qui, a senior guard, round out the Mastodons starting five. Palnutis averages 7.6 PPG and 3.1 rebounds, shooting 38.8% from the floor and 37.2% from beyond the arc. Chong Qui averages 7.5 PPG and 3.1 assists, shooting 34.7% from the floor and 24.1% from three.
Sixth man off the bench, Deonte Billups, a junior guard, shares a lot of minutes with the starters. Billups averages 9.7 PPG and three rebounds, shooting 44% from the floor and 44.2% from beyond the arc. JoJo Peterson, a freshman guard, plays the next most minutes of anyone remaining on the Mastodons roster, accounting for 10.1 minutes a game. The rest of the roster mixes in and out, filling in where needed, but never making a huge impact in any game.
The Mastodons sustain themselves off a reliable six man rotation that consists of only upperclassmen who account for 92.1% of the Mastodons 735 points this season. Keeping the same players on the court throughout the game can help with team chemistry, but that same chemistry may not extend to the rest of their roster when they enter the game. In addition, those six main players may, if not adequately prepared, be out of energy by the end of the game. Michigan could take advantage of this and push the tempo of the game so as to tire the Mastodons out quicker.
Michigan has a wider reaching talent pool among its roster. A lot of guys can contribute and play meaningful minutes for the Wolverines. They are currently led by sophomore center Hunter Dicksinson. Dickinson averages 15.6 PPG, 9.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
Senior guard Eli Brooks follows, averaging 12.6 PPG, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals a game, shooting 42.9 percent from the floor and 35.8 percent from three. DeVante’ Jones looks to settle in more comfortably with the Wolverines and it looks like he is heading that way after this past weekend. On the season, Jones averages 7.4 PPG, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists for the Wolverines.
Michigan rounds out its starting five with two explosive freshmen. Moussa Diabate and Caleb Houstan, both freshman forwards, have emerged as two fiery contributors. Houstan averages 10.1 PPG, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists, shooting 40% from the floor and 36.5% from three. Diabate has been electric for the Wolverines, averaging 7.6 PPG, 5.8 rebounds, and one block a game.
The Wolverines extend to a nine man rotation by dishing out meaningful minutes to another four guys. Senior forward Brandon Johns Jr. and sophomore forward Terrance Williams II play the most consistently among those coming off the bench.
Michigan has seen more meaningful playing time for two more of its star studded freshmen class. Frankie Collins and Kobe Bufkin, freshmen guards, have earned a more consistent presence on the floor for the Maize and Blue over the last few weeks. Despite fewer games played than the first seven, Collins averages the next most minutes off the bench. He averages 3.7 PPG, 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists a game, while Bufkin averages 4.4 PPG and two rebounds.
The Wolverines have a deeper rotation that they are able to work with. The ability to experiment with different lineups has helped in finding some consistency for Michigan’s offense. They have shown flashes of success this season, but there are still a lot of questions about what this team is capable of this year. The growing pains persist among the team, but there are noticeable improvements on the different issues that have plagued the Wolverines so far. If the Maize and Blue are able to play consistently, specifically on offense, they should have no trouble rising back into the AP Top 25.
With a lot of guys able to contribute from all over the floor, Michigan has the edge in tomorrow night’s matchup. If the Wolverines find a reliable shooting game early on while being wary of Purdue Fort Wayne’s affinity for steals, the Wolverines will come away with a win before heading into the holiday weekend. When the Wolverines have a handle on spacing, passing, and shooting they are one of the top contenders in the country despite being unranked in the AP.
This game will be an uphill battle for the Mastodons should they try and collect their first road win of the season. The Wolverines are currently 4-2 at home, with a loss to KenPom No. 71 Minnesota hanging over their heads. The Wolverines are the highest graded team the Mastodons will face this season, as Michigan sits at the 18th spot on KenPom. On paper, this game should not be close, however, this Michigan team has surprised us before. As long as Michigan prioritizes ball security and good shot selection, they will come away with a win.
Michigan will host Purdue Fort Wayne tomorrow night at 7 p.m. eastern time at Crisler Center.