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Players to watch: Michigan vs Purdue

Michigan will have to be at its best.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines have won four of their last five games but had a lackluster performance in an 85-79 home win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Tuesday. Maybe the toughest game of the season comes today as they head to Mackey Arena to take on the No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers.

It will take the Wolverines' best performance of the season to beat the Boilermakers on the road, and that is largely because of the laundry list of stars at their disposal. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Sophomore guard Jaden Ivy

Ivy may be the best player in the Big Ten. He’s a projected top-10 pick in the NBA Draft by most experts and has been one of the most electric players in college basketball this year.

Defending shooters has been an issue for Michigan this season, even with borderline elite defensive players like Eli Brooks at the guard position. Ivy is one of the best in the country converting at a 43.6% clip from behind the arc and 48% from the field. It’s helped him average 17 points a game this season, as he has had one of the biggest ascents of any player in the country this year.

Not only can he shoot, but if you aren’t careful, he can also do this to you:

Athleticism, shooting, ball-handling, length — Ivy has it all and is capable of lighting up the scoreboard while putting on a highlight reel. Not to mention, he has been one of the clutches players in the country hitting several big shots down the stretch, including this game-winner over Ohio State last weekend:

Michigan hasn’t really seen a player like Ivy this season and it is going to be very interesting to see what it does to try and slow him down.

Sophomore center Zach Edey

There are a small handful of people on this planet that make Hunter Dickinson look small, and Zach Edey is in that class. The 7-foot-4 giant from Ontario is averaging 17.5 points per game at home this season. He is also one of the most efficient players in college basketball scoring at a 70.2% clip this year.

Dickinson’s play this season is what has helped this team stay above water in several games this season; just look at the Nebraska win earlier this week for reference. But Edey’s presence is going to nullify a lot of things Dickinson can normally do to affect the outcome of a game.

Not only is Edey a marvel on the offensive end, but he is also one of the better defensive big men in the country because of his massive stature. Look how much ground he covers in this block against Indiana State:

Lots of coaches in sports say “you can’t teach speed.” Well, you also can’t teach size. Edey is quickly becoming a special player in the college ranks.

Senior forward Trevion Williams

Williams is the epitome of this Purdue basketball program. Most players in the country would sit out and transfer for what happened to Williams. The senior averaged 15.5 points a game in 2020-21 and was a First Team All-Big Ten honoree.

But this year, Purdue head coach Matthew Painter went with Edey in the starting lineup in favor of Williams. Many would have left and said they were done. Instead, Williams has had his most efficient performance of his career coming off the bench for one of the top teams in the country. This is him in the fourth game of the season:

That’s senior leadership. That is love for the guys around you. It’s special.

Williams is a rock. At 6-foot-10, 255 pounds, he’s easily one of the most physically imposing players in college basketball. His weight is actually what kept him off the court for such a long time, but he uses it to his advantage. Defensively, he wears down opponents. So even when Edey needs to take a break or gets into foul trouble, Williams can come in and shut down opposing big men.

Not only that, but he is such a smart basketball player and passes the ball with great insight from the post. He’s averaging just over three assists per game in only 20 minutes per game. That’s more than every Michigan basketball player not named DeVante’ Jones. And he averages less than one assist more per contest.

Williams speaks to the mentality of this Purdue program with their eyes on a championship. The selflessness in this program and on this team is what makes them so dangerous.