We love sports because of the unpredictability — the upsets, the crazy moments, the unexpected happenings. Unfortunately, Thursday’s loss to Illinois went exactly as scripted, with the Michigan Wolverines succumbing to the better team. The Wolverines’ nemesis looked more prepared and more determined, and it was yet another ugly result from this ugly season.
Now Michigan gets to travel to West Lafayette to face the No. 2 team in the nation, the Purdue Boilermakers. While the Wolverines have taken five of the last seven against Purdue, including two ranked victories, that notion feels pretty laughable at the moment. Kenpom gives the visitors a less-than-10 percent chance at the upset on Tuesday, and there is no reasonable objection to that figure.
Purdue is legit in every regard, and aside from a strange loss in Lincoln a couple weeks ago, this team has been a juggernaut. This is the second-ranked offense per Kenpom, putting up over 1.22 PPP in four of the past five outings. Against a Michigan defense that has just been giving away points, there is a very real scenario in which the home side racks up triple-digits.
If there ever was a need for the unpredictable, this would be it. There is no Hunter Dickinson to try to balance things out in the paint, and not even Dug McDaniel to try to keep up on the offensive end. With Juwan Howard potentially fighting for his job, he will need his available players to step up in a major way on Tuesday, otherwise this will be rough.
Michigan Wolverines (7-11, 2-5) at No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers (17-2, 6-2)
Date & Time: Tuesday, Jan. 23, 9 p.m. ET
Location: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, IN
What makes Purdue so dangerous? Basically everything. Obviously, it all starts with Zach Edey, which is a terrifying proposition for Tarris Reed, Will Tschetter, and whoever else has to come in once fouls start rapidly accumulating. The titan is averaging 23.3 points and 11.5 rebounds this season; his stats over the past three games read 93 points and 52 rebounds. Uh oh.
Metrics-wise, the Boilermakers are great behind the arc (11th nationally) and collect a ton of offensive rebounds (16th). Not to be overly pessimistic, but it is really hard to see how Michigan slows down this offense given its ongoing weaknesses. Defensively, Purdue has been just sixth-best in conference play, though that is due to some hot three-point shooting and a lack of steals. It is possible the Wolverines exploit these areas, but they are coming off a 3-for-13 mark from deep against Illinois, so hard to bank on that.
Not really sure
The path here, especially without McDaniel, is extremely small. On defense, it is clear Purdue is going to score, but I guess the move would be to double Edey and hope some of the shooters have an off night. Nebraska is far from elite defensively but held the Boilermakers to 1.05 PPP, largely due to a 13-for-33 effort from deep and a lower offensive rebounding rate. The Wolverines absolutely have to box out and grab every available rebound and try to follow this formula.
On the other end, basically every Michigan player has to be on from behind the arc. Olivier Nkamhoua, Nimari Burnett, Terrance Williams, and Tschetter have all shown the occasional ability to do so, and Jaelin Llewellyn is 6-for-11 this year since returning. The Wolverines will need to be aggressive and hope they can hang around in a shootout. Not having McDaniel hurts big time, but this is a chance for Lewellyn to really take the reins.