Both teams need tonight’s game for different reasons, but the underlying subtext will be Chris Kramer, Manny Harris, and elbowgate. Michigan fans arms till up in arms that Harris got ejected for what was an inadvertent elbow. Purdue fans are still up in arms that Kramer was knocked senseless and now has to play with a freaky mask. I would say at the moment that Michigan needs this game more because of its precarious NCAA position. Purdue is going to be dancing regardless of its finish now, so we’re playing for a Big Ten championship and a good seed. Michigan needs a win and a solid finish or it will be back to the NIT.
"We don't retaliate. We just get W's."
Michigan Record: 17-11, 7-8 Big Ten
2007-08 postseason: Lost 51-34 to Wisconsin in Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals
2007-08 final record: 10-22, 6-14 Big Ten
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Not a whole lot has changed for Michigan statistically since I did the original game preview for our matchup in West Lafayette. The Wolverines position of being a lock for the NCAA Tournament before conference play started has dropped significantly because of their struggles in Big Ten play. As UCLA continues to plummet that win loses some value as well. Michigan is not a good road team in Big Ten play, winning only at Northwestern and Indiana and needing overtime both times to grab the victory. With two road games remaining at Minnesota and Wisconsin the Wolverines absolutely have to defend their home court tonight.
They have been better at home, but they haven’t exactly made Crisler Arena a place where the Big Ten’s elite fear to tread. Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan State have all won with relative ease at Michigan this year. In an interesting twist tonight the student section won’t be as strong since the campus is already on spring break. On the other side, it is also Senior night for three Michigan seniors. They aren’t scoring machines as they average a combined 7 points per game, but C.J. Lee, David Merritt, and Jevohn Shepherd are solid role players that contribute each night. Shepherd had 10 points in our earlier game, so if he adds that contribution tonight with Harris and Sims doing their usual thing we could find ourselves in trouble.
I made the argument before that the Harris ejection really didn’t matter. Purdue has always done a good job against him and he was well below his averages at the point of conflict. Michigan was actually leading at the time as well, so they had proven they can do well without him. Instead of rallying against injustice they crumbled.
Still, the Wolverines are a much better team with him in there. After what happened in Iowa City on Sunday there is plenty of consternation in the Michigan locker room at the moment. Harris was suspended for the overtime period against Iowa in Sunday’s 10 point loss. Coach John Beilein refused to elaborate on the reason why as well.
Our win in game one came like many others have this season. We played a tight first half but blew things open in the second half thanks to suffocating defense that led to an offensive explosion in transition. Home wins over Iowa, Penn State, and Wisconsin happened in the exact same way. We have struggled in taking that same act on the road and I fear we will need to tonight in order to get a win we must have for the Big Ten title.
I think we should go with the same formula we have used in our last three victories over Michigan. We have to stifle Harris and force someone else to beat us. We will see Zack Novak tonight after he was suspended for the first Purdue game, but this feels like a team that is getting worse as the season goes along rather than better. On the other hand, this game reminds me a lot of our trip to Ohio State last season. In that game, we needed a win to stay in the hunt for the Big Ten title. Ohio State was a team reeling and desperate to get a big win for its NCAA hopes (which ultimately fell short). Doesn’t this sound familiar?
I am assuming Robbie Hummel is playing tonight. If he plays I think we have a win. Be sure to join me right here at 9pm for the open thread. I’ll be watching and posting live from Casa De T-Mill. Purdue 67, Michigan 62
· If you’re on campus and have nothing better to do, head on over to Mackey arena as the women’s team will have its own senior night against Michigan. It’s been a bit of a disappointing year for the ladies as some were predicting a Final Four appearance, but a win tonight would give them 20 wins and would most assuredly put them into the NCAA Tournament for a 15th straight season. Tipoff is at 7pm, so there is plenty of time to go and get back in time to watch the men at 9.
· Incoming recruit D.J. Byrd had minor knee surgery this morning for a torn meniscus, but he hopes to be back for next week’s sectional semifinal in a possible rematch with Danville and Travis Carroll. This is very good news, as his original injury sounded much worse and could have cost him his freshman season next year if it had been ligament damage.
· The baseball team travels to Southeast Missouri State tomorrow for a four game series. The Redhawks took two of three from #16 Alabama last week and won a midweek game against a non-Division 1 opponent to move to 3-1. It is the first meeting between the schools and Purdue probably needs at least a split. An 0-9 start to last season probably prevented an NCAA tournament berth even though Purdue did very well in Big Ten play. We’re already at 1-3 and on a three game losing streak. First pitch of the series is at 3pm Friday.
· If you haven’t had a chance to check out the Fan Post on the right, the Paint Crew is taking on the Izzone in a Coaches vs. Cancer Fundraising Challenge. I have joined the team and set a modest goal of raising $200 here through the site. This is something we can do guys, and it is for a great cause.
· Anyone still interested in joining me for the Big Ten Hoops Day 5k on March 15th in Indianapolis before the Big Ten Tournament championship should e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I plan on running in the event and hopefully hopping home for a quick shower before heading to see the Boilers win the title.
· Finally, I will likely not be able to make it to next Wednesday’s Northwestern game. l will probably be covering a high school sectional game that night, so I have posted my tickets on Ebay of anyone is interested.