Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Purdue can throw another wrench in the Big Ten title race with a win Wednesday.
Ohio State's upset of Indiana last night has a ripple effect on tonight's Purdue-Michigan game. The Wolverines now find themselves once again controlling their own destiny for winning a share of the Big Ten title, something that looked as if it was in serious jeopardy after last week's stunning loss at Penn State. Now, as long as they win their final two games, they will share the Big Ten crown with Indiana and possibly Ohio State and either Michigan State or Wisconsin.
Also of note would be Ohio State winning at least a share of four straight Big Ten titles, tying them with Indiana for second place with 21 overall Purdue. It would also be the first time since 1998-2001 that a school has won four in a row. With Purdue's stunning win over Wisconsin on Sunday, it makes for an interesting tale. Even if Michigan loses it will still be battling to avoid playing on Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament when it plays Indiana this weekend. Michigan would need a win to have a chance at avoiding the 5/12 game against the same Penn State team that upset them.
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
2011-12 record: 24-10, 13-5 Big Ten (Big Ten Tri-champions)
2012-13 Record: 24-5, 11-5 Big Ten
2012 Postseason: Lost to Ohio 65-60 in NCAA Tournament First Round
Series With Purdue: Purdue Leads 83-62
Last Purdue win: 75-61 at Michigan on 2/25/2012
Last Michigan win: 68-53 at Michigan on 1/24/2013
TV: Big Ten Network
Odds: Michigan by 6
The last time around Purdue led by a point at halftime in Ann Arbor and was up 40-39 with 15 minutes left before the Wolverines went on a 13-2 run to pull ahead for good. Purdue got it back to five at 53-48 on a free throw by Rapheal Davis with 6:18 left, but Nik Stauskas hit a three, Mitch McGary made a layup and a dunk, and it was all over.
So even though the final margin was 15, Purdue was competitive for most of the game. Purdue got beat because it could not contain Trey Burke on the drive and kick game. At key moments the defense collapsed on Burke, leaving Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Tim Hardaway Jr. with wide open perimeter looks. That is Michigan's game and they kill teams when they get open looks like that.
Burke had 15 points and eight assists, meaning Ronnie Johnson will have to improve his defense on him. If he can at least slow Burke down one-on-one it will allow the perimeter to be covered, at least in theory.
Basically, the Purdue from Sunday has to show up. Purdue finally played with heart and effort on defense against Wisconsin and it led to poor shooting and turnovers. Sandi Marcius had a monster game, so if A.J. Hammons uses that as a wake-up and both guys play nasty interior defense it will help greatly.
Also, D.J. Byrd and Terone Johnson were both on. Byrd was hitting outside and getting looks because TJ was effective on the drive. We've seen it too much over the course of the Big Ten season. If they aren't on, Purdue has no chance.
Purdue kept it close for much of the game last time despite Hammons doing almost nothing (1 of 4 FG, 2 rebounds, 2 points). That game was 25 points from D.J. and TJ, a solid game from Davis with 10 points (his defense was very unsung against Wisconsin), and six assists from Ronnie. That formula is there. All it needs is improved defense and an actual live performance on offense from Hammons.
Purdue spoils the Big Ten title party if:
- Byrd stays hot.
- TJ gets into the lane and scores.
- Hammons wakes up and Chooch keeps playing as the Croatian Sensation.
- RJ can keep up with Burke.
- The collective give-a-shit remains turned on.
Purdue cuts down the nets in Michigan's honor if:
- Burke plays like a POY candidate.
- Robinson, Sauskas, and Hardaway get too many open looks.
- Hammons continues to look disinterested.
- Byrd goes Xavier-level cold.
Prediction: Michigan 66, Purdue 60