With five games to go Purdue is in first place in the Big Ten. After losing to Iowa and Nebraska it didn’t feel like this would happen, but Purdue has done what it needed to do. It got road wins in its three toughest road games at Michigan State, Maryland, and Indiana. It got help from Northwestern winning in Madison, Penn State upsetting Maryland in State College, and Michigan beating Wisconsin last night. Strangely, Nebraska is the great equalizer among the three conference contenders, beating two of them and losing to the third by a point in overtime.
After fighting hard to get back into the race and getting the help needed from the rest of the league the math is now simple: win the next five games and a 23rd Big Ten Championship banner will go up in the offseason.
Of course, it won’t be easy. Yes, four of Purdue’s final five games come against teams it has already beaten (three of them by double digits), but you can take nothing for granted here. A road trip next Saturday to a red hot Michigan looks daunting. Before that the first item of business is tomorrow against Michigan State: a talented team that can never be counted as an automatic win.
From: East Lansing, MI
Date : Saturday, February 18, 2017
Tip Time: 4pm ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: Purdue by 9.5
2015-16 Record: 29-6, 13-5 Big Ten (lost to Middle Tennessee State 90-81 in NCAA First Round)
2016-17 Record: 16-10, 8-5
Opponent Blog: The Only Colors
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 67-53
Last Michigan State Win: 66-62 in Big Ten Tournament Championship Game on 3/13/2016
Last Purdue Win: 84-73 at Michigan State on 1/24/2017
NCAA Tournament History: 30 Appearances (19 consecutive), 1979 & 2000 National Champion
The last time out against these guys Caleb Swanigan was impressive as Purdue won by 11 in East Lansing. Facing the vitriol of the school he spurned two years ago Swanigan dropped a 25 and 17 on them as Purdue pulled away from a close game late. After a Miles Bridges three-pointer with 4:57 left Purdue closed the game on a 15-8 run. Dakota Mathias answered with a three of his own on the next possession, then P.J. Thompson hit from long range after a Swanigan defensive rebound to push the four point lead to 10 at the 3:43 mark. It was basically over from there.
That Michigan State was in the game at all was thanks to Bridges. The freshman was incredible with 33 points on 12 of 17 shooting, but Purdue kept the rest of the team in check. The rest of the Spartans were only 6 of 16 from long range and most of those came in the first half. No one else even scored in double figures. Purdue also used its size advantage for a 36-23 rebounding edge.
Since that game Michigan State has been playing good basketball. They have gone 4-1, losing only at Michigan when the Wolverines just torched them 86-57. They have beaten Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, and Ohio State, but three of those four wins were at home. They have struggled on the road a bit, losing at Ohio State, Michigan, and in Bloomington during the last twitch of the corpse that has become Indiana’s 2016-17 season.
Playing at home against a team we have already beaten by 11 should give us confidence, but this is Michigan State. Tom Izzo is one of the best coaches in America. His players are talented and Purdue hasn’t swept an in-season two-game series since 2011. Before that you have to go all the way back to 1997. Izzo is also 24-15 all-time against Purdue.
Purdue needs to continue to dominate the post the way that they did in the first game. That is a major weakness for the Spartans and Biggie took full advantage of it. Isaac Haas also added 11 points and helped to foul out Kenny Goins. Nick Ward also battled foul trouble and was limited. A wild card to keep an eye on is Alvin Ellis III. He had 18 points on six three-pointers against Ohio State on Tuesday night.
I am fine with Bridges going nuts as long as we keep everyone else in check like we did in East Lansing. He is not going to score 50 and beat us by himself. Let him get his, keep everyone else in check again, and we should be fine.