Sunday night was a disaster.
There is no question that Purdue has been awful on the road in Big Ten play so far. Losing at Nebraska, where three low majors have walked in and won, is bad. At Illinois it was almost worse. The defense played well enough to win, holding the Illini to 63 points. The offense was horrendous though. Purdue missed its first 10 shots, felt behind 11-0, and had its lowest scoring output in decades.
I guess the good news is that we really can’t play worse.
Naturally, this has raised a ton of questions for the remaining 16 regular season games. As of now, Purdue’s overall profile is still strong enough to make the NCAA Tournament and there is only one game left, at Northwestern, against a team outside the top 50 of the NET rankings. The schedule is so strong at the moment that even a 9-7 closing kick might be enough to make the field. There are still plenty of chances.
The downside, of course, is that Purdue is currently at the bottom of those 12 teams in the top 50 of the NET rankings in the Big Ten at No. 48. We also just looked like hot flaming garbage in scoring only 37 points at Illinois. Purdue is not going to win any games if it continues to play that poorly on offense. The defense is still very strong (8th nationally on KenPom), but things need to be fixed immediately on offense. It doesn’t get any easier Thursday night, either.
From: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Arena: Crisler Center (13,751)
Date: January 9, 2020
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: No Line Yet
2018-19 Record: 30-7, 15-5 Big Ten (Lost to Texas Tech 63-44 in NCAA Sweet 16)
2019-20 Record: 10-4, 1-2 Big Ten
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 88-71
Last Michigan Win: 76-57 at Michigan on 12/1/2018
Last Purdue Win: 92-88 at Purdue on 1/25/2018
NCAA Tournament History: 29 Appearances, last in 2019. 1989 NCAA Champion
Coach: Juwan Howard (10-4 in first season)
The Juwan Howard era got off to an excellent start as the Wolervines stormed out of the gate with a 7-0 record and reached the top 5 nationally after beating Iowa State, North Carolina, and Gonzaga in the Battle 4 Atlantis. They also had a very good early season win over Creighton in the Gavitt Games, but have cooled off since. They lost 58-43 at Louisville in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge to break the win streak, then fell at Illinois 71-62 in the early Big Ten games. A 71-70 overtime home loss to a very good Oregon team followed three days later. They then beat up on a few tomato cans before falling at Michigan State 87-69 on Sunday.
That makes the Wolverines just 3-4 in the last seven games, but this is still a very good basketball team. They are fourth in the conference in scoring at 78.3 points per game, but 12th defensively at 67.4 per game. They lead the league in field goal percentage at 48.3% while Purdue is dead last at 41.5%. That means this is only the best shooting team against the worst shooting team, so no big deal. They shoot 37.5% from three to Purdue’s 33.2%. They have only made 121 threes to Purdue’s 116, so they are not quite the volume-chucking from three team that they were on Beilein.
John Teske is their leading scorer at 14.4 points per game in the middle. Isaiah Livers, their no. 2 scorer at 13.6 per game and their best three-point shooter at 50%, missed the Michigan State game on Sunday with a groin injury and is officially day-to-day. If he cannot go that will greatly help Purdue, as he was replaced by Brandon Johns Jr.. Johns only averages 4.8 points per game, but had 12 against the Spartans.
Running things at the point is former Purdue target Zavier Simpson, who is scoring 11.4 points per game and leading the league at 8.9 assists per game. The senior guard has had a stellar four year career, one that makes me very envious because he could be playing in Gold and Black this season. He is, quite simply, one of the best point guards in the country. Eli Brooks, averaging 10.9 points per game, joins him in the backcourt and he shoots an impressive 43.9% from three.
The Wolverines are going to be a very difficult matchup because Teske is tough to contain in the post, they have a dynamic point guard who can both score and distribute, and both Brooks and Livers can shoot it from outside. So much of their offense runs off of what Simpson can create, too.
That said, Michigan has struggled a bit of late and if Livers can’t go, that won’t help them. Purdue really cannot play any worse offensively than it did Sunday night in Champaign, too. We’re going to be better simply because I cannot imagine a worse game offensively short of purposely shooting at the wrong basket (and let’s face it, we would have still missed doing so on Sunday).
Is that enough for a win though? Purdue is starting to get desperate for a road win and getting one in Ann Arbor, where we have won once in eight years, would go a very long way towards erasing Sunday night. The Boilers also could really use a split of the Michigan schools this week before going to Maryland next week. It won’t be easy at all, but seeing as how we can’t really play any worse than we did at Illinois, we at least have a chance. I still favor the Wolverines, however.