This is a game where COVID will hurt most. First place Michigan is coming to Mackey Arena. Surprisingly, Purdue is just two games out of first place itself. Normally, this is the type of game Mackey is made for. It would be electric. There would hopefully be some point where Purdue hits a couple threes to go up 5, the crowd is going nuts, then Eric Hunter Jr. makes a big steal and the Boilers score on a break, causing Juwan Howard to call a timeout as Mackey is going full throttle and you can barely hear Carson Tucker call out the player that scores.
This is supposed to be where Mackey breaks a team.
Purdue still has a home court advantage. There is no question it plays better at home, but it is not the same this year. Purdue was already proven mortal last year by losing FIVE TIMES on Keady Court, which is more than it had lost in the previous four years combined. Now, without the “Saturn V Launch” loudness level the home court is even more mitigated.
Still, it is Mackey. Top 10 teams come to die here. Michigan State and Virginia died there last year. We have won three straight over top 10 teams on Keady Court and four of the last five (three of them being Michigan State in 2016, 2019, and 2020). If there is some Mackey Magic in an empty building Purdue can climb into the thick of the Big Ten race. The Boilers would need to break a four-game losing streak to the Wolverines in the process.
From: Ann Arbor, MI
Date: Friday, January 22, 2021
Tip Time: 7pm ET
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Television: Fox Sports 1
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
2019-20 Record: 19-12, 10-10 Big Ten
2020-21 Record: 12-1, 7-1 Big Ten
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 88-73
Last Michigan Win: 71-63 at Purdue on 2/22/2020
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 (31-13 in 2nd season at Michigan)
I will admit that I did not expect this good of a season from Michigan. When Oakland took them to overtime early in the year, the same Oakland Purdue blasted by 43 points just two days later, I didn’t think things were looking that promising. Because their ACC/Big Ten challenge game was cancelled they really did not have a good non-conference schedule. Their best out of conference win was over Toledo.
They have really turned it on early in the conference schedule though. They have seince swept a good Maryland team, split with Minnesota, and blown out Wisconsin by 23. They have also taken care of business against teams at the bottom of the league with wins over Nebraska, Penn State, and Northwestern.
A huge reason for their success is likely Big Ten Freshman of the Year Hunter Dickinson. This is a player Matt Painter recruited heavily, and with good reason. He is averaging a team best 15.7 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game. He also is shooting 70% from the field. He does not have the range of a Luka Garza (he is 0 for 3 on 3-point attempts), but he has been more than effective in the paint. Trevion Williams will not have the same success he did in Ann Arbor last year.
Isaiah Livers will be a tough defensive match up as well. The 6’7” forward is shooting 43.5% from three and is averaging 14.1 points per game. He could have a game similar to Duane Washington’s performance for Ohio State on Tuesday. Franz Wagner is the third player averaging in double figures at 12.3 points per game.
The Wolverines also have excellent balance behind those three. Mike Smith and Eli Brooks average better than 8 points per game. This is a team averaging 80.5 points per game this year, good for third in the Big Ten behind Illinois and Iowa. Purdue did player extremely well defensively against Illinois and Iowa. It was the offense that failed in those games. Even after a couple of 80 point performances Purdue is still last in the conference at 71.4 points per game. Michigan is also a good passing team at 17.6 assists per contest.
It might be crucial to look at what didn’t work in Michigan’s one loss. Dickinson was held to nine points and five rebounds with five turnovers in the 18 point loss at Minnesota. Turnovers were a huge factor in that game as Michigan had 20. They are the worst team in the league in turnover margin at -2.23 and they average giving up the ball 13 times a game.
I feel like this is the game where we will miss Mackey the most. With those turnover numbers Michigan can get rattled. Imagine them trying to play with a fully armed and operational Mackey bearing down on them. Purdue is going to need to limit its own turnovers like it has done lately and hit timely shots. Watch the Dickinson vs. Williams battle, especially concerning fouls. He is averaging just under three fouls per game, but if we can get a pair on him early it will help greatly.
Purdue also struggled to slow down Wagner and Livers last year in Mackey. They combined for 41 points, and only hit four threes between them. They scored from all over the floor, and limiting their influence will be critical.