#7 Michigan Dominates #19 Purdue 76-57
Feature image from @Boilerball
In the third game of what might be the country’s toughest stretch of (mostly) road games, #19 Purdue got outgunned by #7 Michigan in Crisler Center, 76-57.
So, uuh, Michigan might be really really good.
Matt Norlander, CBSsports: The Wolverines might just be, already, better than last season's Final Four team
Mark Titus, The Ringer: Michigan Is the Most Perfect Team in College Basketball
This is why I listed John Beilein as one of the four best coaches in the country during our “Where Does Matt Painter Rank” podcast this summer. After losing Mo Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Duncan Robinson from a National Title Runner-Up team (two NBA players, three of their top four scorers), Beilein has the Wolverines running the country’s top defense and clicking on all cylinders. They’ve beaten reigning champions #8 Villanova on the road by 27, and throttled #11 UNC by 14. If anyone needed a lesson in why Beilein, not Tom Izzo, is the best coach in the conference, just look at this year’s Wolverines.
Kenpom ranks Michigan’s defense #1 and their offense #25, while Purdue brought the #6 offense and #35 defense to Ann Arbor. The issue hasn’t been Purdue’s overall performance; to the contrary, Purdue has looked a lot more seamless than any of us would have thought after such drastic roster turnover. The biggest issue has been Purdue’s inability to close against good Virginia Tech and Florida State teams, after playing long stretches of very good basketball.
But Purdue can only hang its hat on close-but-no-cigar performances and advanced stat rankings (#13 overall in Kenpom) for so long. Eventually, all of that will need to add up to an actual victory. And maybe expecting that eventual victory to be against one of the most impressive teams in the country, in their house, might have been a little too much. But it makes the slip ups versus Va Tech and especially FSU that much worse.
The takeaway: Purdue got run off the floor by one of the best teams in the country in a hostile environment, with poor three-point defense and bad second-half shot selection mading it a cakewalk for Michigan. Purdue’s offensive rebounding and second-half defense could’ve made it a close one, but digging a 20-point hole through 30 minutes of play is basically death against a Beilein team.
The Boilermakers now absolutely must grab at least two victories over their next three games: vs #24 Maryland, at #17 Texas (who just lost to Radford), and vs Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic. The pressure is on, and someone from this young Purdue team needs to step up.
Player of the Game
Nobody on Purdue’s side deserves much of a mention here. But sophomore UM guard Jordan Poole was dominant (21 points, 8/9 shooting and 5/5 from three, plus 5 rebounds), center Jon Teske’s entire second half kept the game easily in hand for UM, and there’s some new kid named Ignas Brazdeikis that can do things like this:
Haarms running the pick-and-roll with Nojel or Carsen. Purdue opened the game scoring four quick points with Matt Haarms PNRs, and ended up with a handful of open lanes or long jumpers as the game went on. But Purdue’s offense isn’t built around any kind of pick/roll or pick/pop system, as Matt Painter doesn’t trust either of his ball-dominant guards to truly grab the reigns of the offense like that. This personnel, though, is best suited for that kind of a system, and switching from a pure-motion offense to something more NBA-esque might be worth the increase in turnovers incurred by Nojel Eastern and Carsen Edwards. (Edwards is already averaging close to 4 turnovers per game, so putting him in constant screens with Haarms/Boudreaux/Wheeler couldn’t hurt.)
Carsen, when he attacks the rim. The Boilermakers don’t have Biggie Swanigan or the 7’2” Ent Isaac Haas or even the do-it-all Vince Edwards, and have only one rotation player above 6’9”. So you’d be forgiven if you thought Purdue was a poor offensive rebounding team. But the numbers are real – Purdue is a top 15 offensive rebounding team, and most of them come after Carsen attacks the rim. Carsen shoots around 56% at the rim; Boudreaux, Haarms, Eifert, and Eastern do a fantastic job cleaning up the glass after any misses. It also creates open passing lanes to Ryan Cline and Sasha Stefanovic outside the arc, and Purdue needs to jumpstart an offense that often lags through plays like this.
Grady Eifert. Listen, I was pretty hard on him after FSU, where their athleticism made Eifert look like he was playing a different sport. But late in the first half, when nobody was giving much of any effort, Eifert was doing Eifert things. Diving for rebounds, rotating at the rim, playing physical defense…when Purdue lacked energy, Eifert picked it up. I’m still not sure why he’s getting the starting nod, and hope someone else gets the nod soon (Wheeler?), but Eifert made the most of his minutes today.
Aaron Wheeler’s defense and his DUNK. His energy after coming in with 12 minutes left in the second half helped hold Michigan without a field goal for 7+ minutes. Wheeler’s presence was missing against FSU, and I hope Painter sees this stretch as a reason to give him more run against dangerous perimeter-oriented teams.
Ryan Cline, but only on offense. He’s grown into more than a one-dimensional shooter, and can finish surprisingly well at the rim. He’s been great in his starting role so far this season, but when Purdue’s team defense struggles like it did today it’s hard to ignore Cline’s deficiencies on that end.
Three-point defense, and slow perimeter rotations. Three-point defense has been an Achilles heel all season, and Michigan taking advantage was the difference. They mostly resulted from one lazy perimeter defender allowing way too much space (no one player in particular, they all took turns), resulting in three necessary recovery rotations. Purdue might be able to survive against Appalachain State with that scheme, but Michigan will keep passing until they find the open shooter. Such a deadly, smart team.
Carsen, when he settles for Steph Curry off-the-dribble contested jumpers. This Purdue team is surprisingly good on the offensive glass (as discussed in The Good), but Carsen’s abrupt shots take any rhythm out of crashing the glass. He’s also shooting around a fourth of his shots from the long-two range, and most of those have to become at-the-rim shots. It’s going to take a lot of energy for Carsen to continuously attack the rim this year, but Purdue’s success is predicated on Carsen being Superman. He finished with an inefficient 19 points on 7/21 shooting, going 1/5 from beyond the arc.
Another rough outing for Trevion Williams. He got some extended run as the game was out of hand, and didn’t look as out-of-place as he did while playing a high-flying FSU team, so this might be a bit unfair. But looking for stationary post-ups and being a half-step slow in PNR defense makes Williams feel like a big from another era. Without Swanigan’s supernatural knack for rebounding and otherworldly IQ, Williams will have to improve his mobility to make a difference against teams of Michigan’s caliber. That being said, he had moments on the offensive glass that reminded me of another Purdue #50…the seeds are there, and good on Painter for making sure Williams gets some run early in his freshman year.
Eric Hunter, which is tough to say because he was by far the freshman I was most excited for this summer. The game was mostly out of hand as Hunter played, but even then he couldn’t get a rhythm going, finishing 0/5 from the field.
As Purdue held Michigan without a field goal for 7 minutes in the second half, they managed to score…four points. Digging out of a 20-point hole with 12 minutes left in the game was a challenging position, and putting together a run by attacking the rim as Michigan struggled for points would have been a good start. Another missed opportunity, but the hole may have already been too deep.
The losses to Va Tech and FSU, which now force Purdue to go 3-3 in their next three games. This was always going to be an up-and-down season, and this team is a little better than expected. But closing the wins within their grasp has to happen, especially if blowout losses to teams like Michigan are unavoidable. As friendly as advanced metrics are to Purdue, they’re going to need a handful of impressive wins to avoid the dreaded March Madness bubble.