After a nightmare of a blowout loss in East Lansing where Purdue couldn’t shoot to save its life and was outhustled, the Boilers can bounce back at home against 20th ranked Michigan. Purdue is currently 14-6 with a 4-3 conference record, which puts them at just one game outside of first place in a muddled Big Ten.
However, Purdue plays 7 ranked teams in its final 11 contests. That means Matt Painter’s squad has to play its best basketball during this stretch if they want to go dancing. Looking ahead (which I hope the team is not doing), the Boilers have 5 away games. Four of those road games are against ranked opponents. Purdue has not yet beaten a ranked team (the only Big Ten member with that unproud claim) and Tuesday’s game against Michigan looks like a good time to break that trend.
All of this amounts to the fact that Purdue must respond in a big way after its embarrassing loss to Sparty. Purdue has found a way to bounce back after losses to Penn State and Wisconsin earlier this season. Can they do it again against Michigan?
If Purdue wants to play in the NCAA Tourney this year, they must snap out of it and beat the Wolverines. Right now, Purdue’s NCAA Tourney resume is lacking. So far, Illinois and Minnesota look like Purdue’s strongest victories. Those aren’t exactly attention grabbing wins, so the Boilers need to add more clout to their bracketology profile.
Michigan is a good team, but a beatable team. They have one of the best back courts in the Big Ten, but they lack a dominant interior presence. The key to Tuesday night’s game will be guarding the perimeter and stopping the penetration of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Purdue has been prone to not rotating fast enough to cover shooters behind the arc (see Penn State, Wisconsin games). If that happens at Mackey against the Wolverines, Purdue will still be empty-handed when it comes to wins against ranked foes and the Boilermakers’ tourney hopes will very much be in doubt.