Three Thoughts on Michigan’s Win Over PurduePosted by WCarey on March 6th, 2013
Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Michigan and Purdue. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.
Michigan and Purdue both entered Wednesday’s game fresh off huge victories from Sunday. Michigan notched an important 58-57 home victory over Michigan State. Purdue went into the Kohl Center in Madison and spoiled Wisconsin’s Senior Day with an impressive 69-56 win. While Purdue entered the game at just 14-15 overall, its recent play (winners of two of its last three) coupled with Michigan’s recent conference woes made for an intriguing matchup. Prior to Wednesday evening, Michigan carried a solid 24-5 record and a #7 national ranking. The Wolverines have a plethora of talent and their strengths far outweigh their weaknesses, but their play on the road this season has been below average. While losing on the road is essentially part of life in the ultra-competitive Big Ten, a team of the caliber of Michigan carrying a 3-5 road record certainly raises some questions — especially true because in the road game prior to this contest, Michigan lost to a Penn State team that had previously been 0-14 in Big Ten play. With Purdue playing hard and Michigan looking to remain in the race for the Big Ten title, Wednesday night’s action was definitely memorable with the Wolverines battling back from a 12-point second half deficit to defeat the Boilermakers, 80-75. The following are three thoughts from Wednesday evening’s action from West Lafayette.
- Trey Burke Should Be The Leading Candidate For National Player Of The Year. With his team trailing by 12 points almost midway through the second half, the sophomore point guard grabbed control of the game and led his team to the victory. After a rough first half with just four points and two assists, Burke exploded and finished the night with 26 points and seven assists. While Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Georgetown’s Otto Porter are both worthy candidates for National Player of the Year as well, you would be hard-pressed to make a case that either have outperformed Burke this season. In the best conference in the country, Burke has scored 15 or more points in every conference game. That statistic shows that win or lose, Burke is still giving the Wolverines a chance. Even after last week’s bad loss at Penn State, the Wolverines still have a chance to win a share of the regular season Big Ten title and that chance is thanks in very large part to the play and leadership of Trey Burke.
- Michigan Needs Better Frontcourt Play If It Wants To Advance in the Postseason. A major reason why Purdue was able to take that 12-point lead in the second half was because the Boilermakers dominated the glass all night, finishing with a 42-30 advantage. The Wolverines have been outrebounded in four of their five defeats and several narrow victories were close due to the opposition’s advantage on the glass. Michigan is certainly a guard-oriented team with scorers like Burke, Nik Stauskas, and Tim Hardaway Jr., but John Beilein simply needs his post players to step up and attack the boards and the rim with a greater tenacity. Michigan’s front line has not exactly been fluid this season as both Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford have battled injuries, while freshman Mitch McGary is still learning on the job. Morgan and Horford are now healthy and McGary has gained a lot of valuable experience, so now is as good a time as any for the trio to perform in a way that will successfully complement Michigan’s guards — the team’s postseason fortunes may very well depend on it.
- Purdue Should be Back in the NCAA Tournament Conversation Next Season. In the first season of the post-Robbie Hummel era in West Lafayette, the Boilermakers have struggled to just a 14-16 record overall and a 7-10 mark in the Big Ten. A major reason for the team’s struggles this season has been its lack of experience, as senior swingman D.J. Byrd is the only senior on the roster who plays a significant role. Luckily for Matt Painter, the coach is going to have a lot of contributors returning to the fold next season. Junior guard Terone Johnson has emerged as the team’s leading scorer and he has shown that he is capable of performing very well, such as in his 30-point performance Wednesday evening. Terone’s brother, Ronnie Johnson, has taken the reins of the point guard position in his freshman season and has continued to get better while leading the team in assists. Freshman big man A.J. Hammons has shown that he is plenty talented, but he just needs to develop some more. With these players returning next season, Purdue should have a solid foundation to get back to the top half of the Big Ten and back into the NCAA Tournament.