Sunday, March 9, 2008

Last Regular Season Game: Last Opportunity to Gain Momentum Before the Big Ten Tourney

At 4 PM today Michigan will take the court for the last time in the regular season when they take on #15 Purdue at Crisler. Michigan has been inconsistent all season and after winning three in a row, they have reverted to sloppy play dropping games to Big Ten perennial doormats in Penn State and Northwestern. Those last two games have been especially ugly for Deshawn Sims who went a combined 2-19 from the field for 6 points in the contests. For Michigan's second leading scorer and vocal leader on the court, that is unacceptable especially when he has had as many turnovers as points (6). Manny Harris has continued to carry the team getting 29 points at Penn State, but when the team plays as sloppy as they have, they have no shot. There recent lack of success, in my opinion, can be directly attributed to a lack of effort for a full 40 minutes which is something the Wolverines did give in there 3 game winning streak. If their recent fortunes are to be reversed, it will begin with the effort today against Purdue.

Purdue is coming off a loss to Ohio State that took away their chance to control their destiny in quest for a Big Ten regular season title. With Wisconsin's win over Northwestern yesterday, Purdue no longer has a shot at the regular season crown and is playing for the #2 seed today against Michigan. Purdue's success this season can be attributed to their defense and ability to force turnovers. Their opponents this season average an astounding 17 turnovers a game this season and for a Michigan team that has really struggled with ball control (more turnovers than assists) that will be a real test. The young and very talented Purdue team is lead by their do everything freshman swingman Robbie Hummel and freshman guard E'Twaun Moore. Purdue's starting five consists of 3 freshmen and 2 sophomores, but Head Coach Matt Painter has done a tremendous job surprising the Big Ten and country en route to a 23-7 (14-3 Big Ten) record. John Belein has said he wants to have a team much like Painter's in the future and Michigan has a chance to beat them today. Where the Wolverines can succeed is inside the paint and Purdue might provide a golden opportunity for Deshawn Sims to get back on track, that is if he plays in the paint and doesn't linger around the three point line. The Boilermakers' only defensive presence inside is freshman Jajuan Johnson who comes off the bench and averages only 1 block per contest. If Michigan attacks the hoop by way of dribble drives and God forbid Deshawn Sims post up for a change, then they could have some success.

Outlook: The last time these two teams met, at Purdue Jan. 5, Manny Harris and Deshawn Sims both played well (25 and 15 points respectively). Michigan only lost by five, 66-61, and was in it until the very end when Manny Harris carelessly let a ball go out of bounds off an in-bounds pass. Anthony Wright had not yet emerged as the third reliable scoring option that he has become now, so add him into the mix, Michigan should have someone else contributing, something they did not have on January 5. For Purdue, nine three pointers did in the Wolverines who have struggled all year defending the three. Purdue was 9-18 from beyond the arc lead by a 5-6 performance by Guard Keaton Grant. Jajuan Johnson, mentioned earlier, had one of his best defensive performances of the season swatting Michigan four times. Do not look for him to have the same success today though. He started that game and since then has seen a significant drop in playing time getting just around 10 minutes in his last few games.

The best thing that could happen for Michigan today is a down to the wire loss right before the Big Ten tournament. They need to show a renewed effort and an ability to compete with this great Purdue team to regain some confidence. The best chance is for Michigan to attack the hoop offensively and to try and force turnovers defensively. If Michigan plays the 1-3-1 correctly, which they haven't all year so it's a long shot, they can force turnovers and that could help them in a big way since Purdue is a great shooting team. If Michigan shows an effort, I think they can be very competetive today. Then, of course, if you listen to our shows, I think Michigan will take their renewed confidence into the Big Ten tournament and win four in a row to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in over a decade.

Preciction: Purdue 68 Michigan 66- Robbie Hummel hits the game winning three with five seconds remaining leaving the Wolverines hungry for the Big Ten tournament.

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