Betting the Big Ten Championship: Will Michigan Repeat Against Purdue?

Betting the Big Ten Championship: Will Michigan Repeat Against Purdue? article feature image

Jan 13, 2018; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein reacts during the second half of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Even broken clocks are right twice a day. This is actually the Big Ten Championship game that I predicted in my conference preview. I’ve also broken down the Wolverines and Boilers in detail before. The majority of those principles still apply. Michigan can’t stop Purdue in the post, and the Boilers can’t stop Michigan’s outstanding ball-screen offense. Below, I will dive back into this matchup to determine which scenario is more likely to play out on Sunday at MSG:

  • Michigan defends its Big Ten tournament championship
  • Purdue beats Michigan for a third time this season


Keep in mind that the Wolverines lost the two meetings this year by a combined five points (2-0 against the spread). The Boilers may also have a little revenge on their mind, as No. 8 seed Michigan knocked No. 1 seed Purdue out of the Big Ten tourney in last year’s quarterfinals (in OT) en route to the title.


Michigan vs Purdue (-3.5) | O/U: 136

4:30 p.m. ET on CBS

Offense was the name of the game in Purdue’s sweep of Michigan in the regular season. The Boilers averaged 1.29 points per possession (ppp), although Michigan wasn’t too far behind at 1.25 ppp.

Purdue simply exploited Michigan’s porous post defense in both meetings, as 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas went for 41 points on 17-of-28 shooting. When Michigan head coach John Beilein attempted to double Haas on the block, Purdue’s outstanding 3-point shooting cashed in at an obscene 23-of-41 clip. Purdue head coach Matt Painter will exploit weak post defenses until teams are forced to overcompensate. Then Purdue’s bevy of lethal guards and wings start bombing away. It’s a beautiful harmony when the shots are falling. Essentially, we saw Purdue at its most potent form in both meetings vs. Michigan this year.

However, as I mentioned yesterday, this is exactly the type of situation in which Beilein thrives. I’m fully on record as supporting Beilein as the best X’s and O’s coach in the country. I am certain he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve, and I think we will actually see Michigan go zone against the Boilers this time around. It’s certainly a risky move, as Purdue has shredded zones all year, scoring at 1.14 ppp, which puts them in the top five nationally, per Synergy. However, he simply has to switch something up for the third meeting. Forcing the Boilers to hit jumpers in an unfamiliar venue is probably his best bet.

Offensively for Michigan, this game is all about 6-foot-4 guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (known as MAAR from here on out). In the second meeting with Purdue, Beilein officially moved him on the ball, and the results were undeniable. Purdue has one good perimeter defender in guard Dakota Mathias, but he’s too small to check MAAR. Pick-and-pop action between him and forward Moe Wagner (pictured above) has devastated the field all tournament, and it’s something Purdue can’t defend.

Ultimately, this sets up almost exactly the same as Michigan’s rematch with Michigan State. Painter is a good basketball coach, but like Tom Izzo, he doesn’t deviate from his game plan. Izzo stubbornly refused to go small in the second half, despite watching his team get routinely exploited in ball screens, ultimately allowing 49 second half points. I expect the same passiveness from Painter on Sunday, while I trust Beilein to make the necessary adjustments. I think the Wolverines find a way to defend their title today in NYC.

THE PICK: Michigan +3.5

Photo credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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