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BASKETBALL PREVIEW: #16 Purdue

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This one is a....biggie. GET IT?!?

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

With only five games to go in the Big Ten season, Michigan State’s chances for much needed wins are rapidly decreasing. Three of the five are against ranked opponents, the first of which just so happens to be today against Purdue.

Can Michigan State overcome basically the worst matchup imaginable? We shall see.


The Basics

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The Numbers

  • Record: 21-5 (10-3 Conference / 13-2 Home)
  • Best Win: @ #17 Maryland (RPI: 18), 73-72
  • Worst Loss: @ Iowa (RPI: 102), 78-83

Since Last Time

  • 2/14 — vs Rutgers, W 74-55
  • 2/9 — @ Indiana, W 69-64
  • 2/4 — @ #17 Maryland, W 73-72
  • 2/1 — vs #25 Northwestern, W 80-59
  • 1/29 — @ Nebraska, L 80-83

Outside of a surprising road loss to Nebraska, things have gone pretty smoothly for Purdue since the last time these two teams met. They’re on a four-game win streak that includes a sound home defeat of seemingly tournament-bound Northwestern, an impressive one-point road win against Maryland, and a win in Bloomington against rival Indiana.

Even better, thanks to a Wisconsin road loss to some school in Ann Arbor, Matt Painter’s team finds itself in a three-way tie atop the conference with the Badgers and Terps.

With a conference championship and lofty NCAA tournament seed very much in their grasp, the Boilermakers have to cash in against outmatched opponents. Unfortunately, unlike most years, this home game against Michigan State falls into that category.

Boilers To Know

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Purdue Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

I bet you thought this section would be about National Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan. It probably should be but, honestly, the numbers speak for themselves.

Those — especially the 47.5% 3-point shooting — are preposterous and possibly illegal. Have we checked Swanigan’s birth certificate? Tested him for PED’s? We have? Well, shit. Sorry, everybody! Better luck next time!

Ok, let’s give someone else some attention. We’re going to concentrate on junior forward Vince Edwards who must be an absolutely infuriating player to have on your team.

Physically, you can’t ask for a whole lot more than the long-armed 6’8” 225-pound forward. Skill wise, again, you can’t ask for much more than 11.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game on 46.7% shooting and 44% from deep. After looking at these numbers, why am I even complaining? One reason: inconsistency.

Yes, those per game averages are shiny, but they can also be misleading. Just look at his stats from those five games since the Boilers and Spartans met.

Talk about all over the place. In literally every other game, Edwards was a beast. In the Northwestern and Indiana wins, he dropped a combined 43 points, going 14-for-21 from the field and 8-of-12 from range. In the other three contests, 13 total points, 6-of-25 shooting and 0-for-6 from deep.

To be fair, he’s had his consistent stretches and it’s going to be hard to be hyper-productive when you’re playing with a guy like Swanigan who commands the ball, but Edwards semi-frequent game-on game-off pattern must drive Boiler fans mad.

Naturally, the Spartans are catching Edwards during an “on” game so surely he’ll drop 30 and my mentions will be a disaster.

How Do The Spartans Match Up

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The quick version:

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Purdue is, more or less, the worst possible match up for Michigan State. Let’s count the ways.

  • Physically dominant NPOY candidate forward? Check
  • Backup 7’2” Center? Check
  • Combo forward as tall as Nick Ward? Check
  • A host of wing players who can shoot the lights out? Check and mate.

It’s bad, folks.

The Spartans held tough with Purdue for a half the first time around, but it took extraordinary effort and all fell apart once the reserves entered in the game. Which got me thinking, this might be a good game to bring Nick Ward off the bench. Let me explain.

What’s the biggest mismatch of all the mismatches in this game? The answer is backup center Issac Haas against backup center Kenny Goins. Haas has eight inches and 60 pounds on Goins, which makes him more of a gnat than an actual defender and will inevitably lead to either Goins racking up quick fouls or Haas scoring a boatload of easy buckets. Neither outcome is ideal.

Ward isn’t much taller at 6’8” but he does have significantly more bulk — even though, as you may have heard, he lost 30 pounds since getting on campus (drink) — and length enough to give Haas some trouble defensively and maybe get him into foul trouble on the other end.

As for Goins, start him, put him on either Swanigan or Edwards and let Miles Bridges hang with the other. None of this is what you would call “optimal”, but when your team is constructed the way MSU’s is, you gotta get creative.

Regardless of how Izzo handles the frontcourt, the backcourt is going to have to defend and shoot well. Purdue has a plethora of capable guards including Carsen Edwards, Dakota Mathias, PJ Thompson and Ryan Cline, all of whom can light it up on any given night.

If MSU wants any chance, guys like Alvin Ellis, Cassius Winston, Josh Langford and Eron Harris have to match them shot for shot because MSU ain’t gonna do a whole lot down low.

Prediction

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

First, let’s take a moment to respect Winston’s headband in this picture. The fact that thing is hanging on like that is witchcraft. I support it.

In regards to the game, some friendly advice: don’t get your hopes up.

As I’m sure you gathered, Purdue is a terrible matchup for the Spartans in just about every way on the floor. They also have more to play for and an irrational hatred for Michigan State.

Could Michigan State surprise? Sure. The Boilers have lost to worse teams (Iowa, Nebraska) this season, but I wouldn’t count on them throwing up a clunker today.

Purdue 82 MSU 72