Michigan Wolverines (27-7) at Purdue Boilermakers (28-5)
What a day yesterday was in college hoops! The madness is really heating up! We saw some big upsets when Florida beat Kentucky, Texas beat West Virginia without Mo Bamba, Michigan beat Michigan State, Stanford beat Arizona State, Syracuse beat Clemson, and Oklahoma State shocked Kansas.
Several teams saw their NCAA tournament at-large dreams possibly go up in smoke by losing games they really needed to win. USC, Middle Tennessee State, Louisville, and Washington all had heartbreaking losses and now might need to win their respective conference tournaments to make it to the NCAA tournament.
Today the action slows down just a bit as most conferences gear up for their conference tournaments that start later this week. That being said, we still have some huge games on the schedule, including today’s pick where I look at the Michigan Wolverines as they play the Purdue Boilermakers.
The Michigan Wolverines will meet the Purdue Boilermakers at Madison Square Garden in New York City today in the championship game of the Big 10 tournament. The Big 10 tournament moved their tournament up a week so they can showcase the league at the world’s most famous arena, and they will have the spotlight to themselves this afternoon as they are the only major conference that will have tournament action going.
The Boilermakers are -3.5-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 137.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 1:30 PM PST from MSG.
The Michigan Wolverines were the sexy pick to win the Big 10 tournament this year. And here they are in the finals with a chance to do just that. The Wolverines came into the league tournament as just the five seed but were red-hot in league play, and many expected that trend to continue. Big Blue has won eight in a row entering play tonight and they are getting hot at the right time.
This team is starting to remind me of that Kemba Walker led UCONN team from 2011. That team started a bit slow but caught fire at MSG in the Big East tournament and ended up running the table in the NCAA tournament and won the national title.
I am not ready to crown the Wolverines just yet, but college basketball is all about getting hot at the right time, and Big Blue is doing just that. They will need a huge effort tonight if they want to beat a Purdue team that has beaten them twice already this year.
The Purdue Boilermakers are a really good team. They have spent a lot of the year ranked in the top ten nationally, and nobody is surprised to see them here playing in the Big 10 championship game. The Boilermakers are extremely balanced and well coached.
They play a true nine-man rotation and are very good with the basketball. They are among the best team’s in the country in assists, turnovers, and field goal percentage. It will take a lot for Michigan to break through tonight for the win.
Purdue was cruising to what looked like a possible one seed in the NCAA tournament when they slipped up in February and lost three straight games. The losses to Michigan State and Ohio State were understandable, but the loss to Wisconsin was a head-scratcher. The Boilermakers seem to have righted the ship though as they have now won five straight games, albeit against some lesser competition.
These two teams have already played twice this season. The first meeting was in Ann Arbor, and it was a great game. That game was tied with just four seconds left on the clock when Boilermaker Isaac Haas hit a go-ahead free throw to give Purdue the road victory. That was a huge win for Purdue as Michigan had won seven straight games leading up to that contest.
These teams met again in West Lafayette a couple of weeks later and the Boilermakers were able to complete the season sweep. This was another very close game that came down to the final couple of minutes. Purdue was able to hit all of their free throws down the stretch and held off Michigan for the 92-88 victory.
Do you know how hard it is to beat a team three times in one season? It is almost impossible. Especially when you have two teams as closely matched as these two. Both of the previous games came down to the last few seconds, and I expect this one too as well. Yeah, Purdue came out on top in both of those games, but that was in January. This is March.
Tournament basketball is all about getting hot and staying hot, and that is where the Wolverines are right now. I suppose there is a little bit of a chance they have a let down after beating rival Michigan State yesterday, but I doubt it.
It is the Big 10 championship game, I doubt Michigan head coach John Beilein is going to have a hard time getting his team motivated. I expect another great game with back and forth action that comes down to the last couple of possessions.
I am not going to take a firm stand on who wins outright, although I am leaning towards Michigan, because I am going to snatch up the 3.5-points and just hope we get a similar game to the two these teams already played. Give me Big Blue from Madison Square Garden tonight getting +3.5-points!