Tip: 4:30 PM @ Madison Square Garden
TV: CBS Sports
The fifth-seeded Michigan Wolverines will play for their second consecutive Big Ten Tournament championship on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. They will face off against the #3 Purdue Boilermakers.
The Boilermakers won both of their meetings against the Wolverines this season. The first matchup between the two teams was decided by just one point, 70-69, in Ann Arbor.
Michigan shot 45.5% from beyond the arc in that early January contest, but it was not enough to overcome Purdue’s 57.1% percentage from deep. Zavier Simpson, who has been a crucial part of the Wolverines’ success in this year’s Big Ten Tournament, tied his career high with 15 points in that game. Purdue G Carsen Edwards posted 19 points on 7-14 shooting, including 4-6 from long range.
The rematch featured an offensive explosion, with both teams shooting well over 50% from three-point land. Michigan improved its team percentage to 56.5% but was still unable to overcome Purdue’s trio of Vincent Edwards, Carsen Edwards, and Isaac Haas, who combined for 67 of Purdue’s points in the 92-88 victory.
Despite Purdue coming into the tournament as the higher-ranked and higher-seeded team, both teams have changed a lot since they last met. Purdue entered the last contest between the two teams having won fifteen straight games. The team would go on to win three more after its win against Michigan, a nineteen game winning streak. They proceeded to drop three in a row, falling to Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. Coach Matt Painter’s squad has regained its winning ways in the past two weeks but does not have nearly as much momentum as Michigan heading into the tournament final.
The Boilermakers will look once again to the tandem of Carsen and Vincent Edwards to carry the team to its second Big Ten Conference championship in program history. In Purdue’s last matchup with Michigan, Vincent Edwards dropped 30 points on 9-11 from the field and 3-3 from three.
Purdue, unsurprisingly, ranks third in the nation in three-point percentage.
In the Big Ten Tournament, the other Edwards has taken over. Carsen is averaging 26.5 PPG, 4 RPG, 3.5 APG, 46.9% from the field and 52.6% from three.
Since January 25th Michigan, has elevated its play to an entirely new level. They have put together fantastic efforts to take down Ohio State and Michigan State (they swept the season series 2-0 against Michigan State), and enter Sunday winners of eight straight.
For the Maize and Blue, G Zavier Simpson will need to continue his stellar defensive play this tournament against whichever Purdue player he is assigned to guard. Coaches and players alike have raved about Simpson’s play all tournament.
“To be honest with you, I think it starts with Zavier,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “He brings it every single game and every single day in practice and raises everybody's level.”
The Wolverines will also need good performances from G Duncan Robinson and F Moe Wagner. Wagner, after scoring just one point in the first half against Michigan State on Saturday, scored seven points in the first five minutes of the second half. He finished the game with 15 points and shot 4-7 from the field in the second half.
Robinson, on the other hand, has become an entirely different player since the start of Michigan’s eight-game winning streak. During the streak he is shooting over 50% from three. Robinson was asked if anything has changed to help him catch fire during the hot streak.
“Nothing in particular. I think a lot of it was just mental. Found myself in a situation where my time in a Michigan uniform is running out. You heighten your sense of urgency when you realize that.”
Robinson scored 13 in the team’s semifinal win over Michigan State. The Wolverines are now 23-0 when Robinson scores six or more points.
The last time these two teams faced off against one another in the Big Ten Tournament final was 1998; Michigan came out on top 76-67. Purdue is returning to the final for the second time in three years.
The winners of Sunday’s matchup will be one of the first four teams to punch their tickets to the Big Dance.
“You want to win every game,” Carsen Edwards said. “It's not like -- it's just going out to play, honestly and just try to come out with a win. Looking forward to this opportunity and it should be a good game.”
Prediction: 79-76 Michigan wins