Can anyone in the Big Ten slow down the Boilermakers?
Not only is top-ranked Purdue the only Big Ten team in this week’s Top 25, but it is absolutely dominating the conference thus far at 8-1 while riding a six-game winning streak. It’s not that the Big Ten is necessarily bad (Purdue’s next 11 conference opponents are all in KenPom’s Top 65), it’s just that nobody has been able to match Purdue’s hot start.
Michigan State (13-7, 5-4 in Big Ten) had its shot on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and lost a heartbreaker at home, falling to Purdue 64-63 in a game that featured 13 ties and eight lead changes. The Spartans got a shot off to potentially win the game with 1.8 seconds left, but it was off the mark.
Now it’s Michigan’s chance to slow down the Boilermakers. The Wolverines (11-8, 5-3) have won all four of their conference home games this season, while Purdue hasn’t won in Ann Arbor since 2018. So this game could pose a tough test for Purdue.
Let’s take a closer look at each Michigan team’s Thursday night game as they try to gain better standing with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee with less than six weeks left in the regular season.
No. 1 Purdue at Michigan, 9 p.m. ET, Crisler Center
The line has held fairly steady, with Purdue favored by 5 points at some sportsbooks (such as WynnBET) and 5.5 at others (such as BetMGM). Purdue is as much as a -250 favorite (at BetMGM) on the moneyline and as little as -220 elsewhere (such as BetRivers). The corollary moneyline prices for Michigan are +200 and +180, while the total has been set at 136 points at most places (but 135.5 at FanDuel).
Michigan would like to shake the reputation of being a mediocre regular-season team that turns it on in the NCAA Tournament, and this game would be an opportune time to start turning that narrative. Besides Juwan Howard’s Michigan squad, only one NCAA men’s basketball team (perennial powerhouse Gonzaga) has made the Sweet 16 in each of the past five seasons, but the Wolverines are 3-6 against Top 60 competition so far this season.
Purdue looks better than the hosts on paper, ranking fourth in adjusted offensive efficiency and 16th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom, with Michigan ranking 53rd and 77th in those categories. But the Wolverines have played far better at home than on the road.
For Michigan, it will start with containing the best big man in the country, Zach Edey, who is pulling away in the race for the John Wooden Award, given to the country’s best player. The 7-foot-4 center is now -450 to win the award at FanDuel, followed distantly by Kansas’ Jalen Wilson at +650.
Michigan’s best hope, perhaps, is that Edey’s presence will spark a top effort from Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson, whose points, rebounds, and blocks per game have remained relatively steady from last year, while his assist total has declined.
This game could come down to how much you think Michigan has underperformed this season and how much of a jolt it will get from its home crowd, because the Wolverines are in deep.
Iowa at Michigan State, 7 p.m. ET, Breslin Center
The Spartans are -2.5 across the board, with FanDuel and PointsBet offering the best moneyline odds on MSU at -140. If you think Iowa can pull off the upset on the road, the Hawkeyes have moneyline odds as good as +125 (at BetMGM, among others). The total is set as low as 145.5 (at places such as Caesars Sportsbook) and as high as 146.5 (at BetMGM).
Iowa has won the last three meetings between these teams, breaking a string of dominance by Tom Izzo’s squads, which had gone 14-2 in the previous 16 meetings. After a seven-game winning streak, Michigan State has lost three of its last four, including a 13-point loss at Indiana last weekend. This game has the potential to be tightly contested, with the Spartans ranked No. 40 at KenPom and the Hawkeyes ranked 37th.
A key for Michigan State will be whether Malik Hall can return in time for this game, with Izzo unsure of the forward’s status earlier in the week as he continues to work his way back from a foot injury. Izzo could choose to give Hall another game off in order to have him rested for the conclusion of conference play. After Sunday’s game at Purdue, the Spartans don’t play again until Feb. 4.
The Hawkeyes had won four straight before a loss at Ohio State on Saturday. They like to get up and down the floor and their offense can be explosive. Iowa is No. 5 in the country in offensive efficiency, per KenPom, though it also gives up more points (78.1), on average, than any team so far in Big Ten play.
Iowa forward Kris Murray, the twin brother of Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray, leads the Big Ten in scoring with an average of 23.4 points per game in conference play. Former starter Patrick McCaffery, who took a leave of absence earlier this month due to anxiety, has returned to practice and could play in this game.
Photo: Matt Blewett/USA TODAY