John Niyo and Tony Paul talk with UM senior guard Katelynn Flaherty, the school's new career points leader. Later: More hoops with James Hawkins and Matt Charboneau. Detroit News
Ann Arbor — John Beilein has coached against his fair share of top-tier Big Ten teams throughout his 11 seasons at Michigan.
There’s the Kalin Lucas-led Michigan State team that reached the national championship game in 2009 and a Wisconsin team with Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker that reached the title game in 2015.
There’s also the 2012-13 Indiana squad that was ranked No. 1 in the nation for 10 weeks behind the duo of Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo.
And that doesn’t even include the bevy of future first-round NBA picks, from Ohio State’s Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger to Michigan State’s Gary Harris and Adreian Payne.
So, when Beilein said this season’s Purdue team, which is ranked No. 3 in the nation and will host Michigan Thursday night, is one of the best he’s ever crossed paths with in the Big Ten, that’s saying something.
“I've been here long enough to tell you there are some pretty good teams in this league we've seen,” Beilein said Wednesday. “Look at the great Wisconsin teams, the terrific Purdue team that was earlier in my career here that was so good. Indiana and ourselves had games that were just incredibly talented and these guys are still playing in the (NBA).
“Purdue has everything that all those teams have. And maybe more than any of those teams, they have incredible experience. Wisconsin had similar type of experience in the past but I haven't seen anything like this.”
Purdue is arguably the hottest team in the country with a 15-game win streak and has dismantled teams with its proficiency to score inside and out along with its brute size and strength on defense. The Boilermakers have won 10 of their last 11 games by double digits, including the last three against Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa by a combined 85 points.
They rank third in the nation in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) at 88.5 and fourth in adjusted offensive efficiency at 121.3.
On top of that, Purdue has five players — Vincent Edwards, Carsen Edwards, Dakota Mathias, P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline — who have all made at least 14 3-pointers through eight Big Ten games. Moritz Wagner leads Michigan with 13 deeps balls in nine conference games.
Wolverines coach discusses team's upcoming game in West Lafayette on Thursday against Purdue. Angelique S. Chengelis
“They know how to play, they play the right way. They play defense, they hustle. Nobody is about themselves or like a young star that is out there saying, 'I got to get mine because I'm going to the league,’” Beilein said. “They're just trying to win and you could see, (they made) 20 3-pointers against Iowa and we're the 3-point shooting team. They have five guys that have made more 3s than anybody on our team (in Big Ten play).
“This is just an incredible team and sometimes teams are just about offense, but this team has got balance. It's got everything.”
But above all, what sets Purdue apart from the rest, in Beilein’s eyes, is the veteran leadership and experience, led by seniors Isaac Haas, Edwards, Mathias and Thompson.
“There have been veterans that are still making the same mistakes they did when they were freshman. There are older teams that you still will play with different teams that are still, you can still get them on stuff,” Beilein said. “This team is a high IQ team that is veteran and that makes a big difference…This team is tough, veteran, high IQ, can shoot it with a big man. I won't sleep easy tonight. I won't.”
Beilein and the Wolverines almost certainly didn’t get much rest after the first meeting earlier this month when a replay review led to a crucial turnover and a costly foul in the final 10 seconds of a one-point loss at home.
While that bitter defeat might still sting, Michigan at least has confidence knowing it can hang tough against a dangerous Purdue team that can punish opponents in the paint and make them pay on open looks from 3-point range.
“They're very versatile,” redshirt sophomore wing Charles Matthews said. “You got to do multiple efforts on the defensive end. We can’t come in and take (the big men) away and leave shooters, and we can't just take the shooters away and then leave our big one-on-one with a 7-foot-3 guy (Haas). So, you got to be balanced on both sides.”
But no matter how difficult of a road test Purdue may be, it gives Michigan a prime chance to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume with another top-50 RPI win and to erase the memory of its gut-punch loss.
Michigan forward on challenge of playing third-ranked team in the nation. Angelique S. Chengelis
“They pose a really good challenge for us. It’s a great opportunity to go in there and compete,” fifth-year senior forward Duncan Robinson said. “(The first meeting) was a tough, tough game. Obviously, we really wanted to get that one at home. Games like that never sit well and I think we'll be geared up for this one.”
Michigan at Purdue
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Thursday, Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Ind.
Records: No. 25 Michigan 17-5, 6-3 Big Ten; No. 3 Purdue 19-2, 8-0
Outlook: Michigan has won six of the past 10 overall meetings between the teams but has a 24-53 record in West Lafayette…Purdue holds the nation’s longest win streak at 15 games and is 12-0 at Mackey Arena this season.