Defenses Rule Between Michigan and Purdue in Big Ten Final

Sunday, March 4, 2018 1:04 PM UTC

Sunday, Mar. 4, 2018 1:04 PM UTC

No. 15 Michigan and No. 8 Purdue will battle today at 4:30 ET in NYC's Madison Square Garden to become the champion of the Big Ten Tournament. Should bettors prefer to play the spread, the total, or both?

Sunday College Basketball: Michigan vs. PurdueFree NCAAB Pick: Under 142Best Line Offered: JustBet

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Congratulations to those riding Purdue future bets! You can let the Purdue wager ride. Or, depending on the level of risk you are comfortable with, you can hedge. If you wager the same amount on Michigan ATS as you did on Purdue to win the Big Ten Tournament, then you won’t lose money. In the worst-case scenario, Michigan would cover and win SU, in which case the future and Michigan ATS bets would effectively cancel each other out.

Skeptics of the "under" will point out how eighth-ranked Purdue (28-5), a -3 home favorite today, likes to push the tempo and how efficient they are from three. Quick tempo and a ton of threes sound like a recipe for an "over," right?

Michigan’s defense has the antidote for Purdue’s offensive strengths. Its defense excels at forcing the opponent to slow its pace. UM’s opponent average length of possession is the 305th-slowest nationally. Purdue will take time to find a good shot. The more shot clock an offense uses up per possession means there is less time to score points. Purdue’s proclivity to push the pace on offense will jack up the total on the college basketball odds board. But the higher game total will only help us more.

A feature of UM’s defense is to tightly guard the perimeter. Michigan has the Big Ten’s top-ranked perimeter defense, measured by proportion of threes per field goals allowed. UM's defensive focus on the perimeter will give Purdue trouble because the Boilers rely more than every other Big Ten team besides Michigan on points from behind the arc. Michigan can therefore make Purdue uncomfortable on offense by forcing them to rely on scoring inside the arc.

A major reason for UM’s current eight-game win streak is its defense, which doesn’t allow its opponent to score easy points. On Saturday, the Wolverines held the Big Ten’s second-most efficient offense to 64 points. Normally very efficient from three, Michigan State converted only 28 percent of their three-point attempts. The Wolverines boast the Big Ten’s top half-court defense, which makes it difficult for the opponent to create scoring opportunities and get assists. An added difficulty is the defense of guard Zavier Simpson and the overall length of UM’s defenders. UM ranks 50th in height.

Purdue’s defense is no slouch either, ranking fifth in the conference and 27th nationally in defensive efficiency. The Boilers feature a strong perimeter defense, ranking in the upper half in opposing three-point percentage and proportion of attempted threes allowed. A strong perimeter defense will force UM to be uncomfortable on offense. It likes to rely less on scoring inside the arc than every other Big Ten team besides Purdue. When UM tries to score close to the rim, it will have to deal with one of two seven-foot Purdue centers, Isaac Haas or Matt Haarms. Both rank in the top 150 in block percentage.

An extracurricular factor that will help keep this game "under" is tempo. Michigan, like Purdue, will use up extra clock in order to find the right shot. UM (27-7), ranked 15th in the AP poll, takes time by design, ranking 308th in average length of offensive possession. Another factor is turnovers, which could help create an "over" by encouraging quick baskets and upping the game tempo. But Michigan and Purdue are the Big Ten’s first- and second-most ball-secure team, respectively. In this sense, good offenses will help keep the total "under" on our NCAAB picks.

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The Championship Game is set. Michigan and Purdue will play for the #B1GTourney title at @TheGarden on Sunday afternoon. #B1GatMSG

— Big Ten Men's Hoops (@B1GMBBall) March 4, 2018

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