With a new national champion less than a week away from being crowned, there will be no Big Ten team in the mix for a second consecutive year. For a conference that is often considered a basketball powerhouse, the B1G continues to struggle in March, having not boasted a national championship since Michigan State in 2000 (Maryland’s 2002 championship run was prior to them joining the Big Ten). This year the Purdue Boilermakers and Michigan Wolverines were the only conference teams to reach weekend two—here’s what went wrong for these programs in the end.
After upsetting 6-seed Colorado State and 3-seed Tennessee as a mere 11-seed, the Wolverines found themselves in the Sweet Sixteen. Unfortunately for them, Jay Wright and the Villanova Wildcats were too much to handle, resulting in a 63-55 loss that didn’t feel as close as the final score suggests.
It was quite the roller coaster of a season for the preseason AP Top 10 team, which suffered losses to Seton Hall, Minnesota and UCF before the end of 2021. After this, Juwan Howard infamously slapped Wisconsin’s Greg Gard like he was Chris Rock and was suspended for the final portion of the regular season because of it.
With an eventual pre-tournament record of 17-14, Michigan snuck into the Big Dance with an at-large bid that many thought was a bit generous. Still, despite finishing eighth in the conference, the Wolverines found themselves 80 minutes away from a trip to New Orleans after putting together three tremendous halves of basketball following their rough first half in round one against CSU.
Last Thursday in San Antonio, the very same city that Michigan lost to Villanova in in the National Championship Game in 2018, Michigan had a chance to avenge their heartbreaking defeat. Unfortunately, the Wolverines’ rough outside shooting and lack of offensive production outside of Hunter Dickinson and Eli Brooks resulted in a pretty ugly basketball game. Howard’s team left seven points at the free throw line, shooting only 50 percent from the charity stripe and a mere 34 percent from the field.
After the first media timeout Villanova began to take control, and its experienced unit played at its own pace, allowing them to maintain a steady lead until the final whistle.
With no Wolverine projected to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft, Michigan has a real chance to bring back the majority of their rotation. Although, Ann Arborites will have to wait and see whether Caleb Houstan, Moussa Diabaté and Hunter Dickinson decide to go pro or not, which will indicate a lot about Michigan’s ceiling in 2023.
Although they were a buzzer-beater away from reaching it in 2019, Matt Painter has still yet to reach the Final Four through 17 seasons coaching at Purdue. This year as the tournament’s first weekend came to an end, it looked like it was the Boilermakers’ year. The first and second seed teams had both been eliminated in their region, and only 15-seed Saint Peter’s stood between them and the Elite Eight. Of course, it’s March, and the Peacocks not only covered the spread but defeated the Boilermakers 67-64.
The tallest true rotational player on Saint Peter’s is 6-foot-8, compared to the premiere forwards on Purdue in 7-foot-4 Zach Edey and 6-foot-10 Trevion Williams. In addition to this, the Boilermakers averaged nearly 80 points and had boasted the second best offense in the nation, according to KenPom. On the other hand, Saint Peter’s averaged under 67 points per game in the MAAC. Oh, and Purdue has Jaden Ivey, a projected top-5 pick and the top guard prospect in the country. Somehow though, Saint Peter’s was able to beat this star studded team while shooting only 38.9% from the field.
How could Purdue lose this game? Well, unlike most upsets where the lower-seeded team seems to not miss and the favorite can’t seem to hit the shots they’ve hit all year, the Peacocks simply outplayed and out-coached the Boilermakers.
Purdue jumped out to an early five-point lead and held a lead for the majority of the game, but Saint Peter’s plethora of defensive schemes never allowed Purdue to get comfortable offensively. The Peacocks forced 15 Purdue turnovers and did not ever let Ivey ever get going while Edey was out-rebounded by 6-foot-2 backup guard Doug Edert. With nothing to lose, the Peacocks outscored Purdue 15-8 in the final 4:02 to send the Boilermakers home.
Seniors Sasha Stefanovic and Trevion Williams led the way for Purdue, scoring a combined 27 points and 12 rebounds. Unfortunately for Boilermaker fans, they along with starting point guard Eric Hunter Jr. and more than likely Jaden Ivey will be gone next season, and thus Purdue may be in line for a down year. The two-year era of the Williams, Ivey and Edey big three is over, and a the team’s Final Four window is closed with only two tournament wins to show for its efforts.
Final Count from Week Two
Eliminated in First Four: 1 (11-seed Rutgers)
Eliminated in Round of 64: 2 (5-seed Iowa, 12-seed Indiana)
Eliminated in Round of 32: 4 (7-seed Michigan State, 3-seed Wisconsin, 7-seed Ohio State, 4-seed Illinois)
Eliminated in Sweet Sixteen: 2 (3-seed Purdue, 11-seed Michigan)