Michigan basketball, ranked #1 in the AP poll, has been on a collision course with their enticing early February schedule since the opening tip of the season, and it’s finally here. A much ballyhooed matchup with #3 ranked Indiana will kick things off. The game will air on ESPN with a Saturday night tip scheduled for 9 pm eastern.
Michigan (20-1, 7-1) has played but one poor half this entire season, and it cost them their perfect record a few weeks ago in Columbus. They will be out to prove that winning a high profile road game is just a part of who they are. Indiana (19-2, 7-1) is tied atop the Big Ten Standings with Michigan. The Hoosiers lost an overtime thriller to Butler back in mid-December and dropped a home game to the Badgers by 5 points 2 weeks ago.
Michigan has won 3 road games in the Big Ten thus far (Northwestern, Minnesota, and Illinois) and the average margin of victory in those matchups is 16.7 points per game. In other words, Michigan is comfortable outside of Ann Arbor.
On the other hand, Indiana has historically owned Michigan at Assembly Hall, winning 14 of the last 15 contests. With a 9 pm start time and the bright lights of ESPN in the building it’s safe to say the place will be rocking all night long. Trey Burke will have to do his best to calm things down and operate their game plan with efficiency from the get-go.
Michigan and Indiana’s attacks are similar in many ways. They can both kill you in transition and from beyond the arc.
Some key stats to consider:
- Indiana leads the nation in scoring at 84 points/game. Michigan ranks 13th at 78 ppg.
- Michigan is 3rd in the nation in field goal % (51%). Indiana is 5th at 50%.
- The Hoosiers shoot it at a 42.3% efficiency level from three point land, which is 3rd best in the nation. Michigan is 5th at 40.8%.
- One key differential is the turnover game. Indiana turns it over 13.3 times/game. Michigan is 2nd best in the nation at not turning the ball over. They give it away just 9.4 times/game.
- Indiana makes up for some of that with their athletic and aggressive defense led by Victor Oladipo. The Hoosiers get 8 steals per game while Michigan manages just 5.6. Oladipo himself had 6 in their game last weekend against the Spartans.
- At 11.8 fouls/game committed, nobody is stingier than Michigan at keeping their opposition off of the free throw line. Indiana plays a more gambling style of defense that results in 16.8 fouls/game.
The bottom line that you can take from all of this is that it should be a fantastic basketball game. This is the stuff that makes college hoops so special.
Each team features a slew of marquee players. Michigan is led by National Player of the Year candidate (frontrunner?) Trey Burke. He averages 17.9 points/game and 7.1 assists to just 1.9 turnovers. Together with Tim Hardaway, Jr. (15.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg) they form the nation’s most elite backcourt.
Indiana will look to counterpunch Michigan’s star power with Cody Zeller and Oladipo. Zeller averages 16.1 ppg and 8.2 rpg while shooting 58.5% from the floor. Oladips has stepped into a starring role this season. He scores 14 ppg, grabs 6 boards, swipes 2.5 steals, and dishes out 2.3 assists.
Look for IU coach Tom Crean to occasionally stick the 6’5’’ Oladipo on Burke to try to slow down the Michigan attack. The Wolverines will need to find a way to neutralize Zeller. Usual starting center Jordan Morgan is nursing his way back from a sprained ankle. He is arguably one of the best post defenders in the Big Ten and could certainly be of use on Saturday night. Maybe the late start will give him just enough time to heal up and give it a go.
In Morgan’s absence, John Beilein will call upon Jon Horford and Mitch McGary to battle IU’s bigs. Horford was brilliant in his first start of the season on Wednesday against Northwestern. He logged 10 points, 8 boards, and 3 blocks.
And if the star power that this game brings to the table isn’t enough, there are other studs just a step behind. Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Yogi Ferrell, et al.
This game has all of the makings of an instant classic.
As Rob and I always do, we offer our predictions for this big matchup. Rob is 20-1 predicting the outcome of Michigan games this year and I am 19-2. We disagree on the outcome of this one as Rob has them losing and I have them winning. The last time we disagreed was the Minnesota game. Rob was right and I was wrong. Let’s hope we flip the script this time around.
Rob: IU 83-82
Joe: Michigan 86-81
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