The Michigan Wolverines (12-2, 2-0 Big Ten) travel to Bloomington, Indiana to take on the Indiana Hoosiers (13-1, 1-1 Big Ten) tomorrow night in this nationally televised Big Ten conference game.
Michigan is currently in a tie for first place in the league by beating Penn State 71-53 on December 29th, and edging Minnesota 61-56 on New Years Day. Indiana on the other hand is one game back after losing by 15 up in East Lansing to Michigan State in their Big Ten opener, and beating the Ohio State Buckeyes on New Year's Eve.
I feel this will be a good game, but a tough matchup for Michigan to win. They’ve struggled mightily at Assembly Hall in the history of this rivalry.
Michigan has lost the last two meetings in Bloomington including an 80-61 defeat last year, and a 71-65 loss on New Year's Eve two years ago.
The Wolverines have actually lost 13 of the last 14 meetings in Assembly Hall, and besides their lone victory in the past decade on January 7th, 2008, they haven’t won in Bloomington since January 24th, 1995 in a 65-52 victory.
The Hoosiers have knocked off national championship favorites Kentucky and Ohio State at Assembly Hall the last three weeks, and I feel they will have the same home-court advantage tomorrow night in an ESPN 2 prime-time game.
Indiana is good at exploiting other teams' weak benches as they did against the Wildcats and Buckeyes, and I don’t see why it will stop tomorrow night.
Michigan only plays 6-8 guys a night. If the Hoosiers can get the Wolverines in foul trouble like they’ve had success doing so far this season, then Michigan will have to go to an inexperienced bench in a hostile atmosphere.
That usually spells disaster.
Indiana has also found success in shooting at home against Michigan.
The Hoosiers were lights out in last season’s victory shooting 67 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point land.
With Michigan playing that full-court trap zone, Indiana should have no problems breaking the press and getting open looks once again.
I expect big games out of Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo because of that. The fast-break points and open shots will be there, and these three can guide Indiana to their second straight Big Ten home victory.
On the other end of things, Michigan has struggled to shoot in Assembly Hall.
The Wolverines shot only 36 percent last season, including 29 percent from behind the arc. The Hoosiers have done a great job in limiting their opponent’s looks, and they will need to do the same tomorrow night.
The first order of business on the defensive end will be to slow down Tim Hardaway Jr. He’s currently Michigan's leading scorer in averaging 16.2 points per game, and is explosive at getting to the rim. If the Hoosiers can stay in front of the ball and get a hand up on all of his shots, then he will surely struggle.
The other player they need to stop is freshman point guard Trey Burke. Burke is averaging 13 points per game this year and 5.2 assists. He helped lead Michigan past Minnesota in their last game scoring 27 points. He can hurt Indiana by getting in the lane like Aaron Craft did (Burke is actually much faster than Craft, and defends just as well).
The Hoosiers will also have to crash the boards if they want to win.
Michigan is a very well disciplined rebounding team, and will hustle for the ball. Sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz uses his 6’9" size and out-hustles people on the glass. He leads the team in averaging 6.9 rebounds per contest. Another guy you have to get a body on is sophomore center Jordan Morgan.
Morgan could cause Hoosier center Cody Zeller fits with his size and build. Zeller struggled with Michigan States’ centers that were much bigger than him, and Morgan has a big 6’8" body. Zeller fouled out against a similar-sized Jared Sullinger on Saturday, so he will need to stay disciplined.
In one of Michigan’s two losses this season, Virginia out-rebounded the Wolverines and limited their looks at the basket.
Michigan shot only 22-50 (44 percent) from the field, and 10-22 (45 percent) from three-point range. The Wolverines committed 11 turnovers to the Cavaliers’ eight, and were beaten on the boards 36-26.
The Hoosiers need to have a similar game plan, and use the crowd to their advantage. This is only Michigan’s third true road-game atmosphere. They lost at Virginia 70-58 on November 29th, and won at Oakland 90-80 on December 10th. The matchup against Virginia was also the last time the Wolverines lost a game, so they do have some momentum on their side.
The next few slides are a scouting report on Michigan's key players.
Trey Burke as stated in the preview is a very good point guard. He can cause Indiana fits, and a guy I worry about. He’s extremely fast and explosive. You have to defend him like they did against Aaron Craft and Marquis Teague from Kentucky.
If they slip up like they did against Appling from Michigan State, then Burke will drop 27 points just like he did in the last game.
Like Zack Novak, Stu Douglass is an Indiana kid and has had a solid career at Michigan. He typically plays too fast and out of control in Assembly, and I would expect no difference tomorrow night.
Douglass can beat you in the perimeter game if you let him. He’s seventh all time in three-point field goals, and sixth in attempts. He will shoot lights out if he gets hot.
What he lacks in is much of a penetrating game or ability to create his own shot. If you defend him out to the arc and get in his face, he’s more comfortable passing it around than trying to drive.
Douglass does have a lot of experience though. He’s played in all 116 games he’s dressed for, and uses that experience to his advantage.
Indiana must not let Douglass get going tomorrow night, and they will be fine.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is the son of NBA great Tim Hardaway. Just like his dad, he has a quick first step and crossover.
Whoever draws this assignment must stay down on Hardaway and limit his ability to get to the rim. They also have to get a hand up on all shots or Hardaway will make them pay. He’s the team's leading scorer and go-to guy.
He scored in double figures 27 times last year, and was the Big 10 honorable mention. He’s also started in every game that he’s suited up for Michigan, so he’s getting more and more experience as the season goes on.
Hardaway is very athletic and uses his 6’6" frame to get by his opponents. This will be a tough matchup for anyone who guards him.
Novak is the team leader of this Michigan team. He’s an Indiana kid and will try and play out of his mind in front of family and friends. This actually can help Indiana in that he tries to do too much the last two years he’s played in Assembly Hall. Indiana needs to defend him tough and he can get rattled.
He does have the capability to beat you though if you let him. He works extremely hard and has been the captain of this team for the last three seasons.
Novak led the team in rebounding last season and he’s only 6’4".
If you leave him open he will shoot lights out, so the Hoosiers must get a hand up on all of his shots. The lefty is fifth all-time in Michigan history in three-point shots and attempts. He's averaged 7.7 points per game during his career in Ann Arbor, and is averaging 9.2 points per game this season.
Evan Smotrycz is surprisingly a good scorer. If you leave him open he will shoot threes and make them, so you must defend him out to the arc. If you do guard him close he will try and drive to the hoop. If he does try that, Indiana must get weakside help to take the charge, because he gets out of control and will pick up some unnecessary fouls.
He’s comparable to the nonathletic version of Christian Watford.
One thing that keeps him on the court is he rebounds and plays great defense. He leads the team in rebounding and hustles extremely hard.
If Indiana guards him tight though, I don’t think he will be much of a problem.
Jordan Morgan is a big body in the center position. Michigan doesn’t look for him to score much as he’s usually the last option.
Morgan averages 7.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Those are solid enough numbers to keep him on the court.
Morgan makes up for the lack of offensive skills on the defensive side of the ball. He can give other centers fits because of his frame.
Zeller will need to bring him out of the lane. If he does, he will succeed.