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.