One only needs to wait until the second day of February to find the best college basketball game of the month:
The No. 1 Michigan Wolverines at the third-ranked Indiana Hoosiers.
Who will win the Big Ten?
While both programs boast prestigious hardcourt histories, you'd have to go back to the beginning of the Clinton administration to find the last time UM and IU were legitimate national title candidates at the same time.
It's the two best teams from the best conference in America. Super Bowl, Schmooper Bowl.
Let's take a closer look at the potentially epic battle.
When: Saturday, Feb. 2 at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Michigan Injury Report (via USA Today)
F Jordan Morgan, ankle, questionable.
MLive.com's Kyle Meinke gave this update on the veteran big man on Wednesday afternoon:
Jordan Morgan in a boot. But still appears to be "on," according to his warmup shirt.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) January 30, 2013
If Morgan is forced to miss any time, look for true freshman Mitch McGary, who has pulled down 19 rebounds in his last two games, to see some extra run.
A 2012-esque John Beilein lineup of four shooters (Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III) around a big man (Jon Horford) will also likely be used.
Indiana Injury Report (via USA Today)
F Austin Etherington, knee, out.
What They're Saying
According to Synergy Sports Technology (via Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn), this matchup is going to feature two of the most efficient off-the-dribble jump-shooters in America:
While Hulls is knocking down his shots at a higher efficiency, Burke—as Winn points out—attempts many more per game, mostly because when you look this good doing something, you tend to make a habit out of doing it (via Winn):
It will be interesting to see how the Hoosiers defend arguably the most unstoppable point guard in the country.
Michigan Player to Watch: Nik Stauskas
Picking just one player from this team is criminal.
Burke is the obvious choice, as he is the leading contender for National Player of the Year.
But then throw in a shooting guard who can score from anywhere on the court in Tim Hardaway Jr., an explosive, rim-hunting, getting-in-my-way-in-transition-will-only-get-you-on-a-poster future NBA wing in Glenn Robinson III and a bunch of hard-working big men in Mitch McGary, Jon Horford and (maybe) Jordan Morgan, and you have a writer (that's me!) spending 15 minutes just trying to figure out who he wants to spotlight.
I can't even imagine how Tom Crean feels trying to gameplan against that.
Anyways, on to Stauskas, the best-shooting true freshman in America. Seriously, feel free to ogle at the beauty of his jumper:
Stauskas is hitting 49.5 percent of his threes and his true-shooting percentage of 68.7 is 13th best in the country.
Oh yeah, and if you're going to run out at him like a wildebeest, the youngster has the sneaky talent to get into the lane and either finish at the rim or distribute. But don't worry, Indiana fans, that's only, like, Michigan's 19th option on offense.
Indiana Player to Watch: Victor Oladipo
If you've seen me write on Indiana before, you'll know that Oladipo is my favorite player to watch in the country, although I've got also got a soft spot for crazy (Marshall Henderson) and hair (Kelly Olynyk).
Oladipo's brilliance on the court can be summed up with this stat, courtesy of IU head coach Tom Crean (via CBS Sports' Seth Davis):
Tom Crean just said that Oladipo had 15 deflections in the first half. That's how you get Capone.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) January 27, 2013
Can we just pause and think about that for a second? On defense, Oladipo got his hand on the ball 15 times in a 20-minute span.
Crean, who coached Dwyane Wade at Marquette, by the way, said that he's never seen anything like that before.
That's Oladipo in a nutshell: freaking amazing.
Sure, he has 2.5 steals and 0.8 blocks per game, but like Anthony Davis last season, he alters so many more passes (and shots) because he is one of the most active, athletic players in the country.
You hear about players having "motors" all the time, but I'm pretty sure Oladipo is literally playing illegally with a motor attached to his spine that makes him go at 110 miles per hour at all times.
And if you're into the whole "offense" thing, the 6'5" junior is pretty good at that, too.
He has improved his shot selection dramatically over last season, and as a result, he's scoring 14.0 points per game on 65.5 percent shooting. He is third in America with a true-shooting percentage of 72.7 and is unstoppable if he gets a head of steam going to the basket.
To top it all off, Oladipo is entering this one averaging 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 4.0 steals per game in his last three.
Matchup to Watch: Indiana on Defense
Goal No. 1 in this game for Indiana will be getting defensive stops.
Not only are the Wolverines first in the country with 1.186 points per possession, but stud sophomore Cody Zeller is much more effective—and dominant—when the pace quickens.
If only there were five Victor Oladipo's.
It's pretty much a known fact that whoever the junior matches up with will have a miserable day, hating the world. But who will it be?
Burke? Hardaway? Robinson? Stauskas?
Someone is going to be lucky enough to end up with Jordan Hulls on him, and someone is going to beat Jordan Hulls like he stole something.
So, what does Crean do? Go to zone against one of the best shooting teams in the country? Sit Hulls, who is a valuable offensive weapon? Live with one of Michigan's "Big 4" going off against the tiny senior and concentrate on stopping everyone else?
Who ya got?
It will be intriguing to say the least.
If this is on a neutral court, I'm going with Michigan every time, but picking against the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall is foolish.
Indiana 78, Michigan 76