On Sunday, the Indiana Hoosiers will take on the Michigan Wolverines in a top ten showdown. This game has important implications for Indiana. Not only are they playing for an outright Big Ten championship, they are also vying for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Defeating the Wolverines in Ann Arbor will be no easy task. Here are five things IU must do in order to come away with a victory.
Michigan has been fantastic at home. This year in the Crisler Center, they are a perfect 17-0.
You can bet that the Wolverine crowd will be rabid as soon as the Hoosiers walk out of the visitor's locker room.
The beginning of the game is usually when the crowd is at it's peak intensity. In order to negate this, IU has to play well in the contest's early stages. If the Hoosiers start poorly and Michigan grabs all of the momentum and a large lead, it will be difficult for Indiana to get back in the game.
When the Wolverines played against IU in Bloomington, the Hoosiers got off to a blazing start (6-of-6 to begin the game). Michigan will want to do the same.
If Indiana weathers the initial storm, they have a real shot to win.
Cody Zeller has shown that when he gets the ball, he can dominate. Averaging a team leading 16.5 points per game, he is the Hoosiers best and most consistent offensive threat.
IU has to feed Zeller the ball as much as possible. Opposing big men can't handle his quickness in the post. He has also developed an above average mid-range shot.
When Zeller faced Michigan the first time, he shined, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He had a number of putback dunks that kept momentum in the Hoosiers' favor.
Indiana must get him going from the start. Michigan isn't deep and Zeller has the ability to draw fouls on the opposition (shot 13 free throws last Saturday against Iowa). Getting the Wolverine big men in foul trouble would be a plus for the Hoosiers.
If Zeller doesn't touch the ball frequently, it could mean IU is settling for long range shots. That scenario could make for a long day for Indiana.
Indiana and Michigan are similar in that they depend on bench production from one player. For IU, that player is junior Will Sheehey. Michigan relies on freshman Mitch McGary.
Both teams need these players to provide a spark off the bench. Sheehey averages 9.8 points per game, while McGary averages 6.1 points. McGary is a key player because he is the team's leading rebounder (averaging 5.6 rebounds per game).
To keep up with McGary, Sheehey will have to contribute more to the stat sheet than points. He has shown he can can dangerous in other aspects, such as defense and passing.
Last Saturday against Iowa, he had five rebounds and three assists to go with his eight points.
Despite being just a freshman, McGary has shown he can play. He brings attitude to the Wolverines. Sheehey has to match the his intensity, especially if any of IU's starters are struggling.
Michigan loves to shoot from long range. They average nearly 20 three-point attempts a game, making the long ball a staple of their offense.
That number might seem like a lot but the Wolverines make 38.2 percent of their threes, justifying their approach.
Indiana has to constantly contest Michigan's three-pointers. When they miss from beyond the arc, they struggle.
Point guard Trey Burke is the main three-point shooter for the Wolverines. In the first match-up between these two teams, he went 4-of-12 from beyond the arc. If the Hoosiers can force him to shoot like that again, it will go a long way in helping them come out of Ann Arbor with a win.
The Hoosiers must focus on pulling down defensive rebounds. Michigan is too dangerous of an offensive team to give them second chances.
Michigan commits an average 9.6 turnovers per game. That is second best in the Big Ten.
This means that extra possessions for the Hoosiers are going to be few and far between. Every rebound is going to count and will ensure Indiana gets as many offensive chances as they prefer.
By eliminating second chances for Michigan and picking up some second looks of their own, IU can win their final game and secure their first outright Big Ten championship since the 1992-93 season.