USA TODAY Sports
Indiana hosts Michigan in what may be the biggest game played in Assembly Hall in 20 years.
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2011-12 RPI 2011-12 Sagarin Series: Head Coach TV
It's the game of the year, again. I've been joking for the past few weeks about the "next" biggest game of the season, but by any realistic measure this one is very big, especially for IU. Especially because of IU's home loss to Wisconsin, it is difficult to imagine IU winning the Big Ten without holding serve against the #1-ranked Michigan Wolverines tonight. While an IU win won't give the Hoosiers an upper hand necessarily, given a back-loaded conference schedule, they will have a one-game lead in the Big Ten for the first time this season.
John Beilein's task at Michigan wasn't quite as daunting as what Tom Crean faced at Indiana, but what he has accomplished is perhaps more of a surprise. Michigan has a fine basketball tradition, but when Beilein arrived the program still had not recovered from the Fab Five scandal. After appearing in the NCAA Tournament in 1998, the Wolverines didn't return until 2009. Now, a year after their first Big Ten title in a generation, Michigan is #1.
While any team that ranks as high in the polls and computer rankings as Michigan is must have excelled on both sides of the ball, it is Michigan's offense that really stands out. The Wolverines lead the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency and rank #2 in both effective field goal percentage and turnover percentage. The Wolverines are above average on the offensive boards, ranking #75 nationally with a percentage of 35. Michigan is #10 in the nation with a 39 percent three point shooting percentage and is #2 in two point shooting percentage at 56.6. On defense, Michigan is #31 in efficiency and #98 in effective field goal percentage. They play excellent perimeter defense, limiting opponents to 31 percent from deep, and don't foul very much
|Tim Hardaway Jr||17||33.5||5.6||11.6||48.5||1.9||4.9||39.3||3.1||4.2||73.6||0.2||5.1||5.4||2.6||2.3||0.8||0.5||1.5||16.4|
|Glenn Robinson III||18||31.9||4.6||7.9||57.7||0.8||2.0||38.9||2.2||3.2||69.0||2.3||3.5||5.8||1.3||1.2||0.9||0.3||1.2||12.1|
As you can see, sophomore Trey Burke, who split Big Ten freshman of the year honors with Cody Zeller last season, leads the way, and shooting percentages of 50/40 are very good for a guard who shoots as often as he does. Tim Hardaway, who was more of a volume scorer as a freshman and sophmore, has improved his efficiency, shooting nearly 50 percent overall and 40 percent from three point range. It is the freshmen, however, who have turned Michigan into a national title contender. Freshman guard Nick Stauskas is 6-6 and makes nearly half of the 5.5 three pointers he shoots per game. Glenn Robinson III, another Purdue legacy excelling somewhere other than his parents' alma mater, is shooting nearly 60 percent from the field and leads the team in rebounding. Mitch McGary, another northwest Indiana native, plays 16 minutes per game, not as much as the other two freshmen, but averages 5.7 rebounds per game and is shooting 60 percent from the field.
The Wolverines are a formidable offense with no obvious weaknesses, and it will be interesting to see how IU approaches things defensively. My personal thought is that Michigan simply has too many shooters for the Hoosiers to play much zone except as a possible change of pace, but I'll leave that to the professionals, of course. This also will be an important test because while the Wolverines aren't clones of either Butler or Wisconsin, they do like to slow things down, which has been a challenge for IU this year.
Most importantly, it's going to be fun. I was a freshman at IU 20 years ago when the Fab Five came to town as sophomores. For that game, IU was ranked #1 and Michigan #4. I don't believe there has been a meeting between top five teams at Assembly Hall since then. For most of the last 20 years, IU fans have wondered when IU would return to playing games like this. Finally, it's tomorrow.