USA TODAY Sports
Indiana travels to Crisler Arena for its final opportunity at an outright Big Ten title.
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2011-12 RPI 2011-12 Sagarin Series: Head Coach TV
The Big Ten race was narrowed further last night. IU has a share of the title and can clinch the outright title with a win, and last night's MSU win over Wisconsin gave IU the #1 seed no matter what else happens. Michigan can win a share if the Wolverines beat IU on Sunday, and if that happens, then Michigan State (which hosts Northwestern) and Ohio State (which hosts Illinois) are likely to share the title as well. Unfortunately, the Hoosiers missed their best opportunity to win the titlle outright, and now must manage a win in one of the toughest games on the schedule. IU has already defeated two of the possible conference champions on the road, so I suppose it would be appropriate if IU did the same to Michigan to clinch the title.
|Tim Hardaway Jr||29||34.2||5.4||12.0||45.1||1.9||5.0||38.9||2.2||3.1||70.8||0.2||4.6||4.8||2.2||2.1||0.8||0.5||2.0||14.9|
|Glenn Robinson III||30||33.0||4.1||7.4||55.9||0.6||1.8||33.3||1.9||2.7||70.7||2.1||3.4||5.5||1.2||0.9||0.9||0.2||1.3||10.8|
When the Hoosiers and Wolverines last met, on February 2, Michigan was ranked number one and there was talk of the Wolverines distancing themselves from the field in the Big Ten and nationally. Since then, including the IU game, Michigan is 5-4, and while there is no shame in losing on the road to IU, Michigan State, and Wisconsin, it's no exaggeration to say that Michigan's road loss to Penn State is among the worst in the history of the Big Ten. That loss followed a familiar pattern to IU fans. Michigan seemed to have the game in hand, but allowed Penn State to score 33 points in the final ten minutes of the game to win their first conference game of the season. The Wolverines have been very steady offensively, but they now rank #60 in KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency ratings. Can a team with such a pedestrian defense compete for a Final Four or an NCAA title? I don't think it's impossible, but it has to be a concern for Michigan. After an excellent start to the season, the Wolverines have a statistical profile that looks more like that of IU's 2012 team than of a true title contender.
Of course, none of that matters on Sunday, when IU plays in Ann Arbor. Michigan is the only Big Ten team that is unbeaten at home, although they did have very close wins over the two other title contenders (MSU and OSU) when those teams visited Crisler. Trey Burke seems to have become the consensus favorite to win the Big Ten and national POY awards, and while I would love to see Victor Oladipo or Cody Zeller knock him off his pedestal, it probably isn't going to happen. Burke is a huge part of everything Michigan does offensively, but there are plenty of other weapons. On the other hand, Michigan has been poor defensively lately, and never has been particularly physical, so this seems like a game in which both teams will be able to score. Pomeroy gives IU a 56 percent chance of victory, probably in large part because of Michigan's defensive issues. That strikes me as optimistic, but on the other hand I'm not sure Michigan fits the profile of the teams that have given IU fits this year.
At the beginning of the season, any of us would be thrilled to learn that IU would have a share of the Big Ten title and the #1 seed in the BTT locked up before the game in Ann Arbor. As it stands, and having endured the frustrating missed opportunities of the last two weeks, it's not quite as joyful as it could be. Still, the Hoosiers have a great shot at this, and will have ample opportunity to hold of Michigan, MSU, and Louisville for the right to be the #1 seed in the Midwest. IU isn't in the best possible position, but the Hoosiers are better off than any IU team in the past 20 years.