We're down to the final game of the regular season as Indiana heads up to Ann Arbor to try and grab ranked win #5. In a game where neither team has a ton to play for it should be interesting to see how each group comes out. The Wolverines have already won the outright Big Ten title and they're likely not anywhere close to a #1 seed. Essentially Michigan is playing for pride and maybe a better regional location. There's not much of a chance of them falling to a 4 and getting to a 2 wouldn't buy them a whole lot of leeway in the tournament. They are what they are. Whereas the Hoosiers aren't playing for their tournament lives either. They're done minus being an automatic qualifier, so this game is very much a pride game.
Noah Vonleh will likely be back for the first time in two games and looking to prove his worth as he's recently been falling on some mock draft boards. Hoosier fans are understandably torn as he's likely gone if he's a top 10 pick and they're is a much greater chance of him staying if he's not. Right now he comes in about 8th or so on draft boards. So the big guy has something to prove and a big game in Michigan and a strong BTT and NIT run could have him on the rise again.
Other than that, Yogi Ferrell needs a big game to build some momentum and solidify his choice in the post-season awards, Will Sheehey would likely want to end his career with some positives and the freshmen need a big game for confidence. There is a lot of wants and needs with this squad and it will be interesting to see their response after the big disappointment that was the Nebraska game.
Michigan is coming off an absolute show of force against Illinois where they hit 16 of 23 three pointers in a game that wasn't even fair for the Illini. The offense is obviously feeling it. The key of course will be to repeat Indiana's win in Bloomington where they had Nik Stauskus standing 30 feet from the basket and frustrated as hell. You can bet that John Beilein won't let that happen again. At least not in the same manner. Crean is going to have to come with something new after the inspired defense in Bloomington. It will be interesting to see what curveball the staff tries to throw at Michigan this time.
The Hoosiers need to continue their team rebounding efforts to get going in transition. The Wolverines don't pull down a lot of offensive rebounds and that means that the Hoosiers will have opportunities to push the pace. As we've seen in the last several games, when Indiana gets up and running they're much much better than when the number of possessions stay below 70. Indiana has to find a way to run. Even if it comes with 16+ turnovers, it's got to come on the back of 70 something possessions. That's how Indiana is going to win this game.
The defense won't be the same as the Bloomington game but the abilities to grab a win are still there. Inspired play is necessary and that's not something that necessarily inspires confidence in Indiana fans. But, as we've learned all too often this year, you never know. Can Indiana pull it off and fight their way to a #1 seed in the NIT. It's a small consolation, but hey, silver linings are necessary when seasons don't go as planned.