When? 1:00 PM, CBS
Pomeroy? INDIANA by 8, 77% chance of Indiana victory
Pick On Someone Your Own Size
Indiana's last two road games have come against their worst match-ups in the Big Ten Conference. Purdue and Wisconsin are big and deliberate, two things that the small and speedy Hoosiers simply had no answer for defensively. On Sunday, the Hoosiers get a chance to take the court against a team with similar deficiencies.
Michigan's season has been of the strangest to witness from the outside looking in. Going into the year, the Wolverines received the benefit of the doubt that their lack of front court depth and experience, along with the loss of Glenn Robinson, Nik Stauskus, and Jordan Morgan, could be offset by the coaching prowess of John Beilein, young returning studs Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton, along with a six-man recruiting class.
Following bizarre non-conference losses to the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Eastern Michigan, injuries began to pile up for the Wolverines, losing DJ Wilson to a knee injury before both LeVert and Walton suffered foot injuries. LeVert will miss the rest of the season and Walton is expected to miss a good deal of time before returning. And, suddenly, a team that many figured would have to rely on their backcourt and wings to be successful, has lost their two best guards, leaving them woefully undergunned for conference play.
But despite all these perfectly acceptable reasons to completely fall apart, Michigan has cobbled together a 6-5 conference record, granted they're a mere 1-2 since losing Walton, including taking Michigan State to overtime on the road before losing, but are coming off an 18-point beatdown at the hands of Iowa in the Crisler Center. It's fair to wonder if this team has finally suffered too many injuries to be able to overcome, but it's also probably not wise to sleep on John Beilein.
HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?
Outside of taking excellent care of the ball and preventing opponents from getting to the free throw line, Michigan doesn't excel at a great deal of things. In turn, aside from preventing offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw line themselves, they aren't miserably inept at much, either. Their adjusted offensive efficiency is 134th overall and their defense comes in at 78th, painting the picture of a team that, despite all their losses in personnel, remains somewhat above average, nationally, but their 100th overall ranking on KenPom places them above only Nebraska, Northwestern, and Rutgers in the Big Ten.
Michigan, much like Wisconsin, takes their time on offense (338th in tempo) and will grind out possessions in an attempt to bog down the Hoosiers and keep scoring low. Thankfully for the Hoosiers, Michigan's effective height is much more manageable (198th in the country) and the Wolverines don't possess nearly the offensive efficiency, making it a manageable defensive assignment on paper. But as Hoosier fans are well aware, even the easiest defensive assignments become very difficult to stop. If the Hoosiers allow Michigan to execute in their limited possessions, they'll have less opportunities to keep up on offense, and if the shooting is cold, it could spell disaster.
- Troy Williams against Zak Irvin: The former Indiana Mr. Basketball will likely find himself one-on-one with Troy Williams early and often on Sunday, and it will be a great test for Williams' perimeter defense. Irvin loves to shoot three pointers, hoisting 156 of them this season, thirty more than Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. have shot this year, and it seems like that's all they do. He's converting them at a respectable 34.0% clip, and is likely Michigan's most dynamic scorer. Indiana crowds seem to love when former Mr. Basketballs from the state who have spurned an IU offer come back to Assembly Hall and struggle; but can Troy Williams help make that happen?
- Collin Hartman against Michigan's post players: Hartman lost the majority of his matchups against AJ Hammons and Frank Kaminsky, but certainly not for lack of effort. At 6-6, he's hardly an ideal post defender but he works his tail off to deny the ball and prevent guys from catching the ball too deep. Perhaps he can be rewarded for his efforts with a little more frequency against Michigan's frontcourt, who only has two guys over 6'7" and they are both freshman that don't play a ton. Ricky Doyle, in particular, has shown some nice touch around the basket (62.7% eFG), but if there was ever a spot that Hartman could excel in defensively, it would have to be this one.
- Yogi Ferrell against Spike Albrecht: With LeVert and Walton out, primary distribution duties fall to Spike Albrecht, who is an ideal backup point guard but tends to struggle in extended minutes, particularly on defense. Yogi will have to keep an eye on him at the perimeter, as he has certainly shown some deadly range from beyond the arc but it's unlikely that Spike will have a lot of great answers for Yogi's bag of tricks on offense. Yogi could really gum up the works for Michigan's offense by using his quickness to harass Albrecht's ability to initiate.
Stuff to Watch For:
- Will James Blackmon Jr. be able to play? JBJ was a surprise scratch from the Wisconsin game after rolling his ankle against Rutgers. It was never really mentioned that he was a threat to miss time but he was a spectator for the duration of the Wisconsin game. It's highly probably that Tom Crean elected to play it safe with JBJ in what was, admittedly, a game that Indiana likely wasn't going to win with or without their stud freshman and get him rested up and healthy for a very important tilt against Michigan. There has been no news one way or the other regarding his status, but he'll have had nearly eight days of rest since the initial injury by the time the game tips.
- Can Indiana close out strong? This is one of seven games that KenPom has favored Indiana in over their final eight, one of the easiest close-out slates in the conference. This team certainly looks like they're on the skids, but it's worth pointing out that they have yet to lose a conference game that KenPom projected they would win. Every spot from second place on down is up for grabs, and a top four finish gets them a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament, but none of these goals get achieved without beating teams you're expected to beat at home, and they can take that first step on Sunday.