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Indiana men’s basketball: Three things to know about Michigan

What to make of the 4-4 Wolverines?

Syndication: The Register Guard Chris Pietsch/The Register Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

Indiana heads up to Ann Arbor for its first true road game of the year against a 4-4 Michigan squad that’s on an early two game losing streak. Much like the last couple of seasons, the Wolverines are off to a chaotic start that makes it hard to know what you might get come game day.

Right now, the computers and Vegas like Michigan. Kenpom has it as a six point loss, giving Indiana a 31% chance of victory. The gambling line is a little less generous to Indiana, favoring the Wolverines by seven.

The Hoosiers are on an upswing though, analytically. Despite only being modest favorites against its two strongest opponents thus far, Indiana put together its first two double-digit victories with wins over Harvard and Maryland last week.

Indiana may be without starting point guard Xavier Johnson though, as he missed last game with an ankle injury he aggravated against Harvard. His absence could be felt against a Michigan team that starts three seniors.

Here’s three things to know about Michigan:

Juwan Howard

Michigan’s head coach Juwan Howard is currently acting in an assistant coaching capacity as he recovers from a heart surgery he underwent on September 15th. He hasn’t acted as head coach all season and only recently returned to the sideline in his assistant role.

Howard is not letting the new job title influence his impact on the game. In Michigan’s November 24th loss to Texas Tech, he was ejected after arguing with an official over an inconsequential extra possession granted to the Red Raiders on a dead ball.

I’m no cardiologist, but if he’s healthy enough to get worked up to the point that he’s getting ejected, I have to assume he’s not extremely limited in his coaching duties. He may be nearer to resuming his role as head coach than we know.

I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing. As head coach last year, he missed the tournament with two first-round draft picks and Hunter Dickinson in his starting lineup.

Their Record

As alluded to above, making sense of Michigan’s season to this point is a bit of a challenge. They’ve got a pair of nice wins alongside one bad loss and three losses to Power Five teams.

Most impressive is Michigan’s 16 point victory against Rick Pitino’s St. John’s in Madison Square Garden. The Wolverines also have a less convincing five point win over Stanford on a neutral court.

There have been a few nights when Michigan simply didn’t show up, as was the case in losses to Long Beach State and Texas Tech. On a neutral court, the Wolverines put up just 21 points in the first half against the Red Raiders before going on to lose 73-57.

Losses to Memphis on a neutral court and Oregon on the road (in overtime) look more excusable for now, but don’t tell us much about the team we may see tonight. Indiana has also looked slow out of the gate, though it has managed to avoid catastrophe in a way the Wolverines have not.

The Perimeter

Michigan is a team that likes to shoot a lot of threes and it hits 38.2% of them, putting them at 43rd in the country. Indiana is currently 192nd in the country in defending the three, a stat which took a huge boost after Maryland went 2-16 Friday night.

In three of their four losses, the Wolverines shot a lower percentage than their season average from deep. Long Beach State held them to 32% at home, but needed 94 points to escape the Crisler center with its upset victory.

The one exception to the trend was Michigan’s loss at Oregon, in which it shot nearly 42% on 31 3-point attempts. Oregon was a much more efficient shooting team that night though, going 10-16 from deep to win in overtime.

Because Indiana does not appear to be capable of having a shooting night like the Ducks did Saturday, it will need to defend the perimeter better than it has so far this year. This could mean more minutes for C.J. Gunn, especially if Xavier Johnson isn’t able to play.

Do this, and the Hoosiers can move to 2-0 in the conference and add a nice road win to their tournament resume in December. Fail to do this, and it could be a long night.