Game 18: Michigan at Indiana Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Michigan (11-6) at Indiana (9-8) INDIANA-LOGO[1]
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington, IN
When: January 15th, 2011, 8:00 PM
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: MGoBlue / WOMC 104.3 FM / Sirius Ch. 90
Opposition Q&A / Pick to Click

After coasting to a 10-2 start, Michigan is starting to feel the burn of conference play. The Wolverines have trudged along to a 1-4 record over the last five games with the four losses against teams with a Pomeroy ranking in the top 15. Regardless of who was on the schedule, a 1-4 slump is still a 1-4 slump and this team is desperately treading water in need of a win. The Wolverines will travel to Bloomington, where they’ve won just three times over the last 25 years, in search of that second Big Ten victory.

The good news for Michigan fans is that Indiana is in even worse shape. The Hoosiers appeared to be on the right track with a 9-2 start but have lost six straight games over the past three weeks. The common denominator during the losing streak has been terrible defense. Indiana has surrendered a staggering 1.20 points per possession as opponents ranging from solid to exceptional have carved up the Hoosier defense.


The root of Indiana’s defensive futility has been its inability to keep opponents off of the free throw line. Fouls have been a problem for all of Tom Crean’s Indiana teams but the scary thing for Hoosier fans is that the problem continues to worsen rather than improve. This year, Indiana is allowing opponents to attempt over half as many free throws as field goals with a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 52.3%. Indiana’s aggressive play does force opponents to turn the ball over on 23% of their possessions. The Hoosiers also do a good job defending two point shots, 47% allowed, but struggle to defend the three where opposing teams are shooting 36%. While most elements of the Indiana defense are above average, the 18 points per game that the Hoosiers allow at the charity stripe continue to be the difference between wins and losses.

Despite their struggles defensively, Indiana has been able to score the ball. It all starts with shooting as the Hoosiers have an effective field goal percentage of 55%, 25th nationally, thanks to 53% two point shooting and 39% three point shooting. Indiana is an above average offensive rebounding team (35 OR%) and also gets to the line fairly often (FTA/FGA: 53%). Crean’s squad continues to turn the ball over a bit too often (21% TO Rate) but, to his credit, has consistently improved in this department. Indiana has scored over a point per possession in every Big Ten game which means that a few more defensive stops could easily yield a few more wins.

Indiana plays a relatively average tempo at 63 possessions per game, which puts them right in the middle of the Big Ten. Michigan averages just 58 possessions per game and continues to try to slow games down as much as possible. The Wolverines will want to play the game at their “road tempo”, which is even slower than average, in order to ensure quality looks at the basket. Tom Crean spent the majority of his pregame media address focusing on Michigan’s transition game, calling the Wolverines “the best transition basketball team in the Big Ten”. Personally, I don’t expect Michigan’s transition game to decide this game one way or another, but perhaps Crean knows something we don’t.

SIU Edwardsville Indiana Basketball

Personnel wise it all starts with 6-foot-9 forward Christian Watford, a talented inside out player that shoots 45% on twos and 41% on threes. While his shooting numbers might not look like much, Watford’s athleticism and aggressive style of play allows him to get to the free throw line (FTR: 50%), where he converts at an impressive 83% clip. Consistency has been a bit of an issue of late, as Watford scored just 3 points (on 5 shots) versus Penn State and 4 points (on 13 shots) at Minnesota.

On the wing, Verdell Jones takes the majority of Indiana’s shots but he’s not too efficient. Jones also has the ability to get to the free throw line but he’s just a 63% shooter once he gets to the charity strip. His assist rate of 28% is the best on the team but he also turns the ball over on 27% of the possessions that he uses. Maurice Creek is a shell of his former self, as he continues to recover from his brutal knee injury, and is averaging 8 points per game with an eFG% of 49%. 6-foot guard Jordan Hulls isn’t your traditional point guard but he is a tremendous shooter, connecting on 49% of his three point attempts.

Freshman Victor Oladipo has been impressive for Indiana, averaging 9 points and four rebounds. Beyond the numbers, Oladipo is a sparkplug for the Hoosiers, as he provides a major lift with his energy and athleticism and has a knack for making big plays. Jeremiah Rivers, at 6-foot-5, is Indiana’s best perimeter defender and will most likely be tasked with defending Darius Morris.

Indiana doesn’t have many great options on the block. 6-foot-9 Derek Elston is a solid defensive rebounder and averages 6 points and three rebounds per game. Tom Pritchard will also play some minutes down low but hasn’t provided much production offensively. Facing Pritchard and Elston down low should be a relief for Michigan, who has had to deal with the Morris twins and Jared Sullinger over the last two games.

Free throws and turnovers are the statistics to watch and if Michigan has a solid advantage in both departments they should win the game. Michigan tends to play games with few fouls on either end, as the Wolverines don’t foul or get to the line. Indiana is the just the opposite. If Michigan is able to play aggressively and attack the Hoosier defense, the Wolverines should be able to outscore Indiana by a significant margin at the charity stripe. Similarly, Michigan has struggled holding onto the ball at times this year and also hasn’t forced many turnovers. Indiana turns it quite a bit but also forces turnovers on a regular basis. If the Wolverines can value the basketball on the road they should have a good chance to win the turnover battle. Obviously you have to make shots to win but if Michigan is able to exploit Indiana’s most glaring weaknesses on both ends of the floor they will be in good shape.

Pomeroy likes Indiana in this one, giving the Hoosiers a 52% chance at victory and predicting a 66-65 final score.

  • Tweeter

    Nothing to do with the IU preview but rather the Smotrycz piece from a few days ago. Thought I would comment here since that was an old entry. Anyway I always find it interesting to hear comments from players about their first real experience at this stage. Evan pointed out the play against Purdue to start the game when they threw the alley-oop to Juwan Johnson and he reversed it. I think a lot of people just assume that most of these big time recruits are just used to a lot of things that happen and even to some extent the level of play. I know that I always think the players think they are used to it before it happens. So when even they are wowed by a play I always find it interesting and somewhat charming. Anywho, beat IU!

  • Tweeter

    Ah just read the preview. Tom Crean loves him some Michigan Wolverines. “The best transition team in the Big Ten.” ????? I will say that Michiga is good in the open floor due to the fact that we have so many shooter who can spread you out, but there are several teams that are more dangerous overall in transition – Purdue, OSU, Illinois, MSU, and possibly Iowa.

    I will say this, teams that do not execute very well on the offensive end tend to struggle against Michigan. From what I have seen of Indiana this year, they fit that bill. They take a ton of bad shots and turn the ball over on a lot of silly plays. They make up for that by rebounding and getting to the line, but Michigan should be able to cancel out their rebounding ability.

    I think this game will just come down to whether or not Indiana can hit outside shots. If they do, since they are at home and will get some calls, they probably win. If they struggle to make them, then Michigan gets a much needed win. I say they miss, Michigan-70, Indiana-64.

  • Alex

    Michigan needs to try to maintain the effort they have played with over the last two games. They are very capable of winning this game. They can’t underestimate the Hoosiers but I’d they play with the same intensity I think they win.

  • grandchamp

    Some Trey Burke footage in this clip, not sure if it has been posted yet.

    • Ben

      How about Trey brings his Jalen Robinson And the other kid with him to Michigan

      Trey is a stud prospect and should be ranked higher. This is a gamer and I can’t wait to see him play next year.

      • Dylan Burkhardt

        Jalen Robinson is not listing Michigan.

        • Ben

          I know, just wishful thinking Dylan

  • drae

    Hey Dylan isn’t the team 1-3 in Big Ten play? Loses to Purdue, Wisconsin and OSU…

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Yes, 1-3 in Big Ten play but 1-4 over the last five games.

  • drae

    Roger that, hopefully they can come and play with a purpose right from the jump… Homecoming game for Stu and Zack… Hopefully Stu can break out of his shooting funk…

  • South Florida Maize Rage

    Anyone else think this is a must-win? I do…

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Must win for what?

      • Ben

        Its not make or break but is definitely one we need.

    • JimC

      Yes in a way this is Must Win, because if they lose this, then we should expect the losing streak goes to 5 or probably 6, and at that point you’re at 11-9 overall and struggling to stay over .500.
      imho this game is a bellweather for any kind of post season (NIT) berth.

  • billiam

    After both close misses against the top teams in the nation, I hope that we win against an average team.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Big difference is that this is a road game in the Big Ten… No road game is easy in this conference.

  • Jeff

    Just watched Marquette pull one of the biggest choke jobs I’ve ever seen. Made the Wisconsin choke against MSU the other day look tame. 18 point lead with less than 7 minutes to go. Brutal decision making down the stretch including a player who tried to go for a layup against a 7-footer when they had the lead and the shot clock was off. That’s what you sometimes get with college kids.

    • JimC

      Yeah that was a boneheaded drive for the layup. That single decision cost them the game! Sleep well Golden Eagle.

  • AG2

    MSU is 20 mins away from becoming a bubble team.

    • JimC

      Note to teams visiting Breslin: DON’T CHOKE YOUR LEAD AWAY!
      WI ruined a perfectly good Sparty beat-down this week. Ug.
      But I still don’t believe NW has the gonads to finish this one.

  • KAB

    Why do we always play Michigan ST at the end of the season?

  • Brian W

    The Northwestern-MSU game sure is ugly.

    Glenn Robinson III had 28 points and 7 rebounds last night…,bkblccp-ptb-0115.article

    Denzel Watts had 12 points and freshman Cameron Morse had a career-high 20 points in a win for Carman-Ainsworth….

  • Mattski

    Needed down the stretch for Michigan: shooters with ice veins.

  • Jeff

    Does MSU have an exemption from having fouls called against them late in games?

  • Alex

    This is a huge game. There were a lot of positives to take away from the last five games. Translate those positives over the next three games, one game at a time.

  • billiam

    just wondering, anyone got a site to stream this from? (No TV out here.)

  • drae

    Penn St with another near upset, OSU with 2 almost loses in 2 games…

  • drae

    Good start for Zack…

  • drae

    Team looking pretty bad to start…

  • drae

    Wow a 15 pt hole for blue @ the half… Team looks lost out there…