Game 15: Michigan at Indiana Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: No. 13 Michigan (12-2) at No. 12 Indiana (13-1) indianaLOGO[1]
Where: Assembly Hall, Bloomington, IN
When: 9:06 p.m. ET, January 5th, 2012
Radio: MGoBlue, WWJ 950AM, WWWW 102.9 FM, XM 91, Sirius 91
More: Pick to Click, Beilein Preview, Player Interviews, Opposition Q&A, KenPom GamePrep, Inside the Hall

If you’ve listened to sports radio, watched ESPN or read any of your favorite national college basketball writers lately then you must have heard. Indiana is back. Tom Crean’s first three seasons in Bloomington were painful but, 14 games into the 2011-12 campaign, it’s apparent that Indiana has begun to figure things out. The Hoosiers have knocked off arguably the nation’s top two teams, Ohio State and Kentucky, within the friendly confines of Assembly Hall and have cruised to a 13-1 record after winning just 12 games a season ago. Now it’s Michigan’s chance to travel to Assembly Hall in a match-up that will pit a pair of teams itching to prove that they belong in the Big Ten’s top tier.

The Hoosier offense is about as good as any that Michigan will face this season. John Beilein called Indiana the “best three-point shooting team in the country” and that’s barely hyperbole. Only three Division I teams, all mid-majors, connect on more of their three point attempts. The Hoosiers only attempt 27% of their field goals from long range, settling for only the best looks, but make 52% of their twos as well. The turnover woes that plagued Tom Crean’s early teams are all but eliminated but the attacking style of offense lives on, evidenced by a Big Ten best 47% free throw rate (FTA/FGA). The Hoosier offense has been held under 1-point per possession on only one occasion (at Michigan State) and has had at least the fourth best offensive performance allowed against all but one of its opponents this season.

The most drastic statistical difference between this Indiana team and last year’s is that the Hoosiers don’t foul at such a radical rate. There were few teams in the country that fouled as often as Indiana last year but Indiana has improved from inexplicably bad to relatively average at allowing free throws this season. There is one early red flag, no doubt emphasized by playing two of the league’s most physical teams (Ohio State and Michigan State), Indiana ranks 12th in Big Ten games with a free throw rate allowed of 47% in conference games. Despite not fouling, Indiana has been able to turn opponents over on a shade over a quarter of their possessions and has done a good job defending twos (44%) and threes (31%). Defensive rebounding has been a slight weakness but not to the extent that an average offensive rebounding team like Michigan should take advantage.


The Match-Ups:

  • Trey Burke vs. Jordan Hulls
    Trey Burke has established himself as one of the conference’s best point guards while Jordan Hulls is the best three point shooter in the Big Ten. They are different players and both fit in well to their respective teams. It’s likely that Crean would opt to have Hulls guard one of Michigan’s shooters, say Novak, while Verdell Jones attempts to use his size to slow down Burke. Guarding Hulls will be a test of defensive discipline for Michigan’s true freshman lead guard as the slightest lapse in concentration can turn into three free points for Indiana.
  • Zack Novak vs. Verdell Jones III
    Jones is the Hoosier guard that will be attempting shots late in the shot clock and he doesn’t have the best shot selection – 40% on twos, 35% on threes – but is capable of hitting some difficult looks. Michigan needs some scoring production from Novak, who is likely to spend time battling Watford at the four position as well.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr. vs. Victor Oladipo
    Oladipo is Indiana’s best perimeter defender and excels while slashing to the basket (56% 2pfg). If Oladipo is shooting threes, 29% on the year, that’s a win for Michigan. A year ago Hardaway struggled at Assembly Hall but had one of his best performances of the season against Indiana at Crisler Arena (26 points on 9-of-11 shooting with four threes) which caused Tom Crean to proclaim after the game that Victor Oladipo was “punked.”
  • Evan Smotrycz vs. Christian Watford
    Hardaway needs to have a big night for Michigan to win but this might be the most important match-up in the game. Both players are inside-out, or outside-in, big men that make at least half of their threes. Smotrycz has six points and eight fouls in 35 minutes over two career games versus Indiana, Watford had 31 points in those same games. Both players are markedly improved from a year ago and Michigan needs Smotrycz to be effective on both ends and stay out of foul trouble.
  • Jordan Morgan vs. Cody Zeller
    Zeller is lethally efficient (64% on twos), strong on both backboards and can block shots. Michigan doesn’t need Morgan to score but he needs to neutralize Zeller defensively and on the offensive glass.
  • Bench: Douglass, Vogrich, McLimans vs. Sheehey, Elston, Roth, Pritchard, Abell
    Douglass is a great defender for Michigan to use on Hulls but playing him major minutes means that Michigan is using its small lineup which would pit Novak against Watford. Sheehey is one of the best sixth men in the Big Ten when healthy but he remains day-to-day and sounds questionable at best for tonight’s game. Elston has been improving and Pritchard provides more size off the bench for Indiana but they aren’t major threats. Michigan will hope to get a couple made three pointers from any of their three bench options.

It’s tough to guess what to expect from this team. The Wolverines have done just about everything you’d expect, seeming to meet but never exceed expectations. If you are going by the book you would pencil this one in as a loss. Michigan lost its last two games at Assembly Hall and needed overtime to knock off an Indiana team that won just one Big Ten game the year before that. Vegas likes Indiana by eight and Pomeroy is even more bullish on the Hoosiers, projecting a 76-64 IU win and giving Michigan just a 14% chance at the upset.

x350[1]While that’s the logical side of the equation, there’s also a side that says Michigan is every bit capable of playing with and beating Indiana if it plays a good, maybe great, game. To pull off the upset there are three keys for Michigan. First off, win the free throw battle. Michigan isn’t going to get to the free throw line much but it has to prevent Indiana from living at the stripe. Indiana racked up a free throw rate over 40% in each of Michigan’s last two losses at Assembly Hall.

Next, Michigan needs to have an advantage from the three point line. Michigan will need to hit some threes but defending Indiana from long range might be even more important. Finally, Michigan needs a big game from Tim Hardaway Jr. The sophomore wing averaged 18 points per game in Michigan’s five road wins last season compared to just 10.6 per game during Michigan’s road losses. Hardaway needs to find his three point stroke (4 for his last 26) and take over the game in a fashion that we’ve seen sparingly since last season.

This is easily one of Michigan’s most difficult challenges to date and it will be interesting to see how a team that’s rarely been tested since losing at Virginia reacts to a raucous Assembly Hall environment.

  • Let’s hear your predictions… Does Michigan have what it takes for an upset?

    • Joshmofo1

      Indiana fan here. Yes Michigan is more then capable of beating us at home. The question is can they slow Indiana down, and have a great game themselves. If they can do that, they win. 

    • Catwomanrx

      Yes they do!

  • IU beats Kentucky and Ohio in Bloomington and both of those teams are better than Michigan. I think it will be difficult for UM to knock off IU. Not only does UM need to win the 3-point battle, they are going to have to light it up from 3 (12-18 or better from downtown). I expect the whistles to go in IU’s favor at the Hall as they did when Knight was on the sideline. IU wins, 72-58.

  • Eastwood88_20

    This is the best website outside of inside the hall….IU fan…of any big ten school.  This is a split series this year for me.  Home and home.  when Michigan is not playing IU, I root for them more than any other big ten team.  Novak is a region kid….have too.

    • gpsimms

      what was the deal with the novak hate at assembly hall last year?  it’s not like novak spurned IU for UM; no one but UM would even consider taking him.

  • Denarded

    Yeah, Alumni Hall is going to be tough on Trey in his first true big ten road test.  I see J-Mo and Smotrycz getting into foul trouble early and the wolverines will have trouble containing Zeller like Draymon, Nix, and Payne did so well in the Hoosier’s only loss.  I think Hardaway has a great game adn keeps this one close for a little bit, but IU will get its stroke going towards the end of the game with Zeller creating too much for the Michigan defense to handle.  I think Michigan takes this back in Ann Arbor but not in Bloomington, IU wins comfortable 69-58.

  • bird

    It seems that no matter who guards whom, there’s going to be something that we can exploit.  If Novak can have some early success against Hulls, that would be a good sign.  ITH folks seem to think Oladipo might draw Burke, too. I can see how that would be disruptive, but I like THJr. slashing if Verdell’s on him — if either Tim or Trey can go at Zeller (and be ready to pull up if he’s set) … well, it’d be nice if Zeller has to grab some pine early. 

    Should we expect any zone from IU?

  • Alex

    Anything is possible. I am looking for a better showing then last year where it sounded like they gave up.

    Good start to the season and if they work to get better every day they will be a force come March.

  • mrjonessodaandme

    Popped over here via Inside the Hall. Great analysis, not only learning more about the Michigan players, but it seems you have an in-depth knowledge on the IU guys as well.

    Thinking Zeller is ready to go off big, but should be close til late I believe. 

    Good work, guys.

  • Tom, Too

    The key to the game is Jordan Morgan.

    • Catwomanrx

      Agreed. He can do it! Those kids are pumped up for this game!

  • UM Hoops Fan

    Sometimes how a team starts is overrated, but I think it will be huge in this game.  UM has the occasional slow start, and if we get down 10 early, it just takes everything going right to win and at Assembly Hall it would be a huge task.  If we can get a bit of a lead or stay even for the first 10 minutes, get some confidence, etc., i see our chances going way up.  IU would still be the favorite in a game within a couple points at halftime, but then I would see our chances more in the 30-35% range.    

  • Mattski

    Challenges on most every front, but especially underneath. Our boys always play tough, but this will be a very intimidating environment. Great write up, Dylan; you’ve become so good at these. I’ll read this again before game time.

    • Mattski

      P.S. If I am Beilein, I am telling Morgan just what you wrote above: concentrate on defending. Maybe he can come up big. 

      • Chris

        MICHIGAN – 71
        Indiana – 70

  • MGoTweeter

    Defensively, I think the key is not so much the three point line since Michigan’s defense is not built to stop those shots.  If Indiana wants threes, they will get them.  Rather the key is limiting the inside game.  Indiana killed UM last year off the dribble with Jones and Watford.  Add Zeller to the mix, and Michigan must limit the inside chances for IU.   The other big key defensively is stopping transition.  This starts with the offense taking care of the ball and taking smart shots.  Indiana is going to look to run and Michigan needs to keep this game at a reasonable tempo.

    Offensively, it is going to be an even bigger challenge as I think IU matches up very well with Michigan.  Oladipo has the length and athleticism to bother Hardaway.  Watford is versatile enough to guard Smotrycz on the perimeter.  Zeller gives them a solid shot contester in the paint.  If Hulls gets matched up on Novak, I would not mind seeing Michigan go to Novak on a few iso postups.  He has shown that he can make that little turn around jumper off the post and Hulls does not have the size to stop that.  UM also needs to find some ways to get Hardaway some different looks.  A few post ups and perhaps even trying to use him as a screener in the pick and roll.  As always making threes is going to be crucial and a lot is going to be on Burke’s shoulders to create shots off the dribble.  

    I would love to predict a Michigan win, but I don’t like the matchups and Indiana is at home.  It is probably going to take a big shooting game from Michigan and I am not too confident that happens on the road.  

  • Jeff

    Sounds like most people are being pretty realistic about this game. I don’t like to predict scores, but I give us about a 20% chance in this one. Between Zeller, Watford and the guards, Indiana is very balanced and a great shooting team. I also expect a very favorable whistle for them.

  • Josh

    Not saying Michigan is going to win but this is one of those games where even this KenPom loyalist has a hard time with his metrics.  Indiana, just like Wisconsin every single year, is probably overrated due to their efficiency numbers, while Michigan has definitely been underrated due to their weak schedule and less-than-impressive margins of victory.  It’ll be closer than KenPom’s 12 and Vegas’s 8 but probably an Indiana win.

    • gpsimms

      or our low margins of victory over weak teams actually indicates we’re not that good.  i don’t know, but i think the jury is still very much out on this team.

  • Beilein on Dan Dakich’s radio show

  • maxwell’s demon

    Our teams appear to match up very well, so if both teams are play well, it should be an exciting game. I’ve watched a few IU games now and while Hulls is absolutely lights out from 3, there’s no way he can handle Burke. So I’d like to see Novak use some of his size/muscle on Hulls for an advantage. And as Dylan said, Hardaway has to come to play tonight.

  • Yinka Double Dare

    I have a hard time believing in a win after Michigan lost to some terrible IU teams in Bloomington recently.  Have to take care of the ball, the bigs can’t get in foul trouble, Hardaway has to find the stroke again, they all have to happen if they’re going to have any chance.  I think IU wins this by double digits, but am obviously hoping for something much closer or a Michigan win.

  • rlcBlue

    Classes don’t start in Bloomington until next Monday, so the crowd will be more like the OSU game than the Kentucky one. I still expect the whistle to favor the home team, but it could have been worse.

    IU is one of the teams for which Smotrycz is not a matchup problem, since Watford is basically a better version of Evan.

    I can’t be very optimistic about this one – UM could win, but it will take an excellent game. One cliché I expect the announcers to drag out (do we get Bardo or Dakich?) is “Michigan needs to control the tempo and turn this into a grind-it-out game.” We know that Michigan can play very effectively at a higher pace. There might be a familiarity advantage in slowing the game down, since IU has played only two games all year slower than the D1 average – 62 possessions vs. the Golden Domers and 66 vs. Sparty – but do we really want a half court game against a team with a 7 foot post player? I doubt it.

    I guess I’ll predict IU 75-71 and root to be wrong.

  • q-sac

    michigan by 5.

  • wolverine_longhorn

    Probably a one-in-ten shot at winning, unfortunately.  I can already see both Smot and Morgan picking up two quick fouls within the first few minutes of the game.  Assembly Hall has been a house of horrors for Michigan, and I don’t expect it to change (but there’s always a chance, so of course I’ll watch).

  • I think Michigan needs to “Wisconsin” them to improve the chance of winning.  Control the tempo make Indiana work for every point and force IU to use a lot of the shot clock.  Crean’s weave and cut offense can get stagnant in the half court and they routinely will go minutes without getting a really good look.

    • Denarded

      I disagree and think that playing a game in the half court will only cause trouble for the wolverine defense.  Zeller will be able to dominate the post and be able to create for shooters like Hulls and Jones III. 

  • Kruser

    The game falls on Burke. He needs to penetrate to get our 3 point shooters open looks and hopefully he can also draw some fouls on Zeller to get him off the floor.

    The other key no matter what is UM can’t turn the ball over. They’ve had some bad games with that this year.

    • Tom, Too

      I think we’ve seen that Burke will be the proven commodity….game falls on Jordan Morgan…he’s the wild card.  The other guys will do what they do.

      • Sven187

        Michigan 65
        Indiana 52

        • Cyrus Ernesto Zirakzadeh

          I agree with Sven.  Wolverine defense smothers, and the diverse offensive weapons befuddle the Hoosiers.

  • JimC

    Joe, we’re gonna lose.  And we’re gonna lose huge.

  • johnnyumfan

    IU with Cody Zeller in Assembly Hall scares me. Only way Michigan can win is if the Hoosiers have an off night shooting the 3 – ball and UM doesn’t turn over the rock. I see IU winning 76 – 62.