First Look: Michigan at Indiana

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan 74, Illinois 60-20
Dustin Johnston

There is a big game Saturday and one preview isn’t enough. Here’s a first look at Indiana featuring some random statistical insights derived from Ken Pomeroy’s wealth of numbers and Synergy Sports.

Michigan vs. Indiana isn’t just fascinating because it’s the highest ranked game ever played at Assembly Hall or because it features two of the three most efficient offenses in the country. This is a match-up that is intriguing because while both offenses are great, they are also very different. Michigan and Indiana’s strengths both directly counteract the opposition’s.

Three statistics stand out as not only Indiana strengths, but elements that are vital to keeping the Hoosier offensive machine running smoothly. Those three keys are:

  1. Forcing turnovers
  2. Attacking the offensive glass
  3. Getting to the free throw line

Apt Wolverine fans will recognize that Michigan is a team that has made it’s mark by not turning the ball over, fouling or surrendering many offensive rebounds.

Only Wisconsin (the only team to win at Indiana this year) turns the ball over less often than Michigan. Nobody in the country fouls less than the Wolverines and John Beilein’s team is one of the top 15 defensive rebounding teams in the country.

Indiana excels in all three facets. The Hoosiers force turnovers and shoot free throws more often than any other Big Ten team and only Minnesota grabs more offensive rebounds. Ken Pomeroy’s Game Plan feature calculates the correlation between each of the four factors and a team’s offensive and defensive efficiency. Other than shooting (which is important to every offense), offensive rebounding and defensive turnover percentage jump off the page in importance.

2012-13 Correlation between Indiana Four Factors and Offensive/Defensive Efficiency

Offense Defense
Pace eFG% TO% OR% FTR eFG% TO% OR% FTR
to offensive efficiency: 15 +66 -40 +62 +8 -27 +42 -2 +10
to defensive efficiency: -43 -53 -24 -3 +5 +86 -45 +35 -22

Source: Ken Pomeroy

Offensive rebounding is nearly as important as shooting while forced turnover percentage is more important than any other factors for Indiana’s offense. Having a defensive statistic so closely correlated to offensive production is rare but that’s because the Hoosiers are so effective in converting turnovers to points. Indiana averages over 16 points per game off of turnovers, 19 at home, in Big Ten play. It shouldn’t be surprising that Wisconsin, the only team to beat the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall, surrendered only seven points off of turnovers in their upset victory.

While free throw rate isn’t as strongly correlated to Indiana’s offensive success, the sheer difference between Indiana’s offensive free throw rate and Michigan’s defensive free throw rate is radical. The Hoosiers rank second in the country, shooting 49 free throws for every 100 field goal attempts (52/100 in Big Ten play) while Michigan ranks first defensively, surrendering 20 free throw attempts for every 100 field goal attempts.

These three statistics will serve as a bellwether in Saturday night’s game. If you can only look at three statistics on the box score, these three are likely to tell the story by 11 p.m. on Saturday. If Indiana has its way on the glass and forces Michigan turnovers, it’s tough to see the Wolverines walking out of Assembly Hall with a win.

Indiana’s Ball Screen Defense

This is probably the most encouraging statistic of all for John Beilein and his staff: Indiana doesn’t defend ball screens very well.

The Hoosiers rank in just the16th percentile nationally while defending pick and roll ball handlers. Michigan happens to have one of the best ball screen offenses in the country including the two best ball screen scorers in the league. Here’s a look at Indiana’s per-possession defensive effectiveness in ball screen scenarios:

2012-13 Indiana Ball Screen Defense

Play Types % Time Poss Points PPP Rank
P&R Ball Handler 11.50% 191 160 0.84 16%
P&R Roll Man 3.0% 49 45 0.92 52%

Source: Synergy Sports

For comparison, Ohio State – who stifled Michigan’s ball screen offense – surrenders just .56 PPP to screen and roll ball handlers (89th percentile) and .82 PPP to roll men (77th percentile). Here’s a visual comparison of Big Ten team’s ability to defend the ball screen:


Michigan’s attack features the top two ball screen scorers in the conference and the Hoosiers have a more challenging time defending the ball handler than the roll man. That news should have Trey Burke and Nik Stauskas’s eyes lighting up entering Saturday’s game.

Leaders: Big Ten Ball Screen Scorers

# Player Team Poss PPP aFG% %Score
1 Nik Stauskas Michigan 24 1.46 86.8% 62.5%
2 Trey Burke Michigan 99 1.20 64.9% 54.5%
3 Andre Hollins Minnesota 47 1.15 70.6% 46.8%
4 Jordan Hulls Indiana 48 1.04 60.3% 43.8%
5 Joseph Bertrand Illinois 37 0.95 50.0% 43.2%

Source: Synergy Sports

Indiana’s a good defensive team but Michigan has the weapons and mentality to exploit one of its primary defensive weaknesses.

IUPUITH0003[1]How does Indiana deploy Victor Oladipo?
Victor Oladipo is the key for the Hoosiers defensive. The 6-foot-5 chaos inducing wing is one of the best defensive players in the league. Oladipo creates offense with his defense and is capable of negating great offensive players. The key in Saturday’s game will be where Tom Crean decides to use Oladipo. Does he guard Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. or even Nik Stauskas.

Size wise, the natural match-up is Hardaway. Oladipo has made a living while shutting down wing scorers and Hardaway fits the bill. But I just don’t see how Oladipo can guard anyone other than Trey Burke. Burke makes everything go for Michigan and as Aaron Craft made abundantly clear, the only way to slowdown Michigan is to slow down Burke. Oladipo is the sort of defender good enough to eliminate Burke’s influence on the game, Michigan has yet to prove that it can win a game when that happens.

The problem with Oladipo guarding Burke is that it leaves 6-foot guards Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell to guard Michigan’s 6-foot-6 wings, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas. Those are both match-ups that should give Michigan a significant advantage. Hulls and Ferrell have started every game and are averaging just shy of 30 minutes per contest and the Wolverines will have to exploit both match-ups when the opportunity presents itself.

Crean has a couple options as protection. First, he can play Will Sheehey and Remy Abell for more minutes. Sheehey is averaging 21 minutes per Big Ten game while Abell plays 13 per game in league play. Both are critical options off of the bench and have more prototypical builds to guard Hardaway and Stauskas on the wing.

Indiana has also utilized a zone defense somewhat often this season – on nearly once in every five possessions. The decision was criticized by many watching Indiana play Michigan State last weekend, as the Spartans connected on 11 of 23 long range efforts, but the numbers say that Indiana’s zone defense has been effective. The Hoosiers have played zone on roughly 19% of their defensive possessions this year and have actually played better defense in zone than in man-to man.

Indiana Defensive Efficiency: Man vs. Zone

% Time Poss. Points PPP Percentile eFG%
Man 81.20% 1196 896 0.75 87% 42.8%
Zone 18.80% 276 191 0.69 91% 39.1%

Source: Synergy Sports

Indiana doesn’t force as many turnovers in the zone but has been more successful. As for Michigan, the Wolverines have been equally successful against both man and zone defenses in the half court offense.

Michigan Offensive Efficiency: Man vs. Zone

% Time Poss Points PPP Percentile aFG%
Man 80.40% 1013 1014 1.00 98% 55.7%
Zone 19.60% 247 250 1.01 84% 52.6%

Source: Synergy Sports

Of course, if you go zone you risk letting Nik Stauskas get loose. Stauskas is scoring a ridiculous 1.54 points per possession against zone defense with an 81% effective field goal percentage. What zoning Michigan does accomplish is turning the Wolverines into a three point shooting team for better or worse.

I would expect a little bit of everything from zone defense to man-to-man and even full court press from Tom Crean on Saturday evening. If something is very successful, he’ll stick with that approach. Remember last year in Ann Arbor, Crean opted to guard Trey Burke with Christian Watford for long stretches of the second half. That approach is less likely this time around as Glenn Robinson III is a much more difficult defensive assignment at the four position than Zack Novak.

Fun and Gun?
As a basketball fan, watching the two best offenses run up the court in a 67 or 68 possession game could make for perfect prime time Saturday night television. But what is the best approach for either team?

Michigan’s offense has been more efficient when it pushes the tempo and consensus recipe for trying to beat the Wolverines has been slowing the game down. Conventional wisdom says pushing the pace is smart for the Wolverines.

However, running is in Indiana’s DNA and the Hoosiers want to run every time they take the floor. Indiana was trying so hard to run against Michigan State that it threw three or four outlet passes directly to Spartan defenders. The fact that Indiana runs off of made baskets, something Michigan never does, goes a long way toward explaining the philosophical differences of both teams. Michigan is lethal when it does run but that is partially because the Wolverines are so selective in choosing when to run – strictly off of clean rebounds and turnovers.

Indiana pushes the tempo because it knows nothing else. In Assembly Hall in front of an amped up crowd, Michigan needs to be careful. If it falls into a track meet with the Hoosiers, things could get out of hand quickly.

Looking back at Ken Pomeroy’s Game Plan figures, here’s the correlation between tempo and offensive and defensive efficiency for both squads.

2012-13 Michigan-Indiana Correlation between Pace & Efficiency

Pace Indiana Michigan
to offense +15 +57
to defense -43 +14

Source: Ken Pomeroy

As tempo increases, Michigan’s offense becomes radically more efficient but its defense regresses. Indiana’s offense takes a moderate step forward at a faster pace but its defense becomes significantly more effective. The snowball effect in Assembly Hall is a very real worry and it seems that Michigan – especially early on – would be smart to slow the game down early and prevent quick misses which can lead to easy Indiana makes.

  • Mattski

    Loved the way they bore down at Minnesota when it looked like an early run–a la OSU–was in the making; this team has grown up fast. I worry about the officials–we may not foul a lot, but we may get called for a few in Bloomington.

    • mikey_mac

      Without Morgan’s minutes and fouls, we could be in for trouble … McGary must average about 10 fouls per 40 mins in road games.


    Full disclosure, IU fan here. Well put together article, insightful points, good read.

    I think we can all be sure that anyone that isn’t amped up for this one doesn’t have a pulse.

    • IU fan here as well – great objective job with this!

  • IULaw79

    Clearly my name identifies who i’m a fan of, but this is a great article. Got the link to come here because Inside the Hall tweeted it out to us. I think this is clearly the top 2 teams in the B1G and probably the nation.
    Should be a great, hard fought battle for the full 40 minutes. I think IU takes this one in Bloomington before you guys get your revenge in Ann Arbor in early March. Have a feeling we’ll match up a third time in Chicago…and possibly a 4th time in Atlanta.
    Regardless of the outcome, barring a blow out either way (which is highly unlikely), i think both our squads are going to deserve 1 seeds come selection sunday. May just be a matter of who stays home in the midwest and who has to travel out west.

    • Champswest

      There are a lot of games yet to be played between now and selection Sunday.

  • UM Hoops Fan

    To me, the absolute key is avoiding TOs. Why does IU’s defense get better at a fast pace? My guess is because that’s where they get their TOs. In a frenetic situation, a guy like Ferrell is deadly. Hulls can use his smarts to make plays. In the halfcourt, those guys become less imposing. Thus, I think UM has to run when the opportunity’s there without turning the ball over. Avoid TOs in the halfcourt — where we got in trouble at OSU. Avoid TOs, Avoid TOs, Avoid TOs.

  • Cary Bear

    How many times has a top 3 matchup happened in the regular season before – especially this far into it? Is it uncommon? It seems like it would be…

  • gpsimms

    I think we’ll keep them off the glass (or if we don’t, we’ll make up for it by getting some nice buckets in transition), and I think we’ll keep them from really lighting us up in transition by not crashing the offensive glass too hard. Controlling tempo to always be in our favor is Beilein’s best attribute.

    The fouling thing though: There is no way that we overcome IU’s ability to draw fouls PLUS the refs affinity for calling fouls against visitors at assembly.

    We win tempo, they win at the line……’s too close to call. So, so, pumped for this game.

    This was an awesome post, by the way.

  • rlcBlue

    The tempo question is an interesting one. Beilein’s offensive philosophy has always been to force the defense to give up something, and then take advantage of it – this year’s team is just better at using any advantage than any of his earlier squads. This would make me think that if IU wants to play fast, Michigan will play just as fast and unleash the most effective transition game in the league.

    But… given that the Wolverine half court offense is also so good, and that the Hoosiers have struggled in slower paced games, I hope to see Burke be very judicious about when to push the ball. If there’s a clear advantage, definitely; if not, he should force IU to play 20 seconds of half court defense.

    One thing that concerns me is Trey’s tendency to wind up lying on the floor at the end of drives to the basket. His ability to absorb contact and still finish is impressive, but with IU’s habit of snatching the ball from the bottom of the net and throwing it upcourt it will be a bad thing to have 20% of our defense sprawled on the endline. Even if he manages to keep his feet, it will be of the utmost importance for the rest of the team to maintain floor balance and always sprint back on any change of possession.

    • gpsimms

      Good point about Burke. It has always frustrated me (slightly) that he does that. I think it makes it harder for him to draw fouls since he always falls. But it rarely causes him to not get back on D in time. I think you’re right it could be an issue against IU.

      I think we always are very judicious about when to run. Like I said in my other comment, I think it is the single thing Beilein most excels at teaching.

    • Chazer

      Great point Ric…..Trey is on the floor more than you’d like to see. Look for him to be more selective Saturday if they are running after made shots.

      Dylan…..well done again! Thanks for the education…..this is going to be a great month for all B1G fans.

  • Nicole

    When was the last time Michigan beat Indiana in Indiana? Can’t seem to find any stats on this!

    • gpsimms

      I know we did it in the first tournament year. Manny’s sophomore year, Novak/Douglass’ freshman year (’08/09??). We were down 20 (or more?) at half and (of all the unlikely heroes) Laval Lucas Perry hit a buzzer beater 3 to force overtime. I think the shot hit the rim like three times before dropping.

      I do believe when we did it that year, though, it was for the first time in a bunch of years.

      It’s probably worth noting that that was a terrible Indiana team. They only had 6 wins, and only one win in the Big Ten. So they basically lost to everyone at home that year.

      • rlcBlue

        Yes, 2009 was the last time we won in Bloomington. The last time before that was 1995. Beilein is 1-3 in Assembly Hall East – Amaker and Ellerbe were each 0-4. is a wonderful source of historical info.

  • Matt

    Am I missing something in the data? The Man v Zone adds up to 100% of possessions & averages 1 PPP total, don’t we score like 1.2 PPP?

  • SpatIU5

    The only piece you forgot to mention in the article was the Pomeroy’s projected score: Indiana 76 Michigan 70

  • notfargj

    guilty, too. IU fan. both a flattering and impressive article, learned more about our teams upside than any other article i’ve come across this year. for what it’s worth, i suspect each team will edge out a win on their respective courts this year. put them on a neutral site, it’s anyone’s ball game.

    on another note, i want to quickly mention that i had the opportunity to see the indiana all-star senior-junior games last summer and walked away thoroughly impressed by GR III. although, gary harris was a solid selection for mr. basketball and yogi ferrell a legitimate second, i strongly feel GR III should have been neck-and-neck with the other two. it’s been said players from the northwest part of the state are overlooked by the downstate media and after last year, i can’t help to agree.

    despite the rivalry, here’s wishing we can all enjoy some thrilling games of IU / UM basketball this season.