Game 31: Indiana at Michigan Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: No. 2 Indiana (25-5, 13-4 B1G) at No. 7 Michigan (25-5, 12-5 B1G) indiana-hoosiers-logo[1]
Where: Crisler Center (Ann Arbor, MI)
When: 4:00 p.m., Sunday, March 10th, 2013
Radio: MGoBlue, 950 AM, 102.9 FM, Sirius/XM: 91
More: Pick to Click, BLOBs and SLOBs, Videos

Just over a month ago Michigan traveled to Bloomington with a 20-1 record and the No. 1 ranking before suffering an eight point loss to Indiana. The ups and downs since February 2nd have covered the full emotional spectrum but somehow after it all, Sunday’s season finale at the Crisler Center will have the Big Ten Championship implications that many imagined in August when the conference schedule was announced.

In spite of heartbreak in Madison and embarrassment at State College, Michigan has everything to play for on the final day of the regular season. Neither the Wolverines nor Hoosiers enter Sunday afternoon playing their best basketball of the season. Indiana has lost two of its three games while Michigan’s defensive fortitude has been questioned for the majority of the last month. But the importance of Sunday’s game can’t be overstated with the Big Ten Championship, Big Ten and NCAA tournament seeding, and potentially National Player of the Year honors all hinging on the outcome.


IU Offense B1G Rk UM Defense B1G Rk UM Offense B1G Rk IU Defense B1G Rk
Efficiency 113.8 1 101.3 6 112.4 2 97.6 5
eFG% 53.4% 1 49.1% 9 53.3% 2 44.8% 2
Turnover% 19.1% 9 18.5% 5 14.4% 1 20.4% 2
Off. Reb % 37.3% 2 31.1% 5 30.8% 7 34.8% 10
FTA/FGA 48.6% 1 25.7% 3 29.8% 10 29.0% 4

After 30 games, there’s little question that Indiana has the best offense in the country. The Hoosiers can play fast or slow; leaning on Cody Zeller inside, Victor Oladipo slashing to the basket and an array of shooters, most notably Jordan Hulls (48% 3pt) and Christian Watford (48% 3pt). Stopping Indiana is a challenge and even after a month of harping on Michigan’s defensive woes, only one team has scored the ball more effectively against the Wolverines than Indiana’s 1.17 points per trip in early February.

Indiana is the best shooting team in the Big Ten, with a 53% effective field goal percentage, and is productive inside (49% 2p, 2nd B1G) and outside (42% 3p, 1st B1G). What differentiates the Hoosier offense from Michigan’s talented outfit is the ability to get to the free throw line. Cody Zeller (2), Christian Watford (5) and Victor Oladipo (10) all rank in the conference’s top ten in free throw rate and the Hoosiers attempt a Big Ten best 48.6 free throws per 100 conference field goal attempts. Given Indiana’s ability to get to the line (3rd nationally) and Michigan’s ability to prevent free throws (2nd nationally), something is bound to give in the free throw department.

Indiana has rebounded 37% of its missed shots in Big Ten play, a figure only bested by Minnesota’s athletic front line. The lone weakness of the Indiana offense is turnovers. Indiana has turned the ball over on 19% of its Big Ten possessions and gave the ball away often in the first meeting, a critical reason that Michigan was able to crawl back into the game in Assembly Hall. Michigan’s proficiency at converting turnovers into points can’t be underrated and will be important in a game where stops will be tough to come by.

Indiana’s offense draws all of the headlines but its defense is far from a weakness. The Hoosier defense ranks fifth in the Big Ten, allowing .98 points per league possession. Indiana is average at defending twos, 45% 2-point allowed (5th B1G), and better at defending threes both in accuracy and quantity (29% allowed, 30% 3PA/FGA, both 2nd in the conference). The Hoosiers force turnovers on one-in-five Big Ten possessions and manage to do so while avoiding fouling.  The Achilles’ heel of the Indiana defense is defensive rebounding. Big Ten opponents have rebounded 35% of their misses, the third worst in the conference. Michigan notably toned back its offensive rebounding approach in recent games, and it’s unlikely that changes against Indiana given the Hoosiers devastating transition offensive attack. However, Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary both could have an opportunity to grab a few extra possessions for the Wolverines against an Indiana team that has allowed opponents to rebound greater than 30% of their misses in seven of its last eight games.


Beyond the team profiles, there are some very difficult individual match-ups for John Beilein to manage in this game. Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller all possess a great combination of not just size and athleticism but skill as well. Jordan Hulls is fairly one dimension but he demands full attention anywhere on the floor. The good news is that Jordan Morgan wasn’t close to healthy in the first game and his health should provide a massive boost for Michigan’s interior defense.

Glenn Robinson III was not only overwhelmed by Christian Watford in the first meeting, backup freshman Jeremy Hollowell also got the best of him. Watford’s size and skills makes him a difficult guard and you have to wonder if John Beilein experiments with some two big looks that we saw against Michigan State. His lineup flexibility will be dictated by whether Michigan’s big men can avoid foul trouble. Obviously, you can’t help off of Hulls but Michigan was also unable to exploit his lack of size or quickness on the defensive end in the first meeting. Nik Stauskas was just 3-of-10 in that game despite the shorter Hulls guarding him throughout. Michigan will need much stronger games from both of its freshmen to beat the Hoosiers the second time around.

Ferrell is likely to guard Burke, and he’s good enough to make Burke work for his offense. That leaves Victor Oladipo on Hardaway but Michigan’s greater concern is who can defend Oladipo. Terone Johnson exploited Michigan’s inability to keep strong and quick guards out of the lane and Oladipo should pose a similar but more potent threat in the half court.

Speaking of Ferrell, he’s perhaps the most underrated defender in the Big Ten. Here’s a look at the Synergy Sports individual defense numbers among the top five Big Ten defenders on a per-possession basis:

2012-13 Big Ten Top Five Individual Defenders (PPP)

Player Team Poss Points PPP
Jordan Morgan Michigan 80 44 0.550
Kevin Ferrell Indiana 223 124 0.556
Shannon Scott Ohio State 143 82 0.573
Jared Berggren Wisconsin 171 100 0.585
Eric May Iowa 133 83 0.624

Ferrell trails Morgan, but he’s been challenged quite a bit and opponents simply haven’t scored efficiently against the 6-foot freshman. Measuring individual defense is a precarious topic but few would disagree with Scott or Berggren’s defensive production while recent results have proven just how important Jordan Morgan is to Michigan’s interior defense. Despite Ferrell’s defensive abilities, he’s the weakest link in an Indiana offense that’s filled with some of the most efficient players in the country.

Cody Zeller sometimes doesn’t get as involved in the half court as he should but you simply have to keep him out of the transition game. Zeller scores 1.53 points per transition possession, third best in the Big Ten. Jordan Morgan’s discipline defensively was great against Derrick Nix but Zeller will provide an entirely different challenge for Michigan’s experienced big man.

Before the first match-up I pointed out that Indiana’s pick and roll defense was great at defending the roll man but struggled to stop ball handlers from scoring. Michigan ran a lot of ball screens in that game and got off to an awful start, missing or turning the ball over on seven of its first eight pick and roll possessions. Indiana still surrenders .86 points per possession to pick-and-roll ball handlers, 13th percentile nationally, and Michigan still has the Big Ten’s best ball screen scorer in Trey Burke. The pick-and-roll is a chess match and subtle adjustments can make all of the difference but Michigan’s ball screen production should serve as an early barometer for the Wolverines success.

Ken Pomeroy projects an Indiana win, with a final score of 75-73, giving the Wolverines a 44% chance of walking out of the Crisler Center with a share of the Big Ten title.

This & That: Michigan expects to host a majority of its priority class of 2014 recruiting targets. Big Ten Tournament seeding scenarios are broken out here. Michigan could be a 2 or 3-seed with a win but is likely to be a five seed with a loss. Trey Burke was named one of 15 finalists for the John Wooden National Player of the Year Award. A Michigan win would give the Wolverines their first undefeated home record since 1976-77. This will be the sixth Michigan game which pairs two teams ranked in the top ten this season. Pat Forde profiles Victor Oladipo’s complicated relationship with his father.

  • Mattski

    So. . . you nullify IU’s normal FT advantage a little by playing at home and being a team that fouls rarely–could be a determining factor. I also think that Indiana’s at its most terrifying when they are in slashing hell-for-leathe in transition, but that also leads to a high TO rate, which Michigan is uniquely positioned to take advantage of, as you note. We also have JoMo back, which could be a difference maker, but we need him to finish.

    We need the bigs to supply that 10 rebounds and 15 points between them that the coaches look for. But I’m cool with McGary making the occasional freshman mistake if he also plays out of his mind and keeps the crowd excited. OTOH, we also need the bigs to maintain their collective cool when Zeller gets a few points; I am convinced that he’s not keen on being knocked around, so playing him physical in the early going will help. We need GRIII to have learned from his last outing against Oladipo and to prevent his having a huge game, easier said than done. (Would also be great if he gets a few successful early looks to build his confidence, keep him playing on both ends.) We need Stauskas to stretch the floor for us. And we need Spike to give us a few key minutes, both spelling Trey and when we go small. . .

    Worries: keeping Oladipo out of the lane, which has been a superhighway lately. Ferrell on Burke, much more of an issue, in many ways, than the touted Oladipo-Burke faceoff.

    Curious whether tiredness plays a factor down the stretch at the end of the season, with IU having had a week off. Also feel that both teams are a little fragile, lacking in cofidence right now–tough early sledding for either team could make the long-range difference. Glad we are at home and hope the team can deliver Beilein an undefeated Crisler season.

    • gobluemd16

      IU didn’t have a week off, they played on Tuesday, only a day before us. 4 days off versus 3

      • Mattski

        Thanks. I was also reminded that Glenn Robinson guarded Watford last time out. . . I do think that IU tries to force the action in transition sometimes, though, and that we can take advantage. If our young guys keep their cool tomorrow. . .

  • Northern Blue

    If Burke plays well and Michigan wins this game he should be the unquestioned player of the year. Front court needs to play well.

  • rlcBlue

    As you say, Dylan, lots of tough matchups. I fear that going to two bigs won’t help a whole lot if Watford is playing well; I don’t see Morgan being able to take away both the three and the drive when Watford goes to the perimeter.

    The start is going to be really crucial; at the beginning of the game in AssHall, Michigan got to the rim repeatedly but could not finish. They shot the ball as if Zeller’s uniform was filled by Manute Bol sitting on Shawn Bradley’s shoulders or something. If instead they can take the ball at him, getting baskets and/or fouls, it will change the complexion of the game enormously.

    Absolutely crucial to score the ball and get back on defense; Indiana must be kept out of transition offense at all costs.

    In the half court, I’m not overly concerned with Zeller posting up Morgan or even the backups; the fear, as you say, is penetration leading to kick-outs, drop-offs, and offensive rebounds. I finally got to watch the Purdue game and what struck me about the comeback was this: while I wouldn’t say that Burke stopped TeronJohn, he was able to stay in front of him, (unlike Hardaway, Stauskas, Robinson, LeVert, Vogrich, Akunne, Bartelstein, or Gene Keady’s late, lamented combover) but this was only a viable strategy because Spike(!) was able to stay in front of cadet RonJohn. If we’re struggling with Oladipo penetrating in the half court, could we see Michigan’s defense match two POY candidates and two Indiana freshman point guards? Maybe for a couple of minutes.

    Key question – can Stauskas stick with an undersized catch-and-shoot guy on defense and then take advantage of the matchup on offense? Ask D.J. Byrd.

    • gobluemd16

      To go off your comments about the pace of the game, I think that will be a HUGE determining factor in who wins. If this goes up and down and we aren’t able to get back in transition, I think Indiana wins. I know our defense isn’t good in the half-court, but it is even worse in transition. If we can manage to run when we get steals, long rebs, etc. that is fine, but I like our chances more in a half-court affair.

    • mikey_mac

      I think Morgan could hang with Watford, who can get passive against physical play. The problem with this, though, is that I don’t see McGary or Horford really able to do much to hold down Zeller, especially on the offensive boards.
      THJ and LeVert will have their hands full with Oladipo, but at least he’s lower usage than Terone, or at least than Terone is against UM.

      • rlcBlue

        Certainly if Watford tries to post up Morgan, Jordan will take away his lunch money and spend it on rolling papers; I’m just not sure how much physical play you can get away with on a guy who’s spotted up behind the three point line, even at home in the Big Ten.

  • ForeverBlue

    I expect Robinson to rise up and redeem himself, if only on the defensive end of the court tomorrow. My bigger concern is Oladipo. I have no doubt that Hardaway will bring the right resolve but I’m not sure he can stay within himself and be effective and/or avoid foul trouble. Either way, I think LeVert has to have a Michigan State type performance tomorrow.

  • guest

    @Dylan: It seems the team has struggled most when athletic guards dribble penetrate (@Indiana, @MSU, both PSU, @Purdue). What do you think of the idea of going a non-freshman lineup at times and playing the 1-3-1? Burke on the baseline, THJ on top, Morgan in the middle, Horford and Vogrich on the wings. Offense runs through Burke and THJ penetrating and scoring or dumping to bigs, or kicking to Vogrich for open threes. I’m not saying this is a recipe for the majority of the game, but it’s worth a try to slow them down. The reason I suggest this is I bet JB would run more 1-3-1 if the freshmen knew the rules well, but they probably don’t. I’m just anxious about not being able to stay in front of Oladipo and Ferrell. If Stauskas is going to get significant minutes, he has to absolutely abuse Hulls. Stauskas should go for 30 against that little punk.

    • I just don’t think you can zone Indiana. Too many devastating shooters.

      Horford on the wing?

      • guest

        You expect to see a lot of LeVert checking Oladipo and THJ on Hulls defensively, then? That’s what I’d guess.