Game 21: Michigan at Indiana Preview

Basics
Who: No. 10 Michigan (16-4, 8-0 B1G) at Indiana (13-8, 3-5 B1G) BlockIU_CMYK[1]
Where: Assembly Hall (Bloomington, IN)
When: 1:00 p.m., Sunday, February 2nd , 2014
TV: CBS
Radio: MGoBlue, 950 AM, 102.9 FM, 93 Sirius, 191 XM
More: Inside the Hall preview | Pick to Click

Michigan’s games against Indiana last season feel like a black eye on an otherwise spectacular season. A year ago, the Hoosiers took Michigan’s No. 1 ranking at Assembly Hall. More importantly, a month later they would take away a share of the Big Ten Championship in the Crisler Center.

While those disappointments undoubtedly fueled Michigan’s NCAA tournament run, there’s no sugar coating it. Those losses hurt.

Many of the names from last year’s high profile head-to-head matchups are gone. Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo, Tim Hardaway Jr. or Cody Zeller are all in the NBA and have been replaced, but the Wolverines will have revenge on their minds when they take the floor on Sunday.

Michigan has always struggled to win at Assembly Hall. The Wolverines needed overtime to win at Indiana in 2009 and that was against a Hoosier team that won just six games all season. Michigan only has one other win at Assembly Hall since 1988 and is just 12-60 all time in Bloomington.

Facing an Indiana team that is just 3-5 in the Big Ten and has lost three of its last four games, the Wolverines have a chance to steal one on Sunday.

The Hoosiers

One year removed from having the best offense in the Big Ten and the third best in the country, the Hoosiers rank just 183rd in offensive efficiency and 10th in the Big Ten. This year’s Indiana team just can’t shoot or hold onto the basketball. Indiana is giving the ball away on 22% of its Big Ten possessions, worst in the conference by a wide margin. The Hoosiers are the second worst 2-point shooting team in the conference at just 42% and while their 36% 3-point shooting (5th) looks good on the surface – it’s inflated because Indiana attempts just 29% of its shots from three-point range.

The Hoosiers do crash the glass and get to the free throw line as effectively as any team in the conference. Indiana’s No. 10 ranked offensive rebounding attack helps keep a struggling offense afloat, the Hoosiers are just 1-5 when they rebound fewer than 35% of its misses. Indiana loves to try to push the tempo, but it isn’t a good transition team. The Hoosiers have the least efficient transition offense in the Big Ten, but run more than anyone other than Michigan State and Iowa.

Defensively, the fall off from last season hasn’t been quite as extreme. Indiana has the fourth best defense in the conference and is ranked 19th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Hoosiers are ranked fifth or better in the Big Ten in forcing turnovers, defensive rebounding and not fouling. But Indiana has struggled to defend the basket. Conference opponents are shooting 51% on twos against Indiana, the fourth worst in the conference, and Michigan has the best two-point shooting outfit in the league.

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Personnel

Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell is one of the most improved players in the Big Ten this season. He’s increased his efficiency while developing from fourth option to primary offensive threat. Ferrell is still a good distributor, but now he’s a great three point shooter. He struggles a bit inside the arc and is shooting 41% on threes and just 43% on twos.

Indiana’s other guards aren’t a threat from 3-point range. Troy Williams is 2-of-20, Stanford Robinson is 2-of-10, Will Sheehey is 15-of-58, Evan Gordon is 14-of-43 and Austin Etherington is 4-of-13. You have to play Indiana to drive, because the Hoosiers just haven’t proven they are a legitimate shooting team.

Indiana actually has a slightly better shooting percentage on guarded catch-and-shoot jumpers (49.6 eFG%) than unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers (47.6 eFG%). That’s a sign that Indiana just isn’t a very good shooting team – even when they are wide open.

Will Sheehey is having his worst offensive season since his freshman year, mostly because he’s gone from peripheral option to primary threat. Sheehey is shooting just 26% on threes this season, but is still a threat cutting to the basket.

Michigan faced a guy that everyone wants to be a pro in AJ Hammons on Thursday, but Noah Vonleh is going to be a pro – sooner than later. Vonleh is stands 6-foot-10, 240 pounds with a 7-foot-4 wing span. He’s the best defensive rebounder in the Big Ten and game-changer defensively around the rim. Looking back on our post up efficiency graph, Vonleh is one of the better true post up players in the conference.

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Freshman forward Troy Williams is one of the best athletes in the Big Ten, he’s a force on both backboards and finishes 53% of his twos. Turnovers and perimeter shooting are his Achilles’ heel, but if he catches the ball near the rim he’s going to finish with authority.

6-foot-4 guard Stanford Robinson is a driver and the majority of his production comes off isolation, dribble hand offs and screens. He’s not a great shooter (2-of-10 on threes, 50% on FTs), but he has the shifty ability to find his way into the paint and get to the rim.

Tom Crean’s dependency on his bench is more akin to Matt Painter’s usage of his bench than Fran McCaffery. Crean goes to his bench because he’s searching for answers, not because he has so many great options. Crean could play as many as six players off the bench, but their production levels vary wildly.

Hanner Mosquera-Perea is an imposing shot blocker and rebounder in the middle to back up on Vonleh. Arizona State fifth-year transfer Evan Gordon plays significant off-guard minutes, but the 6-foot guard isn’t much of a passer and shoots 49% on twos and 33% on threes. Jeremy Hollowell and Devin Davis both provide combo forward minutes but have sub-100 offensive ratings.  Former walk-on Jeff Howard and sophomore Austin Etherington will also see minutes off the bench, but use fewer than 12% of available possessions when they are on the floor.

Keys

  • Push the tempo: Indiana tends to take poor shots and turn the ball over when it pushes the tempo. Michigan has one of the most efficient transition offenses in the country. The Hoosiers’ transition defense ranks in just the 64th percentile nationally, which is a significant fall off from its half court defense.
  • Control the glass: Michigan enters Sunday on the heels of its third-worst defensive rebounding performance of the season. Indiana will test the Wolverines in this regard. While the attention will be on Horford and Morgan against Vonleh, this is a big chance for Glenn Robinson III to provide his rebounding mettle against Troy Williams and Indiana’s forwards.
  • Derrick Walton vs. Yogi Ferrell: Caris LeVert has had the task of guarding the opposition’s primary threat for the past few games, but this is a huge challenge defensively for Walton. Walton has been playing great basketball, but this is another chance to take a step in the right direction.  Walton’s role in this game is similar to Ferrell’s last season: manage the game, keep your teammates involved and try to defend one of the better point guards in the league.
  • Try zone? Michigan experimented with a zone defense against Purdue that featured a bit of extended pressure before falling back into a 2-3 look. Given Indiana’s lack of shooters, it would make sense to try that look in Bloomington once again.  Michigan could also experiment with its (rarely effective) 1-3-1 zone to exploit Indiana’s turnover issues.

Bottom Line

Ken Pomeroy projects a 73-68 Michigan victory, giving the Wolverines a 71% chance of finishing the first half of the Big Ten season undefeated.

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