Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Indiana Preview: At An Impasse

General Outlook
After a largely expected outcome in Columbus, the Wolverines look to return to their winning ways at Crisler against the Hoosiers. Fortunately, the Wolverines have bounced back from each of their six losses thus far this season with a win. Michigan sits at 16-6 (6-3) while Indiana comes in looking up at Michigan in the standing, having gone 17-5 (5-5) so far.

The Hoosiers ran through the non-conference schedule en route to a 12-0, with notable wins against UK in one of the best games of the season (if not the best) and a win against Notre Dame that is looking better and better as the season progresses. Things have been a little tougher in conference play, as the Hoosiers have notched losses against: @MSU, Minnesota, @OSU, @Nebraska, and @Wisconsin. Although Minnesota is proving itself to be a tougher team than expected in spite of the loss of Mbakwe, that was a bad loss for the Hoosiers, as was the loss in Lincoln (which, FYI, is further reason not to take any team for granted while playing on the road). With that said, the Hoosiers are coming off of a thrashing of the pesky Hawkeyes, dropping 103 on them this past Sunday.

This is a game that Michigan needs to have if it wants to have a little leeway down the stretch. The first meeting in Bloomington was a tough 2-point loss that Michigan could have had, but it is difficult to win when your two best players combine for 11/34 from the field.

The Offense 
As the last game showed (in addition to most other Indiana games thus far this Big Ten season), Michigan will be able to score against these Hoosiers, who are giving up 73 ppg in Big Ten play. That's not very good. Including the non-conference schedule, only Northwestern and Iowa are worse. Most importantly, Michigan was able to score 71 on them in Bloomington despite horrid shooting performances from Trey and THJ (although Michigan did go 41.7% from 3).

Zeller is the only significant shot-blocking threat Indiana has (1.5 bpg), but even his numbers don't place him in the top 100 nationally. With that said, Morgan is prone to bouts of Carlos Boozeritis, so it's not difficult to imagine Zeller having a bigger shot-blocking presence than usual in this one. Otherwise, Michigan's guards should have no fear when attacking the basket (THJ, this means you). Rebounding-wise, IU comes in at 91st in the country in rebounding margin (+3.1), which is okay. Michigan held its own on the boards in Bloomington, with both teams pulling down 28 and Michigan actually having a slight edge in offensive rebounds.

Michigan should have pretty consistent success on offense. Zeller is an Ent of a basketball player but isn't cleaning up everything in sight. It seems that IU has upped their 3-point defense, however; they currently sit at 5th best in the conference in that regard (32.7%).

Lastly, Victor Oladipo is tied for 4th in the conference in steals (1.7 spg), and he would figure to be matched up on Burke. Oladipo is not quite Craft as far as the Sean Avery pesk factor goes, but he is without a doubt Indiana's defensive stopper. Trey has had some trouble shaking good defenders in the past (Evans, Jackson, Craft)--not that he's getting much help--so he will once again need to bring his best game. No rest for the weary, as they say. Trey did turn it over 4 times in Bloomington, but I'd imagine that playing at home will do wonders for his confidence. Again, HE IS A FRESHMAN. Things like "confidence" are not just hackneyed sports talk gibberish when true freshmen are involved, even one as seemingly mature as Burke.

The Defense

Zeller taking the ball to the hoop, not being hasty

This is where things get dicey. Is this reminding you of the 2009 and 2010 Indiana games under RR, because, yes, that's what it reminds me of. Michigan will have its work cut out for it from inside out. As mentioned, Cody Zeller is a 6'11'' Ent playing basketball. This is by far Michigan's biggest matchup disadvantage, obviously. Indiana has four players averaging double digit points (Zeller, Watford, Hulls, Oladipo), and Will Sheehey and Verdell Jones chip in a respectable 9.5 and 8.2 ppg, respectively. This is a team with a lot of options on offense. They can go off the dribble, they can hit the three, and they can also throw in down low to Zeller. Most coaches in America would love to be able to do one of those things really well, let alone all three of them.

Zeller will get his; that's just an inevitability. However, Michigan let Watford score 25 on them again. Zack, it's time to purify yourself in the waters of Lake GRITetonka. Other matchups of note: Stu v. Hulls and THJ v. Verdell Jones. Verdell has gotten quite a bit of flak this year--from Indiana fans and neutral observers alike--and some of it has been deserved, some of it undeserved (as is usually the case). Jones matched Trey's 4 turnovers the first time around, but he's seemed to turn the corner a bit, having only turned it over a combined 5 times in IU's last 3 games against PSU, Wisconsin, and Iowa. IU does have four players in the conference's top 20 of TOPG (Jones, Watford, Hulls, and Oladipo), so this is a team that will turn it over. Michigan will need to turn some of these mistakes directly into points to mitigate the two glaring mismatches on the defensive end (Novak-Watford and Morgan-Zeller).

Of course, no defensive section could end without discussing Michigan's often turrible 3-point defense. Unfortunately, IU can shoot the lights out. They are second in the nation in 3-point percentage, shooting a ridiculous 43.8% as a team. Hulls and Watford are the two starters two worry about, but Sheehey, Roth, and Elston can all shoot it as well. I'm sure Coach Beilein regularly visits Indiana's athletics website at 3 a.m. in order to stare longingly at the 3-point percentage column of IU's player stats page.

Unlike the Ohio game, zone defense isn't really an option for this one I don't think. Michigan will once again need to get a little lucky, but good on-the-ball defense and effective doubling of Zeller will go a long way toward limiting IU's wide open looks.

  • IU has a tendency to go into Rex Grossman gunslinger mode from time to time; Michigan should be able to turn some turnovers into points. 
  • The Hoosiers have an okay rebounding margin but they don't really offensive rebound exceptionally well (10.9 per game, 7th best in the conference). 
  • Zeller is really tall and will probably score 20 without trying. 
  • Shaky 3-point defense+opponent that shoots 44% as a team=OH MY GOODNESS IT'S LIKE THE BASKETBALL EQUIVALENT OF BEN CHAPPELL ALL OVER AGAIN. 
  • Novak on Watford is...not ideal. But, then again, when has Novak's deployment on defense ever been ideal?
Who/What To Watch
  • Rotation and rebounding off of the double on Zeller. If THJ can bring an effective double and the other 3 defenders rotate appropriately (and rebound), Michigan will be probably be able to disrupt just enough possessions to give Michigan a close win. 
  • Again, you could say this every game, but Morgan on the pick and roll will be key. JMo had an efficient 12-point game on 5/6 shooting in Bloomington...Michigan will need that to happen again.
  • Novak and Stu from 3...insert "they're from Indiana and they're playing Indiana so it's something something" storyline here. Given how Trey and THJ have shot the ball, Michigan needs Stu and Zack to bounce back from their underwhelming perfomances in Columbus.  
Meaningless Prediction
Despite nearly every meaningful matchup seemingly favoring IU, Michigan only lost by 2 in Bloomington with both Trey and THJ shooing poorly. This game will certainly buck the mold of the stereotypical conference game, as I expect both teams will reach the upper 60s in points (or maybe even the 70s!). This is really a game that could go either way. Despite the mismatches, this is college basketball and Michigan is playing at home. Michigan's offensive strategy takes advantage of home cookin' (re: FTA) less than most teams, but they definitely will get some calls that they didn't get in B-town.

Indiana has looked incredibly mortal throughout conference play; if the Cornhuskers can beat them at home then I have faith that we can too. Watford and Zeller will get their points, but if Stu can keep Hulls in check and Michigan can D up on secondary 3-point threats like Roth, Sheehey, and Elston, Michigan stands a very good chance of getting a much needed home win. Michigan 72, Indiana 68. 

No comments:

Post a Comment