Michigan Basketball: Michigan Wolverines at Indiana Hoosiers — Preview — Travel to Bloomington — Culture Shock
For about one hundred years, the good folks in Indiana have made it clear that dribbling a round ball is highly preferred to kicking an oblong spheroid. Those good folks of southern Indiana are known for hospitality, but a transformation occurs upon entering the storied Assembly Hall. The fans are not quite as nice as say across the street in Memorial Stadium.
First time visiting freshmen can stand and gape in awe at the banners and unique build of Assembly Hall. The seats go up and up and up, and those at the top are not conducive to good views, but at least the ticket owner is in the building. Assembly Hall is filling up again, as in the not so distant past when Bob knight teams attacked and won with near flawless home records.
The combination of the noise, the environment, and the heritage of the building can take a toll on inexperienced players. Strong players who have been consistent can all of a sudden get the deer in the headlight syndrome. Even starting, experienced players have been known to play with great tepidness.
Here is the skinny: Indiana is good, really, really good. It has taken three coaches and a few years to build the program back to excellence since the Knight era. But the task has been done, and Indiana has ascended back to the top shelf of college basketball. This team is a true contender for the national title.
There is great talent on this team and basketball skill to boot. Bob Knight had many Hoosier teams that did not have this much talent. The athleticism may be the equal of Ohio State. The offense is more dynamic and uses more options.
Now that the pieces are in place, Tom Crean is attacking on offense and defense. The Hoosiers are as aggressive as any team in the country, especially at home. The team is averaging around seven steals a game, and like Michigan and Ohio State turnovers will yield quick points. Indiana can play bully ball inside or hit the open three, as is the custom of true Hoosier watch charm guards.The inside play is based on America’s premier mobile big man, Cody Zeller. Several players can spark the outside game. But if Jordan Hulls heats it up, the day could be long and ugly for Michigan.
Michigan has plenty of factors to overcome in this game. First, the Hoosiers are one of the few teams to have equal or better athletes than Michigan. This means that Indiana can play tough perimeter defense, hit the offensive boards, run, or beat a team in transition.
Second, the Hoosiers play tougher and are more aggressive on defense. This can lead to a big lead, as in the Ohio State game, for the aggressor.
Third, Indiana’s strengths match up with Michigan’s weaknesses. Indiana has one of the best inside offenses in the country and Michigan has been an easy team to get the ball inside. If Zeller has free access to the ball down low at any time, Dunkirk is the likely result. Indiana is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the nation, and lately, especially since Morgan’s injury, Michigan is giving up far too many offensive boards. Indiana’s defense waits like sharks to pounce on soft passes on the perimeter. Michigan had better prepare and cut down turnovers to the minimum. That will be the key to hanging in the game.
Fourth, while every game is an independent sample of one, it is worth noting that Michigan has not beaten a good Indiana team in Bloomington since 1986. Talent is just one reason.
Indiana will come after Michigan from the opening jump ball and will work the ball to Zeller to see what strategy the Michigan defense employs. Coach Beilein mentioned in his press conference that the team has prepared for Indiana for more than the available two days after the Northwestern game. In the Northwestern game, Michigan used the classic double down defense a couple of times. This has not been that common from the Wolverine’s this season. So, it makes sense Michigan will at least try this strategy and gamble on the outside shot. The 1-3-1 may make more than a token appearance Saturday.
Michigan will have two true inside men to try and control Zeller. Mitch McGary is in a situation where he must control his play and emotions. Unlike other games, he will be needed, as will Jon Horford. It remains to be seen if Jordan Morgan can get a few minutes and contribute some fouls to keep all the centers at least in the game without severe foul limitations. Horford plays hard, McGary plays hard, but Zeller plays as hard and is a much better athlete.There will be some slashers in the game, namely Robinson, Hardaway, and Indiana’s absolutely awesome Victor Oladipo. Indiana will attempt to get Oladipo to the rim for a thunderous dunk or two.
Indiana’s preference is to get the opposition in quick foul trouble. Michigan is very cerebral about not committing fouls en masse, but may not have that luxury against Indiana. There will be no room for soft play that gives up easy uncontested baskets. This will be big boy basketball and it would be a shock if the Big Ten officials called anything but a brutal game.
Michigan will need to be very efficient on offense and that will fall to point guard Trey Burke. If Michigan does not pick up the dribble, or throw soft, lazy passes, turnovers can be minimized. Burke can beat the guards on cuts and picks, the true test of how he contributes will be based on how fast and effective Indiana’s help defense arrives at the scene.Michigan will need to hit the three-point options that come off the offense. The shooting backdrop, unlike at Ohio State’s Mausoleum, is favorable.
This will be maybe Michigan’s toughest test of the year. The Wolverine’s are playing on the road against a hot team that may be the best team in the nation. Indiana’s strengths will sorely test Michigan’s historic weaknesses.
Coach Beilein is well aware of what the challenge is, and the bet here is that the coaching staff preaches competing and execution. A big dose of poise would not hurt at all. But frankly, poise has been Michigan team strength this year. Even when getting pounded against Ohio State the poise was still present and the comeback was mounted.
The spread is 4 points Indiana’s way, mostly due to home court. IF MICHIGAN PLAYS WELL that may be very close. If Michigan plays very average, then -7 to -10 is more likely. This game is going to be tough and the view here is Michigan actually welcomes this challenge and is going to give it a big go in a full speed ahead mode. We now enter the phase of the schedule where the powers play the powers and the standings may be like an elevator the next three weeks.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff
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