Big Ten Basketball: Team Preview — The Brutal Mixer — Part IV
Michigan and Indiana
Hope and Some Anxiety
There are teams clearly in the NCAA Tournament, even at this stage of the season. Then, there are teams that have an above 50% chance of tournament participation, but no flat out guarantee. These teams will probably need to win nine conference games, perhaps eight may work out. These teams know that even though broadcast networks throw out projections of eight or more Big Ten teams making the tournament, the reality is five to seven get named. These teams are in the mixer; it is a tough place to be, knowing the league title is unlikely, but that other prizes remain in plain view.These teams also know that any slip up to a bottom team may equal a tipping point. Four teams are predicted by this site to be in the mixer: Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa. Teams such as Purdue and others, those in need of some help, are hoping that at least one mixer team slips up to provide a dance invite.
Michigan is in a little bit of trouble with four losses, three to highly ranked teams. Even though strength of schedule is talked about ad nauseam, the truth is the committee has a relatively set minimum number of wins both in and out of conference play.The Wolverines lost starters Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. as well as the injured Mitch McGary. This then becomes a very tough assignment to make the top five in the Big Ten, perhaps even unreasonable. Michigan is again young, and no go-to Trey Burke type guy is present. The defense on this team is near atrocious and rebounding will be tough going without McGary against most league teams.
There is hope and a very good offense, even if Michigan has been forced to run more of a half-court style. Considering silly, soft lane passes, and one-hand snap passes, that are rarely working, the Wolverines are still a team of minimal turnovers. The no-foul strategy sometimes pays off, but opponents understand this concept well, talking the ball to the hoop with little opposition. The outside shooting is again off and on style, game to game, with Skauskas, Robinson, and Irvin capable of hitting multiple threes in any game. The inside game relies on garbage cleanup and a few random entry passes for the only two big men left that can contribute, Morgan and Horford, but the above is still very inadequate for a league that demands inside presence.Michigan is shooting almost 40% from three-point range, an advantage of about 5% over typical teams. The Wolverines are 73% from the foul line and frankly should be shooting over 75% with the shooting talent on the floor. The two-year trend of missing foul shots down the stretch needs to be addressed, and yes there are ways to remedy this shortcoming. Six Wolverines are double figure or near double figure scorers, again giving the Wolverines balance.
This team can run and shoot, this team has good intelligence on the floor, but the small size and defensive liabilities will show up against the league’s elite teams. Nine wins in the conference and one in the conference tournament should get Michigan tournament bound, but still the Wolverines with 17 or 18 wins would be somewhat at the mercy of the selection committee.Indiana, like Michigan, also has had a somewhat rough start. Like Michigan, two premiere players, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, have moved on to new challenges. Indiana had three non-conference losses to Connecticut, Syracuse, and Notre Dame, all tournament level teams. The Hoosiers did beat up on the unpredictable Washington Huskies.
The athletic Yogi Ferrell leads the way for this year’s Hoosier effort. He is averaging nearly 18 points per game and is shooting 45% from the three-point range. Yogi is the guy IU wants on the line at the end of the game; he is shooting well over 80% on free throws.The other Hoosiers averaging double figures are 6’ 10” top ten freshman, Noah Vonleh, and always pesky and tough senior forward Will Sheehey. As is typical with top big men, Vonleh is shooting well over 50% from the field and is by far the best rebounder on the team. He is the future of Hoosier basketball, assuming an NBA one and done is not in the cards.
Jeremy Hollowell adds size to the Hoosier lineup. He is a sophomore that has some good upside in all phases of the game. Along with Vonleh, Hollowell provides a nice combo of inside shot blocking.
Troy Williams is another top fifty freshman on the roster. He is averaging nearly 8 points a game and provides even more size for Indiana.
Indiana is average from three-point range (32%) and a decent foul shooting team (72%). The Hoosiers rebounded very well in the preconference schedule, numbering about 45 rebounds a game and a + 13 margin. Turnovers have been a problem as the Hoosiers are around 16 a game.
This is a somewhat young team with plenty of athletic talent. Like Michigan, Indiana will probably have trouble against the league’s elite teams. Like Michigan, road wins will be double valuable.
Next up, a look at mixer teams that for a change may have better tournament luck: Iowa and Illinois.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu
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