The winner of this game will invariably take over the No. 1 spot (or stay there) and will be sitting atop the Big Ten.
Pomeroy has Michigan ranked third (with the top offense, but 31st defense) and IU second (third best offense, and 16th defense), both teams sit behind Florida.
The reality is that if IU wants to win the Big Ten (and I mean outside of the tournament) AND end up with a one seed in the NCAA Tournament, then they absolutely have to win this game.
This will not be an easy task. Michigan has the most efficient offense in the country. The Wolverines are third in field goal percentage, hitting 51 percent of their shots taken. The team averages 1.189 points per possession, the best in D-1 basketball. IU averages 1.177, which comes in second.
This might be one of the rare times that IU will want to pace itself rather than push the tempo. Michigan excels at making teams pay off turnovers (which just comes with the best offense). Indiana has to therefore limit turnovers even at the expense of pace. To beat Michigan, IU is going to have to limit the number of possession that the Wolverines get. This means crashing the boards at both ends of the court. IU may consider taking a page out of Wisconsin's play book and simply get back on defense, rather than scrap and press.
- Trey Burke vs Yogi Ferrell. Burke is averaging 18 points and seven assists per game, he is easily the most impressive point guard in the NCAA. IU, and Ferrell, have to keep Burke from penetrating. He spreads the floor out with his quick cuts and allows his teammates to get wide open shots. IU won't want to put Oladipo on him because that would give Michigan a size advantage at other positions. Michigan likes to run a lot of screens to free Burke and IU will have to be extremely disciplined on defense to contain him. At the other end of the court, Ferrell is going to need to make Burke work and simply run him off the court.
- Mitch McGary and Jon Horford vs Cody Zeller. Both players measure at 6-10, so that should give Zeller an advantage. Zeller was in a bit of a slump until the Purdue game. He looks to be back on top of his game, which is bad news for Michigan. IU needs to look to Zeller early and often in an attempt to get the Wolverines front court in foul trouble. Michigan is lacking in size and foul trouble would lead to a multiple high percentage shots down low.
- Tim Hardaway Jr vs Victor Oladipo. Hardaway Jr is averaging 15.5 points per game. Oladipo has been playing defense at an insanely high level recently, and it will need to continue. Hardaway Jr, while explosive on offense, can be predictable and does favor going to his left off the dribble. Oladipo will easily keep up with him, but will have to stay close in transition in order to prevent easy baskets courtesy of Burke.
Indiana has a very fair shot of winning this game, especially with it being at Assembly Hall. This is the kind of game that will require an exceptional effort from everybody on the roster.
IU will win a tight one and jump back on top of the rankings, but it probably won't last long with the back loaded Big Ten schedule that the Hoosiers have.
Don't forget to follow us on twitter, @hoosiers101 where we will be live tweeting during the game.Tags: Cody Zeller, Indiana, Indiana Hoosiers, Michigan, NCAA, Tim Hardaway Jr, Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo, Yogi Ferrell
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