As night descends, so we reach the final act.
Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post. O heavy lightness, serious vanity, prevent the misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms.
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|WHAT||Michigan at Indiana|
|WHERE||Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana|
|WHEN||9:00 PM Eastern, Saturday|
|LINE||Indiana –6 (Kenpom)|
Right: Victor Oladipo is terrifying, frankly.
One team stands between Michigan and sole control of the Big Ten, not to mention a likely perch atop both national polls. That team, of course, is Indiana, whose lone losses have come in overtime against Butler (neutral-site) and at home in a textbook Wisconsin slugfest.
Indiana's national player of the year candidate is seven-foot center Cody Zeller, an offensive force thanks to deft touch around the basket (69% on FGs at the rim, per hoop-math), decent mid-range shooting, one of the highest drawn foul rates in the country (7.0/40 min.[!]), and stellar offensive rebounding. He's also a very good defensive rebounder who provides a solid shot-blocking presence. He'll be a huge test for a Michigan team that should be without Jordan Morgan, their best on-ball defender among their big men.
Indiana's other national player of the year candidate is 6'5" wing Victor Oladipo, a brutally efficient shooter—making 69% of his twos and 18-of-34 threes—who hits the offensive glass nearly as frequently as Zeller. Oh, and he's also one of the best defenders in the nation at any position, boasting the #12 steal rate in the country along with his fair share of blocks. The big question for this game is who Oladipo will guard. Will Crean match him up with Trey Burke, in an effort to stymie Michigan's pick-and-roll game like Ohio State did with Aaron Craft? Or does that create too many other matchup issues, leading Crean to put him on Tim Hardaway Jr. or even Nik Stauskas? That largely depends upon what they do with...
...6'0" shooting guard Jordan Hulls, one of the most efficient offensive players in the country thanks to his dead-eye outside shooting (48.1% from three, where he takes 64% of his shots). His lethal shot adds much the same dimension to Indiana's offense that Stauskas's does for Michigan—never, ever help off of Hulls—but on the other end of the floor he's something of a liability. Indiana has three options defensively thanks to his shortcomings, which guarantee he won't match up with Burke: (1) play Oladipo on Burke and hope Hulls can hold his own against Stauskas, (2) go to a 2-3 zone, which they've done to middling success before and could go south in a hurry against Michigan's shooters, or (3) bite the bullet and lessen his minutes in favor of his more defensively proficient backups.
6'9" power forward Christian Watford isn't the most complete player, but he does a few things very well—namely, shoot threes (48%), get to the line, and hit the defensive boards. Watford drives Indiana fans a little crazy, however, because he's prone to inconsistency, hasn't developed an offensive game inside the arc (42% from two), and isn't a great defender. He'll be an interesting matchup for Glenn Robinson III—if Watford loses track of GRIII on the defensive end, there could be fireworks.
Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell is living up to his five-star hype, though the numbers may not suggest as much. While he isn't a great shooter and has been prone to freshman mistakes (including seven turnovers in the last two games), he runs the offense well and plays very solid defense, especially for a freshman. Ferrell isn't afraid to step up in big moments, either—if the game is on the line, expect the ball to at least start in his hands.
Like Michigan, Indiana doesn't use their bench too often, nor do they go very deep. 6'7" wing Will Sheehy is the only bench player to crack 40% of IU's available minutes (he's at 54%). Sheehy is a solid shooter both inside and outside the arc and gives Crean the option to go with a bigger lineup. 6'4" wing Remy Abell is in much the same mold. The Hoosiers will rarely go beyond the seven players above, especially in a game of this magnitude.
Indiana has eight wins against KP100 opponents but are somewhat lacking in the signature win department: their nine-point home win over Minnesota is looking less impressive by the day, while their best road win came at Iowa (they did beat #26 Georgetown in overtime at a neutral site). Their two losses, covered above, were upsets but by no means embarrassing ones.
Four factors, conference play only:
|eFG%||Turnover %||Off. Reb. %||FTA/FGA|
|Offense||53.3 (2)||19.9 (10)||39.2 (2)||52.1 (1)|
|Defense||44.3 (3)||22.0 (1)||32.8 (8)||27.9 (5)|
This may be the ultimate "something has to give" game. On offense, Indiana does two things extremely well outside of shooting the basketball: rebound and draw fouls. Michigan is #12 nationally in defensive rebounding and the best team in the country at keeping opponents off the free-throw line.
On the other end, Indiana's forte is forcing turnovers, a huge key for getting their offense going. What does Michigan do better than any team in the conference? Not turn the ball over, naturally. The team that is able to play their game is going to win, plain and simple.
Get Hulls off the court. While Sheehy and Abel are solid players, Hulls adds a completely different dimension to Indiana's offense by forcing defenses to respect his outside shot and being able to create that shot off the dribble—he's More Than Just A Spot-Up Shooter™, which is what makes him so dangerous. Indiana is going to have to hide him defensively, however, so if Michigan can identify that matchup and exploit it until Indiana is forced to choose between getting firebombed and taking one of their main offensive weapons off the court, that's a huge advantage for Michigan. If Hulls ends up on Stauskas, which is what I expect, I bet you'll see Stuaskas in a lot of pick-and-roll situation, where he's lethal even when he doesn't have a six-inch size advantage.
Stay out of foul trouble up front. This was a key for Horford and McGary against Northwestern and they combined for just four fouls, but the Wildcats aren't familiar with the concept of a post presence, let alone one as dangerous as Cody Zeller. This is not the game for Michigan to try and survive with Max Bielfeldt playing 15-20 minutes.
Stay aggressive, guards. That said, Michigan would like to find a way to get some easy points in transition, and they've been able to do that lately with Trey Burke being far more aggressive defensively. Burke's going against a freshman point guard who's been prone to turnovers, so I'd love to see him continue to attack the ball and try to fluster Ferrell into mistakes. The team that can hold onto the ball while getting out in transition should win this game, so along those lines...
Hold onto the damn ball. Self-explanatory.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT
THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES RIGHTEOUS VICTORY
Michigan by 1
With all due respect to KenPom, Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, the voodoo of Assembly Hall, and everything else favoring Indiana, I have to go with Michigan for one simple reason: the matchups. When Indiana has the ball, Michigan at least knows which of their starters is going to match up with each of Indiana's: Burke on Farrell, Stauskas on Hulls, Hardaway on Oladipo, Robinson on Watford, Horford/McGary on Zeller. Whether they'll be greatly effective is another issue, but at least the matchups make sense.
On the other end, Indiana has a huge problem, and that problem is slowing down the Burke/Hardaway/Stauskas triumvirate when two of their starting guards are each 6'0" tall—a freshman and a defensive liability, respectively. I don't think Indiana will be able to stay in a zone, not against Michigan's shooters, and that means either living with a terrible matchup (likely Hulls on Stauskas) or benching one of their best offensive weapons.
In a game with two teams this good, even at Indiana, I think that's enough to swing the result in favor of the good guys.