Hoops Preview: Indiana

Submitted by Ace on January 26th, 2017 at 3:36 PM


WHAT #43 Michigan (13-7, 3-4 B1G) vs
#30 Indiana (14-6, 4-3)
WHERE Crisler Center
Ann Arbor, Michigan
WHEN 9 pm ET, Thursday
LINE Michigan -1 (KenPom)
Michigan -4 (Vegas)
PBP: Rece Davis
Analyst: Jim Calhoun

Right: Obligatory. [Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog]


This week presents a huge opportunity for Michigan to get back on the right side of the bubble and improve their position for conference tournament seeding. Michigan is currently the second team out of the projected NCAA tournament field on the Bracket Matrix. Indiana and Michigan State (Sunday's opponent) are the two teams directly ahead of the Wolverines in the conference standings. Michigan needs a split, at the very least, if they don't want to put themselves in a very tight spot.


Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.

Pos. # Name Yr. Ht./Wt. %Min %Poss ORtg SIBMIHHAT
G 2 Josh Newkirk Jr. 6'1, 195 62 19 102 No
Most PG-like player, but only has 1.6:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
G 4 Robert Johnson Jr. 6'3, 195 65 22 120 Not At All
Sniper beyond the arc, solid finisher inside of it. 5th in B1G in eFG%.
G 1 James Blackmon Jr. 6'4, 200 71 24 126 Not At All
High-volume, high-efficiency scorer. Defense can be an issue.
F 15 Zach McRoberts So. 6'6, 200 26 7 133 Kinda
OG Anunoby's nearly invisible replacement. 6/17 FG in 211 minutes.
C 31 Thomas Bryant So. 6'10, 255 67 21 118 No
Excellent rebounder and post scorer, good shot-blocker, now hits occasional three.
C 20 De'Ron Davis Fr. 6'10, 240 32 25 119 Very
Solid backup C. 54% on FGs, effectively crashes offensive boards.
G 11 Devonte Green Fr. 6'3, 186 28 18 101 No
Efficient scorer (57/39/75 shooting splits) but very turnover-prone.
G 0 Curtis Jones Fr. 6'4, 175 31 19 112 No
Outside shooting threat, struggling to finish inside arc.
F 13 Juwan Morgan (inj.) So. 6'7, 230 47 16 136 Yes
Great rebounder and finisher this year. Status unclear due to ankle injury.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]


While Indiana has won their last three Big Ten games following a 1-3 start, that recent stretch hasn't exactly been kind to them anyway. Forward Juwan Morgan, who's shooting 72%(!!!) on two-pointers this year, has missed the last two games with a foot injury; his status for tonight is unclear. Do-everything forward OG Anunoby injured his right knee against Penn State and will miss the remainder of the season. With forward Collin Hartman also expected to miss the year with a knee injury he sustained in the preseason, Indiana is hurting for depth up front, especially if Morgan can't go tonight.

The Hoosiers still have plenty of firepower, however. James Blackmon Jr. is averaging 19 points per game in Big Ten play; he's a lethal shooter who's made significant strides in his ability to finish at the rim, and his offensive output more than makes up for his less-than-stellar defense. Blackmon is joined in the backcourt by a similarly productive scorer in Robert Johnson, who's posting 58/43/77 shooting splits while taking slightly more threes than twos.

The weak spot in the backcourt is at point guard, where Josh Newkirk is struggling both his shot and turnovers. IU is still looking for answers there in a post-Yogi world: freshman backup Devonte Green has posted better shooting numbers than Newkirk but is similarly turnover-prone; fellow freshman backup Curtis Jones is a good outside shooter who coughs it up less, but he doesn't dish out many assists and he's had a tough time scoring inside the arc.

While sophomore center Thomas Bryant has been up-and-down as a scorer of late, he's still quite dangerous in the post, and he does all the big man stuff quite well. He's even flashed the ability to knock down threes this year, though he's only 2-for-11 in B1G games. Freshman De'Ron Davis has proven to be a very capable backup, making 54% of his field goals (all twos), getting to the line often, blocking shots, and crashing the offensive boards with aplomb.

If Morgan can't go, the four spot will be manned by Zach McRoberts, whose offensive impact is almost entirely limited to grabbing rebounds. In his 57 minutes over the last three games, coinciding with his significant uptick in minutes with Morgan and Anunoby out, he's pulled down five offensive rebounds and attempted only five shots.


Even before the injuries, this was a tough squad to figure out. Indiana has wins over #9 Kansas and #8 UNC this season; they also have losses to #124 Fort Wayne and #90 Nebraska (at home). They managed to hold serve at home against Michigan State last Saturday with Anunoby and Morgan out; Blackmon poured in 33 points on only 16 FGA, while Johnson and Bryant added 17 and 11, respectively.


Conference-only stats. Small sample size caveats apply.

Four Factors explanation

Indiana has surpassed Michigan as the Big Ten's most efficient offense despite their turnover issues, which they compensate for with lights-out shooting—they're making 54% of their twos and 40% of their threes in conference play—and great offensive rebounding. Even with Onunoby and Morgan out, six different Hoosiers grabbed offensive boards against MSU, led by McRoberts with three.

The Hoosier defense ranks 11th in the conference, though we'll see if Michigan can take advantage of their primary weaknesses: rebounding and fouling. One weakness the Wolverines are built to exploit: IU's B1G opponents are making 42% of their three-pointers.


Attack the four. DJ Wilson is coming off arguably his best game at Michigan and should get a choice matchup; he'll either be going against McRoberts, who's only 6'6", 200, or the version of Juwan Morgan who's fresh off an ankle injury. If McRoberts is the guy, Wilson should be able to provide a lot of help on defense as long as he stays disciplined on the glass, and against either player he should maintain his aggressiveness on offense.

Trust the post defense. I realize that statement is rather terrifying, but Michigan must be able to contain Thomas Bryant without sending in help from the perimeter or James Blackmon and Robert Johnson are going to make it rain. The last two games have been encouraging on that front; Wagner and Wilson did a solid job on Wisconsin's Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes. If Wagner gets into foul trouble like he did against the Badgers, though, M is in big trouble; at this point, I'd prefer to see John Beilein put Wilson on Bryant and bring in an extra wing in such a situation if Jon Teske isn't ready to play over Mark Donnal.

Attack off turnovers. Indiana doesn't do a good job of taking care of the ball, which could provide the edge Michigan needs in this game. According to hoop-math, IU opponents have a 63.5 eFG% on shots coming in transition off a steal, while they allow a 43.5 eFG% on non-transition attempts. Bryant and Davis are imposing rim-protectors; beating them down the floor is a good way to get around that.


Michigan by 1.

DJ Wilson should be the difference in this game. He'll either have a significant size and skill advantage or be going against a player trying to bounce back from an ankle injury. Beilein mentioned after Illinois that he wants more of the offense to run through Wilson; we should see that tonight.


UMHoops preview. Excellent article from MLive's Brendan Quinn on how Zak Irvin is underappreciated:

Has Irvin taken bad shots? No doubt. Are there times he should have deferred? Absolutely.

But there's a mischaracterization of why this dynamic exists.

As the conversation in the atrium moved on, Beilein was told, "He looks like the only guy willing to take certain shots on this team."

"Yeah, that's right, that's right," Beilein responded.

"So that's a real thing?"

Beilein, the ultimate diplomat: "That's a real -- well, I wouldn't say that, but he ... let's say, he's not the only one willing, but he's the most-likely-to-be-willing."

A stat (via hoop-math) that supports Quinn's premise: Irvin takes 26% of Michigan's field goal attempts in the last five seconds of the shot clock, and that figure includes attempts when Irvin isn't on the floor.



January 26th, 2017 at 4:05 PM ^

Why do we keep saying, "if (fill in the blank) happens, then Michigan will be in a tough spot with regards to the tournament?"  We're in a tough spot now.  We gotta win some games!


January 26th, 2017 at 4:05 PM ^

I'm glad that MLive article was referenced. I said the same thing about Irvin in a rant/post earlier this week. The dude has flaws, but he's stepped up into a role that's probably a little large for him when no one else would. He's sacrificed personal efficiency to help the team and opened himself up to massive criticism, which our fan base has had no problem giving him. He's wildly under appreciated, he's the Devin Gardner of basketball, and his presence will be greatly missed next year.


January 26th, 2017 at 4:05 PM ^

The Irvin - Hero Ball talk is pretty damn accurate.  He takes A LOT of late shots, and many of them are not good ones considering there is often an open shooter within passing range.

L'Carpetron Do…

January 26th, 2017 at 5:42 PM ^

NEED THIS ONE TONIGHT!  Go Get Em!  I can't stand Indiana and their doofy-ass coach.  Have to win tonight because they go to Bloomington  in 2 weeks where they're bound to get screwed by the refs.

This kicks off a stretch of 5 straight rivalry games and they're all winnable.  A little streak could light a fire under this team's ass.  I want this team to prove to us that we were wrong about them!



January 26th, 2017 at 7:15 PM ^

I like the line. The two lines before Wisconsin were way off esp Nebraska but this one is better. It's a different team when jb lets them play d. It will be interesting to see if they can put tenacious defense and good perimeter shooting together same game.


January 26th, 2017 at 7:19 PM ^

Acting as if this team hasn't turned a corner? Lost by only 4 at wiscy and blew out Illinois. Didn't shoot well in either game, dj didn't score at wiscy. Come on everyone, couple shots drop and we're better than MSG. Much better.