A Clash at the Top: Previewing Saturday’s Indiana-Michigan GamePosted by jnowak on February 1st, 2013
It’s been a while since we’ve had a Big Ten game as highly anticipated as this weekend’s showdown in Bloomington between Indiana and Michigan. We knew both teams were going to be top 10-caliber teams, but the opportunity to see No. 1 and No. 4 square off in front of a Saturday night audience is a real treat. There’s going to be no shortage of excitement and things to watch for, but here are a few key match-ups that will have an impact on the game and which team will take over sole possession of first place in a few days.
- Victor Oladipo vs. Trey Burke — There may not be a more enticing individual matchup in the conference than Burke versus Oladipo. Burke is arguably the conference’s top overall player and certainly one of the best point guards in the country. Oladipo is dynamic on both ends of the floor, but has emerged as perhaps the Big Ten’s top defender. It’s not just Burke’s scoring that impacts a game; it’s his passing, his leadership on the floor, and his ability to control a game. But Oladipo has a way of throwing everything off for an opponent. He gets in the passing lanes, makes deflections and loose balls, and makes you work just as hard to defend when he’s got the ball in his hands. Whichever player wins this head-t0-head matchup and affects the tone of the game in doing so will likely lead his team to victory.
- Cody Zeller vs. Michigan’s Frontcourt — Zeller, the consensus choice for preseason National Player of the Year, leads Indiana in scoring (16.1 PPG) but still has been unimpressive at times. He’s often failed to assert himself in big games and down the stretch, and went through a really tough period when he scored just 11 points combined in the Michigan State and Penn State games last week. He bounced back with a 19-point, 11-rebound performance against a talented Purdue frontcourt, though, and should have an easier time against Michigan. Jordan Morgan is not exactly a huge force in the paint but has experience and logs usually between 20-25 minutes per game; he sat out the Northwestern game Wednesday because of an ankle injury. That leaves freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III — who are both talented, but inexperienced — to handle Zeller. Here’s where the Indiana big man’s experience should pay off.
- Michigan vs. Assembly Hall — Indiana fans always get up for important games, and a week after a raucous crowd helped the Hoosiers defeat Michigan State, they’ll get another marquee game on campus. Indiana has only two home losses in the last two seasons — puzzling defeats at the hands of Minnesota last year and Wisconsin this season — reaffirming Assembly Hall as one of the toughest places to play in the country. Michigan, meanwhile, has a young team that hardly traveled during the non-conference schedule (one true road game, at Bradley), and whose lone loss this season came in a hostile environment at Ohio State (though the Wolverines did win at Minnesota while the Gophers were still hot). If Michigan can manage to neutralize the crowd, it will give the Wolverines a much better chance of getting out of there with a win.
- Indiana’s Zone vs. Michigan’s Three-Point Shooting — Despite some of the talented individual defenders on his roster, Tom Crean has chosen to exhibit a little more zone defense this season than most Big Ten teams are used to seeing. The Hoosiers used it quite a bit against Michigan State, and it will be interesting to see if they go to it again versus the Wolverines. Michigan has terrific guards in Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. who can get into the lane and create around the hoop, which might lead the Hoosiers to utilize the zone. But the Wolverines’ 41 percent three-point shooting is second in the conference behind only Indiana. If the Hoosiers employ this defensive scheme, Michigan freshman Nik Stauskas, who leads the conference with a 49.5 percent long-range average and 2.6 made treys per game, could have a field da, and it could be a game-changer.