Three Thoughts on the Indiana – Michigan RematchPosted by Deepak Jayanti on March 11th, 2013
Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.
If you tuned into ESPN’s Sportscenter last night or any sports channel for that matter, you would have seen “the roll” that gave Indiana its first outright Big Ten title in 20 years. After two months of arguably the most competitive regular season in recent history, Jordan Morgan’s tip-in rolled off the rim and the Hoosiers beat the Wolverines 72-71 to win the conference crown and probably lock up a #1 seed for the NCAA Tournament. The game will be remembered for the final play and Trey Burke’s missed free throw on the previous front end of a one-and-one, but the first 39 minutes featured two competitive teams that had scouted each other effectively and showed that they were ready for postseason basketball. The following are three key thoughts about one of the best games of the season.
- Once again, the Hoosiers forced Burke to beat them with his jumper: After two games against Burke, the Hoosiers’ Victor Oladipo has essentially written the book about how to make Burke one-dimensional — take away his dribble penetration and make him beat you with his jumper. Burke has averaged about 14 field goal attempts throughout the season but in both games against Indiana, he has taken 24 and 20 shots, respectively. Sure, Burke averaged 22.5 PPG in those two but he seems to be out of rhythm when he can’t drive to the basket to get his wings — Glenn Robinson and Nik Stauskas — active and involved in the offense. Oladipo and even Yogi Ferrell during certain possessions played excellent defense against the pick-and-roll, challenging Burke to drain shots from beyond the arc. John Beilein’s offense needs the wings to be more involved, but watching Burke hoist long-range shots is not part of the plan. It isn’t like the talented point guard is a ballhog, but Oladipo’s defense on Sunday never let him get into his normal rhythm because he took almost twice the number of shots than he usually does in a game.
- Zeller and Oladipo seem to be ready for basketball in March: If your team were to lose a key game in March, you’d want them to go down with your best player taking the last shot. Oladipo and Zeller are clearly the best two players — not just on their team, but possibly the entire conference — and they gave their best efforts yesterday by scoring 14 and 25 points, respectively. More impressive than the scoring was their sheer will in attacking the basket during the second half. Both players were surrounded by the maize (err “neon”) jerseys every time they caught the ball in the paint but they were relentless going to the rim without straying away from the game plan. Together, they combined for 11 offensive boards and there were a couple of plays during the second half where Zeller dumped the ball down low so that Oladipo could post up against the smaller Burke. Zeller made the game-winning shot as he went up strong with both hands for a baseline drive and layup against Jordan Morgan. Despite Michigan’s tough interior defense, his teammates went to him on the low block and he delivered which shows their overall commitment to their best offensive option. Over the next few weeks, if both IU stars continue to contribute offensively, Tom Crean’s team should be well on their way to Atlanta.
- The Wolverines defended effectively which is a positive sign heading into the postseason: Let’s not forget that if Morgan’s tip-in would have rolled in, the hoops world may be talking about Michigan’s resurgence in March and a possible run at a #1 seed. But the last second play shouldn’t take away their defensive effort yesterday as they held the Hoosiers to 43% overall shooting from the field. Zeller, Oladipo and Christian Watford shot a combined 18-of-44 (41% FG) from the field as Michigan’s help defense was excellent for most of the game. One of the knocks on the Wolverines has been their weak defense, which ranks ninth in the conference in terms of effective FG%, but it is clear that they are determined to step up their defensive intensity when there are high stakes on the line. The outcome did not help the Wolverines’ Big Ten or NCAA Tournament seeding but if they continue their improved help defense, they should be able to compete against the other top teams around the country such as Duke, Louisville and Georgetown.