Ann Arbor, MI (Sports Network) - A share of the Big Ten Conference regular-
season title is up for grabs for the seventh-ranked Michigan Wolverines, as
they close out the regular season with a home date against the second-ranked
Indiana Hoosiers at the Crisler Center on Sunday afternoon.
Indiana has already clinched a share of the conference crown, but with a win
in this matchup it would secure its first outright regular-season championship
since 1993. Although undoubtedly one of the best teams in the nation, the
Hoosiers have slipped up of late with losses in two of their last three,
including a 67-58 home defeat at the hands of Ohio State on Tuesday night.
Michigan would earn a share of the title for the second straight season if it
were to come out victorious in this contest, marking the first time since
1985-86 it has accomplished that feat. The Wolverines have won two straight
nail-biters, beating nationally-ranked Michigan State on March 3 (58-57), and
outlasting Purdue on the road on Wednesday (80-75) to improve to 25-5 on the
season, and they are a perfect 17-0 at home and 32-1 in Ann Arbor over the
past two seasons.
Indiana hosted then-No. 1 Michigan on Feb. 2 and came away with an 81-73 win
to extend its lead in the all-time series to 102-56.
The Hoosiers put together one of their worst performances of the year the last
time out, shooting less than 40 percent from the field while registered their
lowest point total in the nine-point home setback. Cody Zeller was strong in
defeat, pouring in 17 points, while Christian Watford added 12 points. It was
an atypical performance for Indiana, which ranks third in the nation in
scoring (81.1 ppg) and sixth in field goal percentage (.491). Zeller is in the
midst of an All-America-caliber campaign, scoring 16.5 ppg on 57.3 percent
from the field while adding 8.0 ppg and more than a block and a steal per game
to boot. Victor Oladipo (13.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg) is also an outstanding shooter at
greater than 63 percent. Watford (12.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Jordan Hulls (10.6
ppg) are equally deadly from beyond the arc, combining for 124 3-pointers at a
48.2 percent clip, while Will Sheehey provides a spark off the bench with 9.5
ppg. In addition to its incredible offense, IU also plays well at the other
end of the court, allowing only 61.9 ppg.
Michigan appeared to be in deep trouble against Purdue in its latest game, as
it was down by 12 midway through the second half on the road, but the team
caught fire down the stretch, shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 17-
of-22 from the foul line after intermission, as it captured the ever-important
victory. Trey Burke was the catalyst in the triumph with 26 points, seven
assists and three steals, while Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway, Jr. poured in
17 and 16 points, respectively. Much like Indiana, the Maize and Blue boast a
very powerful offense (75.6 ppg) while supporting it with an equally-strong
defensive approach (62.3 ppg). Burke is one of the nation's elite point
guards. Not only does he hand out a Big Ten-best 6.9 apg with nearly a 4-to-1
assist-to-turnover ratio, but he nets the second-most points in the league
(19.1 ppg) on an outstanding 49.2 percent shooting from the field. Hardaway,
Jr. (14.9 ppg) and Stauskas (11.6 ppg) are also in the midst of solid seasons,
and the top-three scorers have each drilled at least 56 3-pointers. Glenn
Robinson III rounds out a potent attack with 10.9 ppg and 5.5 rpg.
The Sports Network