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Game Preview: Can the Hoosiers Knock Off the Wolverines?

Two Big Ten heavy hitters slug it out
Publish Date: 01/05/2019
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis
Source: Yahoo Sports

When: 4:30 PM ET Sunday, January 6th

Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan

How to watch: CBS

The #21-rated Indiana Hoosiers (12-2, 3-0) will travel to Ann Arbor on Sunday as they seek to upset the #2-ranked Michigan Wolverines (14-0, 3-0) in their toughest test of the Big Ten season so far. The match-up will be the beginning of a tough stretch of games for the Hoosiers, as they play three of their next four contests on the road. This should be a good gauge for Indiana, who are trying to show they can play with the top teams in the country, and that the disappointing performance against Duke earlier in the season was a fluke rather than the norm.

Michigan boasts a three-headed monster for their team, relying heavily on Ignas Brazdeikis, Charles Matthews, and Jordan Poole to set the tone for the team. Brazdeikis has been one of the best Freshmen in the nation this season, leading Michigan in scoring at 16.4 per game as well as shooting 42.2% from behind the arc. Brazdeikis also has good size and length, standing at 6’7 and 215 pounds, and he has shown good scoring ability from everywhere on the court and should be priority number one for an Indiana defense that has been prone to letting shooters catch fire. Matthews is the second leading scorer for the Wolverines, adding 13.9 per game, though he prefers to do most of his work in the paint. He is an excellent cutter and possesses an effective mid-range game. Poole is the only other Wolverine in double figures, managing 13.8 per game, including a stunning 48.6% from the three-point line. It is imperative that the Hoosiers get out to contest his shots behind the arc and not let him get comfortable from deep. Joining those three in the starting line-up is Junior guard Zavier Simpson who is averaging 6.8 points and 6.1 assists on the season and has proven to be an excellent calming presence for the Wolverines. Big man Jon Teske rounds out the starting 5 for Michigan, contributing 7.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and excels at making the hustle plays needed to win.

The biggest task for the Hoosiers offensively will be trying to find a way to crack the vaunted defense of the Wolverines. Michigan comes into this game ranked as the #1 defense in the Big Ten and the third best nationally, holding opponents to just 55.1 points per game on the season. The Indiana offense has been very effective so far this season, leading the Big Ten and coming in at 2nd in the nation, shooting 52.9% from the field, but the Michigan defense will provide a tougher challenge than any defense they have faced so far this season. It will also be important for the Hoosiers to get out to a fast start. Indiana has an unhealthy habit of spotting early leads to teams before settling into the game, and that’s a strategy that could see this game get out of hand for Indiana. Michigan’s defense is too good to try to play from behind all game, and letting the crowd get into it early could prove disastrous for Archie Miller’s team. Indiana should be confident in their ability to fight back from deficits but spotting early points to a team as talented as Michigan may prove a fatal mistake.

Michigan will be the best team Indiana has faced since taking on Duke, and the Hoosiers will need to play their best game of the season to pull off the big upset. It is also important to note that talented Freshmen guard Rob Phinisee is expected to miss his second straight game. He is trying to work his way back from a concussion.

Following the Michigan game, Indiana will be on the road for another tough task as they travel to College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins, before returning home to take on the #24-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers.

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