It all comes down to today. And would you have it any other way? At 4:00 p.m. this afternoon, Indiana will tip off at Michigan, with the outright Big Ten Championship on the line. Win and the Hoosiers will win it for the first time since 1993. Lose, and the Hoosiers will enter Championship Week, losers of 3 of their last 4.
Michigan has looked flawless at home this season. They’ve won 17 in a row at the Crisler Center and will look to make that 18. The Wolverines can earn a share of the Big Ten title for the second straight year, in a season they were expected to contend for it. Before the year began, the Big Ten coaches pegged Indiana and Michigan to finish 1-2 in the conference. Guess they got that one right.
The Hoosiers squandered away a chance at the outright title on Tuesday when they lost to Ohio State at home, while Michigan almost blew up against Purdue. Yet here we are. Victor Oladipo vs. Trey Burke. Cody Zeller vs. Mitch McGary. This game has all the ingredients to be an instant classic, much like the game on February 2nd in Bloomington, IN.
For Indiana to win they must forget the last three games. Tom Crean’s squad has looked lackluster since wins at Ohio State and Michigan State and need to regain that groove heading into Chicago. The Hoosiers still have as good a chance as any to win the National Championship, but they need to start that quest today.
Yogi Ferrell must lead the offense efficiently, the way he did on the road at Michigan State. If Indiana controls the pace against a tenacious Michigan attack, then they will do just fine if they connect on their shots.
Victor Oladipo must have his biggest game of the year. He will hear it from the Michigan faithful for a dunk as the seconds ticked off in the victory on February 2nd, and no doubt needs to let that go. If Oladipo plays his game, Indiana will steal one. He got into early foul trouble against Ohio State on Tuesday night, and you can look at that as a reason Indiana never really got going, but even in the second half with Oladipo back, the Hoosiers couldn’t muster much of an attack.
For Michigan to win, the Wolverines need to continue doing what they do at home, win. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 18 points on 8-16 shooting in the first matchup and will need to have another kind of night today.
Trey Burke won’t be hoisting 24 shots today. The guard played right into the Indiana mindset in the first game, going 9-24 and getting to the free throw line just 3 times. Michigan can’t beat Indiana using just these two guys, as seen in the game on February 2nd.
If Michigan really insists on winning today, they must figure out how to beat Indiana down low. Jon Horford strugled in the first game, only playing 10 minutes after an injury, and finishing with 4 points. Glenn Robinson wasn’t much better, going 1-6 for 2 points, all while not missing a single minute of action.
The only thing going right in game one was Mitch McGary who had 10 points and 7 rebounds down low and made some key shots to keep Michigan in the game. He and Nik Stauskas need to be big today, as Stauskas had only one 3-point field goal in the 81-73 loss.
I can’t wait for this game. Indiana needs this win to get back on track after three lackluster showings against MInnesota, Iowa and OSU. If they win today, they have all the momentum heading into Chicago, and would likely wrap up a #1 seed in the Midwest if they made it to the Big Ten Championship game.
Michigan can move up in the Big Ten standings and depending on what Michigan State does, could be the #2 seed and avoid Indiana until the finals. Playing at home is huge for the Wolverines and John Beilein’s squad would love another share of that Big Ten title. If Michigan wins, they’d enter the Big Ten tournament with all the momentum, and would be a team nobody wants to see.
What do I wanna see, though? 4:00 p.m. on my TV. This is going to be an instant classic.
Indiana 80 Michigan 76