Big Ten Breakdown: Indiana at Michigan

Remember early in the year when the majority of media (and even Big Ten coaches such as Tom Izzo) said the Big Ten title runs through Bloomington and Ann Arbor? Well, look at the scenario that’s played out.
If Indiana wins it claims the outright Big Ten title (the Hoosiers first outright championship since 1993). If Michigan wins the Wolverines will grab a piece of their second straight conference crown. So the world was right: Indiana at Michigan will determine the Big Ten Championship*.
(*Should be noted that if Michigan State and Ohio State join Michigan in the win column today – the Spartans and Buckeyes host Northwestern and Illinois, respectively – that there would be a four-way tie for the Big Ten title.)
Indiana won the meeting on the eve of Super Bowl Sunday 81-73 in a game that was around a four-point margin for much of the evening. The big difference was Indiana going 22-for-25 from the free throw line compared to just a 6-of-7 outing for Michigan.
And since your anticipation is killing you, here’s a big breakdown of this afternoon’s showdown in Ann Arbor (h/t to Kenpom):
Michigan  (24-5, 12-5) vs. Indiana (24-5, 13-4)
Line: Michigan -2
Kenpom Score: Indiana 74-73 (56%)
Kenpom ranking: Michigan 11th, Indiana 2nd
Offensive efficiency: Michigan 120.9 (2nd), Indiana 124.0 (1st)
Defensive efficiency: Michigan 93.3 (56th), Indiana 88.3 (13th)
eFG%: Michigan 55.2 (11th), Indiana 55.9 (7th)
TO%: Michigan 14.7 (1st), Indiana 18.9 (117th)
OR%: Michigan 32.6 (137th), Indiana 39.1 (9th)
FT Rate: Michigan 28.7 (330th), Indiana 48.0 (3rd)
Tempo: Michigan 64.7 (237th), Indiana 67.9 (87th)
If there has been one noticeable difference in both of these teams since the meeting a little more than a month ago it’s been this: Michigan’s defense has slowly regressed while Indiana’s ability to “put the knife in a turn it” when an opponent is down late has become an inconsistent thing. Eight games ago (when Michigan was 20-1) the Wolverines’ defensive efficiency was 89.5 and 31st in the country. As you can see above, it’s now above 93 and in the 50s — alarmingly high for a projected No. 2 seed.
Indiana’s had the following win probabilities late in their recent losses: 98.9% with three minutes to go at Illinois (IU led 70-62); 90.5% with 15 minutes to go in loss at Minnesota (IU led 44-36); 90% with under 15 minutes to play vs. Ohio State (IU led 39-34). Technically, only the Illinois game was in the closing stages but all of these games had the moments where a few hoops would have broken it open for the Hoosiers. In all cases Indiana’s offense went dry and a potentially dead team was able to grind out a win.
The last time these teams played the “three big factors” were as follows: Michigan’s ability to take care of the ball (Michigan only had 8 TOs in 69 possessions – an 8.6 TO%), getting to the free throw line (Michigan was just 6-of-7 while Indiana was 22-of-25), and the paint (both teams scored 34 points). Obviously, Michigan’s inability not to foul was the biggest difference as the Wolverines did well in most other areas of the game.
Tonight’s three big factors: Defending Trey Burke, the 3-point line, and Can Cody Zeller be stopped?
Defending Trey Burke: It’s no secret that Burke makes Michigan go. Honestly, the more I watch Burke the more I see Allen Iverson at Georgetown. Burke, like Iverson, has the ability to slow the game down almost in an instant and speed it up when necessary. Sure both make mistakes but both were always in control. I can’t help but wonder: Where would this team be without Burke? There’s no doubt it isn’t a Top 5 team. But are the Wolverines even in the Top 25? Is the 25-5 record closer to 20-10? That’s not a knock on Michigan but on Burke’s value.
Last time out Tom Crean used Yogi Ferrell on Burke while opting to use Victor Oladipo on Tim Hardaway Jr. It worked for the most part but I’m surprised he didn’t try Oladipo on Burke to, from the get-go, separate the head from the body. If Burke becomes a non-factor early it means Hardaway, Nik Stauskas or Glenn Robinson III would have to manufacture offense. All three can, but without Burke it really takes away from Michigan’s overall game play.
Then again, Crean is an Izzo disciple and probably lives by the philosophy of letting the best player go off but not allowing him to get teammates involved. If Burke goes for 40 today Michigan probably doesn’t win because that means Burke isn’t getting his 8-10 assists. It’s definitely a poison pill for Crean today. Can you let Burke get his 20-25 points but keep his assists to five or fewer or does Burke have a 17-10 game that leads Michigan to victory?
The 3-point line: The arc was pretty cruel to both teams last time out. Indiana (7-18) and Michigan (7-23) both had ample opportunities from deep but the shots just didn’t fall when needed. Indiana started the game 4-for-4 from 3-point range, the final one giving the Hoosiers a 16-7 lead less than four minutes into the game. From there, however, Indiana went 3-of-14 from deep. That’s a major part of Indiana’s game as the better Indiana is from deep in a game the more area of the post Zeller can operate in without bodies in his way.
Indiana shoots 41.8 percent from 3-point range (3rd best in the country). Michigan’s 37.7 percent puts it at No. 34. This isn’t so much about 3-point defense as it is about just whether the shots are falling. Both teams will get open looks, semi-open looks and contested treys. They’ll make and miss some in each category. The team that wins likely will hit an extra triple or two that will be the difference.
Defending Cody Zeller: I’m on record saying I believe Zeller is a solid player but he’s not an All-American. He has the look of a 10-12 year NBA guy who comes off the bench and maybe starts on a bad team. For as much talent as Zeller has I don’t see the fire all the time. Like other players who are always picked apart because their “motor” isn’t always running, Zeller sometimes becomes just another center. That’s not good for an Indiana team that becomes like some small mid-major team jacking up threes without a post presence.
Now, when Zeller is on he’s attacking the rim, calling for the ball, and seems to have a touch on every possession. (He was on when the team’s met in Bloomington, going for 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting). If you look at the games Indiana lost (or almost/should have lost) Zeller is not a focal point of the offense: vs. Michigan State (9 points on 2-of-7 shooting); at Illinois (14 points on 4-of-6 shooting); at Minnesota (9 points on 2-of-9 shooting); vs. Ohio State (17 points on 5-of-9 shooting). Zeller should be taking 15 shots minimum a game, not including times he gets fouled and goes to the line. So, that means upwards of 20 shots a game. When he’s in single digits it just shows a void in the Hoosiers’ offensive execution in that particular game.
If Michigan’s Jordan Morgan was 100 percent I could envision he and Mitch McGary holding down the fort on Zeller. Even though Morgan has played at least 22 minutes in his last three games he’s still not the Morgan of old. McGary has his flashes of greatness but his youth still rears its ugly head every now and then, especially against wiley veterans such as Zeller and the Big Ten’s other experienced big men.
Michigan knows Indiana will be feeding Zeller early and often. If it doesn’t force him into an off shooting day and keep him off the line Michigan likely will be playing catchup and will have to win the game by forcing turnovers and dazzle from 3-point range.
The Pick: I somewhat toggled on this pick for much of the weekend depending on the projected line I came up with. I initially settled on thinking Michigan would be a 1- or 2-point favorite. And that’s just what we have (Michigan -1). Like Indiana’s trip to East Lansing when the Spartans were 1 1/2-point favorites this number is more about how to even out the betting rather than who is likely to win. (Yes, that is what Vegas always does but correct me if I’m wrong: If Indiana was favored here at least 3/4 of the money would go on Michigan, no? I’m not being fooled. Indiana is the better team and has been playing better overall ball as of late despite dropping two of three. Key stat: Michigan is 1-8 ATS in its last nine game. That’s just another reason I’m going with the Hoosiers knowing Tom Crean’s club really deserves an outright Big Ten Championship and will play like it. 
Other Big Ten Games:
Illinois (21-10, 8-9) at Ohio State (22-7, 12-5), 12:30 p.m., Sunday (ESPN)Kenpom: Ohio State 72-61
Line: Ohio State -9 1/2
Analysis: It’s quite simple: If Ohio State wins it gives itself a chance to win a piece of the Big Ten Championship (which likely would net it the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament). Illinois is looking to lock up a .500 conference record and slay the Buckeyes for the second time this season (Illinois won 74-55 in early January). What’s interesting about this matchup is that you’d expect Illinois would have shot the lights out from deep in the 19-point win in January. The fact is Illinois went 8-of-27 (29.6 percent) from 3-point range. It was a 20-of-31 shooting day from inside the arc that was key. Ohio State wins this game but Illinois at least keeps it close and covers the 9 1/2. (Of course, that’s what I said when Illinois was at Michigan and the Illini gagged any chance of a cover away down the stretch)
Northwestern (13-17, 4-13) at Michigan State (23-7, 12-5)Kenpom: Michigan State 69-51
Line: Michigan State -19 1/2
Analysis: The Spartans have only seen a line this big twice this season (1-1). MSU was a 30-point favorite against Arkansas-Pine Bluff (won by 32) and it was a 23-point favorite against Louisiana-Lafayette (won by 3). (MSU also was an 18-point favorite against Nebraska in mid-January but only won by 10 in a game that was tied with six minutes to play). The Spartans don’t blow teams out and if they do it’s usually in the low double digits. MSU wins but Northwestern covers the 19 1/2. 
Last week: 2-4 (Duke kept me from an 0-5 Saturday!)
2013 College Hoops Year-to-Date: 62-33-1
2013 Year-to-Date: 70-36-1