Hoops Preview: Michigan at Indiana

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Wolverines travel to Assembly Hall in hopes of continuing the nine-game conference win streak, but Indiana will pose a problem in a tough road game.

Date: Sunday 2nd
Time: 1:00pm
Place: Assembly Hall; Bloomington IN
TV: CBS

The nine game conference win streak rolls on after Michigan beat Purdue Thursday thanks to another lights out shooting day that papered over some turnover problems early.  Next up is Indiana, another Big Ten team dealing with the loss of multiple first round draft picks last fall, but unlike Michigan, the Hoosiers haven't found a way to replicate the success of last year.

Indiana Hoosiers (13-8, 3-5)

Season so far: If you were looking to make value judgments on Indiana based on its non-conference schedule, you were likely out of luck.  Indiana beat every team it played outside of Kenpom's top-100 (most of those teams were 200+), while losing to the three solid teams.  Indiana was good enough, but somewhat erratic.

Games against Connecticut and Notre Dame were relatively close, but Syracuse blew the doors off Indiana.  Still, while these games didn't tell exactly what kind of team Indiana would have coming into the Big Ten season, it did show that there would be a step down from last year's team.

The first half of the Big Ten season has reestablished how low Indiana may be headed this year.  The Hoosiers started the conference season off with an overtime loss to Illinois followed by getting blown out against Michigan State at home.

The good: Indiana beat Wisconsin at Assembly Hall and evened the series against Illinois.  The bad: Indiana followed that Wisconsin win with an upset loss at the hands of Northwestern, and the Hoosiers lost at Nebraska in the team's last game.

How can Indiana be so inconsistent?

Kenpom Vitals:

#64 Ovr ORtg eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA
Off. 103.8 (#183) 49.3 (#183) 21.9 (#328) 39.8 (#10) 49.6 (#36)
Def. 94.3 (#19) 44.9 (#37) 18.3 (#178) 26.5 (#14) 33.9 (#52)

Those numbers are indicative of a young team that is athletic but not polished.  Young is an understatement, as Indiana has an experience ranking of 319 by Kenpom's numbers — the only Big Ten team with less experience is actually Michigan.

What Indiana can do is play defense and rebound.  Indiana's defensive numbers are comparable to last year's (the rank is better but the adj Def efficiency is up a bit).  Also, you'll notice Indiana's rebounding numbers, which are bananas.  The Hoosiers are top 15 in both offensive and defensive rebounding.  Indiana is also really good at getting to the line and avoiding fouls.

Of course, all of this comes at a price, and that price is a lot of missed shots and mistakes.  In conference-only play, Indiana has the worst TO% by far, which is right in line with the season long rate, and Indiana is actually shooting worse in conference games (45.3 eFG%).

Dangermen: The main name to know here is second year point guard Yogi Ferrell (6'0 So.), who has been Indiana's best offensive player this year.  He has solid 43/41/84 shooting splits, a solid assist rate (27.8), and plays the highest share of minutes (80% of available minutes).

Up front, Indiana has freshman center Noah Vonleh (6'10, Fr.), who has been a monster on the boards, putting up the 10th best individual DR% and a very good OR%.  If that weren't bad enough, his 77.9 FT rate is proof that he could be a matchup nightmare for Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford on the blocks.

This was supposed to be Will Sheehey's (6'7 Sr.) offense to take over after spending last year in the sixth man role, but things have yet to work out for Sheehey, whose ORtg, eFG% and rebounding rates are all down while his turnover rate is up.

Keys for Michigan: First, the Wolverines need to continue shooting the ball well.  Waiting for the bottom to fall out on this team's shooting percentages is probably a waste of time given just how consistent Michigan has been, but that will be the difference between Michigan winning comfortably or scraping by Indiana.  The Hoosiers are one of the worst shooting teams in the conference, ranking 11th in 2pt% and middle of the pack in 3pt%.  If Michigan continues to shoot around its average, Indiana likely won't be able to keep up offensively.

Second, the Wolverines need to continue to rebound the ball well on defense.  One of the ways Indiana can keep this game close is by exploiting an edge on the offensive glass and turning missed shots into second chance points.  Despite not playing with a very large front court, Michigan's defensive rebounding has been some of the best in the nation, ranking 36th nationally, although those numbers have slipped a bit in conference play where Michigan is 7th.

Outlook:  This game is scary because of where it will be played, but past the tough road environment, it is a game that sets up well for Michigan to win.  Outside of turnover issues early against Purdue, Michigan has been remarkably consistent at avoiding turnovers and not allowing opposing teams to generate much in the way of transition baskets.   Indiana does play at a faster tempo than Michigan, but the Wolverines should be able to dictate the flow of the game if they can continue to limit turnovers.  If Michigan can also limit Indiana's ability to get offensive rebounds, the Wolverines will have the chance to play the game they want: one in which Michigan's offense goes shot for shot against Indiana/s.  Given the results of the past 11 games, this is the kind of game Michigan is well positioned to win.

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