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Preview: #8 Michigan Basketball vs. #1 Indiana

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The NCAA Tournament stakes for Michigan's Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal matchup with conference champion Indiana: win and in.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Basics

Who: #10 Indiana Hoosiers (25-6, 15-3 Big Ten)

When: Friday, March 11th, at Noon ET (ESPN)

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse -- Indianapolis, Ind.

Spread: Vegas: TBA | KenPom: TBA

The Stage

A failure to capitalize. It's what has plagued the Michigan program the past two years.

When the 2014 season ended, Michigan had been arguably the most accomplished Big Ten team the previous four years. Two Big Ten titles. Two Elite Eights. National runner-up. Two Big Ten Players of the Year. A consensus National Player of the Year. Two lottery picks. Four first-round picks. Michigan was hot. Michigan had momentum. The days of missing the NCAA Tournament consecutive years were in the rear-view mirror.

Or so we thought.

Michigan is on the verge of missing the NCAA Tournament for the second straight time since that season. This afternoon's win against Northwestern was nice, but it most likely isn't enough to push Michigan back into the field. Injuries are to blame, no doubt. Few teams can overcome the loss of an NBA first-round talent and another experienced guard mid-season, and it's particularly bad luck that it's happened to Michigan both seasons.

But injuries aren't the only issue. Michigan has failed to capitalize repeatedly. John Beilein failed to capitalize on the recruiting trail when the spotlight was focused on Ann Arbor, striking out on numerous top-50 targets. Michigan failed to capitalize in four overtimes during the Big Ten slate last season, costing U-M any shot at making a run for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. Michigan failed to capitalize when it hosted two top-tier teams in Indiana and Michigan State in the same week this season. Michigan failed to capitalize when it had four chances to add a key fourth top-100 win the past three weeks, which is why Michigan is on the wrong side of the bubble rather than the right side.

It's become an alarming pattern.

But it's a pattern that Michigan can end tomorrow.

Win and in. That's likely what is at stake when the Wolverines walk onto the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court to challenge the home state Hoosiers. Michigan can add not only a fourth top-100 win but a fourth top-25 win, demonstrate to the selection committee that it is an NCAA Tournament team, and rewrite the final chapter of its 2015-16 season.

Michigan just needs to finally capitalize.

The Opponent

To capitalize, Michigan must stop a surging Indiana outfit. For the first two-thirds of the season, Indiana's candidacy as a Big Ten contender was legitimately questioned. The Hoosiers' 17-3 (7-0 Big Ten) record had been padded by a soft schedule, and the Hoosiers were Mr. Hyde in Assembly Hall and Dr. Jekyll outside of it. However, they proved their doubters wrong. They closed the regular season with six wins in seven games, sweeping Iowa and taking care of Purdue and Maryland at home, and clinched an outright Big Ten championship. Tom Crean was able to use his handy-dandy scissors to cut down some nets, and it may not be the last time he does so this season. Indiana is playing its best basketball at the moment and enters the postseason as a top-10 team on KenPom (#9).

It should be of little surprise that Indiana has one of the nation's elite offenses. The Hoosiers are fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency (119.6) because they shoot the lights out (2nd in eFG%) and their shot selection is impeccable. They rarely settle for mid-range jumpers, which are the least efficient shots in basketball. Instead, they go to the rim or fire away from downtown, and they're fantastic at both (7th in 2P%, 5th in 3P%). Plus, when their shots actually don't go in, they excel at grabbing those rebounds for second-chance points (16th in OR%). However, Indiana does have an Achilles heel, and it's its sloppiness with the ball (275th in TO%). But IU's remarkable shooting masks it.

What should be a surprise is Indiana's defense, which is 65th in adjusted efficiency (98.2) after being 214th in the same category last season (104.8). What's even more surprising is that little stands out about Indiana's defense statistically despite the unit's drastic improvement. The Hoosiers are 154th in shooting defense, 116th in turnover rate, and 123rd in defensive rebounding rate. The only one of the four factors in which they are not middling is free-throw rate (37th). However, it's not a coincidence that offenses have had a tough time launching threes (43rd in 3PA%) and passing the ball (37th in ast%). In James Blackmon's absence, Indiana's athletic perimeter defense has become disciplined and feisty, forcing opponents into many rushed, end-of-the-shot-clock isolation sets.

The Personnel

Point guard Yogi Ferrell has solidified himself as one of Indiana's all-time greats thanks to a sensational senior season. Not only did the two-time All-Big Ten first-team selection average 17.1 PPG, 5.5 APG, and 3.9 RPG, few do it as efficiently as he does (123.1 ORtg, 25.0 usg%). Ferrell is an incredible shooter (42.1 3P%), but it's even more incredible that 52.2 percent of his made threes are assisted. His lightning quickness gives him the separation he needs to create his own shot. It also permits him to blow past a defender, suck in the help, and locate a teammate for an easy layup or open three (27.7 ast%). Ferrell is one of the best offensive guards in the country. And his defense ain't bad either.

Sophomore Robert Johnson had been Ferrell's partner in the backcourt, but he's missed the past three games with a high ankle sprain and his status for tomorrow is unknown. Senior Nick Zeisloft has done quite well in his stead, averaging 11.3 PPG, because he's one of the best sharpshooters. He's knocked down 43.2 percent of his threes this season and 9-of-16 (56.3 pct.) in his brief stint as a starter. This is where he does almost all of his damage, too, because only 14 of his 153 field-goal attempts have come from inside the three-point line. Add in that Zeisloft barely turns over the ball (11.1 pct.) because he only catches and shoots, and it's easy to see why he has the third-best offensive rating (134.9).

Indiana starts two forwards in juniors Troy Williams and Collin Hartman that have contrasting styles. Williams is one of the most athletic men in the Big Ten, featuring an incredible vertical leap. This helps him convert his shots around the basket (13.0 PPG, 58.5 2P%), draw contact (50.9 FTR), corral rebounds on both ends (7.2 OR%, 19.7 DR%), and play an active role on defense (3.3 blk%, 2.5 stl%). Williams doesn't have the best outside shot (32.8 3P%), but he is capable of knocking down those jumpers. On the other hand, Hartman is someone who has one of the better outside shots (37.8 3P%). He functions as a catch-and-shoot specialist, though he can score down low when he's not standing on the perimeter (53.7 2P%). He also is a bit too physical on defense (5.2 FC/40).

Freshman Thomas Bryant has done a tremendous job shoring up the center spot for Indiana. The former blue-chip recruit averaged 11.5 PPG and 5.8 RPG in just 22.3 MPG in his first season in Bloomington. He is one of the best finishers in college basketball, owning the third-highest two-point shooting percentage (71.3 pct.), thanks in part to Ferrell's ability to draw in defenses. He also gets to the free-throw line often (55.8 FTR), is a menace on the glass (12.2 OR%, 18.4 DR%), and blocks a fair number of shots (4.1 blk%). However, his minutes can be limited due to his knack for foul trouble (5.0 FC/40).

The Hoosiers also receive a strong contribution from their bench. This is led by former Wolverine center Max Bielfeldt and freshman forward OG Anunoby. In fact, Bielfeldt was named the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year earlier this week, and his performance this season has left many Michigan fans wondering why John Beilein didn't bring him back. Well, hindsight is 20/20. Bielfeldt and his magnificent calves have played at a level he never reached during his time Ann Arbor. He's been effective scorer (8.0 PPG) inside (54.7 2P%) and out (43.6 3P%), a force as a rebounder (12.1 OR%, 18.6 DR%), and a strong defensive presence down low (3.0 stl%, 2.8 blk%). Speaking of strong defensive presences, Anunoby can lock down opponents on the perimeter. His length and athleticism allow him to swallow ball-handlers in front him of him and make him tough to beat. Anunoby also knocks down his shots from pretty much anywhere on the floor (57.1 2P%, 40.0 3P%), though he has been in a shooting slump for the past 11 games or so.

The Keys

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure: Indiana's weak link on offense is its penchant for turnovers, and the odds are not high that Michigan's defense will be able to contain Yogi Ferrell. This should lead to lots of open shots for the Hoosiers as Ferrell creates his own look or connects with his teammates. Michigan needs to limit those looks by forcing turnovers.

Box Out: Michigan has been one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country (21st in DR%), and Indiana has been one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country (16th in OR%). Michigan likely will have its hands full with the waves of offense that the Hoosiers will bring. Michigan can't allow them to have second chances.

Win the Three-Point Battle: Michigan and Indiana are two of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation. In this game, the Hoosiers should have an easier time getting open on the perimeter than Michigan because they have a much stingier perimeter defense. Nonetheless, Michigan needs to heat up and make it rain from downtown.

The Prediction

Indiana 83, Michigan 67