Michigan (18-1, 13-1 in Big Ten play) is a team on a mission right now in their pursuit of clinching a Big Ten regular-season championship. The program was able to get a step closer to achieving that goal on Saturday afternoon in a 73-57 road win over the Indiana Hoosiers.
The win means Michigan needs one win in its final three games or a loss from Illinois to clinch its first regular-season conference title since 2013-14. The Wolverines also squeezed past Baylor to take over the No. 2 spot on KenPom following Saturday’s victory.
Franz Wagner led Michigan in scoring on Saturday afternoon with 21 points on an efficient 6-for-9 shooting performance. He was also perfect from the free-throw line, sinking all eight of his attempts. Isaiah Livers (16 points, 10 rebounds), Mike Smith (14 points) and Hunter Dickinson (13 points, 7 rebounds) were the other double-digit scorers in the game for the Wolverines.
There were some concerns coming in that this might be a trap game for Michigan due to playing a game on Thursday night. The biggest compliment that can be paid to this team was that it won going away despite not playing its best basketball. That might also say something about the state of Indiana’s program, as the loss today dropped them to 12-12 on the season.
This was not a sterling performance from an offensive perspective for the Wolverines, but they found a way to get the job done. They went into the locker room at the half up 42-33, but their output was bolstered by knocking down 16 of the 18 free-throw attempts in the first 20 minutes of play.
Michigan won handily once again due to its elite defense, which has rebounded spectacularly since giving up 87 points at Ohio State last Sunday. They responded by holding Iowa to its worst offensive showing of the season on Thursday. Indiana was held to its second-worst on Saturday and the Hoosiers shot only 38 percent from the floor. That helped them rise from 12th to third defensively on KenPom in the last number of days.
We know this team is terrific from top to bottom. That has been the case throughout much of the year and it helped them to their seventh-straight victory on Saturday. Wagner’s explosion onto the scene as the lottery pick-type of talent adds another dimension to what is clearly a national title contender.
Next up for Michigan is a showdown with Illinois on Tuesday at Crisler Center before a home-and-home series against Michigan State to end the year.