Are you guys ready for the big game this weekend?
No, I’m not talking about the “Harbowl.” I’m referring to the clash of the Big Ten titans Saturday night in Bloomington.
The top-ranked Michigan Wolverines (20-1, 7-1 B1G) travel to Indiana to take on the #3 Hoosiers (19-2, 7-1 B1G) at Assembly Hall. It will be a championship atmosphere and a tough road test for John Beilein’s team.
These two national powers will collide Saturday night for first place outright in the conference. It will not be easy.
The team that plays the best defense will win this game, plain and simple. For the Wolverines, the key to this game will be shutting down Cody Zeller. When he is at his best, he opens up the rest of the floor for his teammates. It gives guys like Victor Olidipo and Christian Watford the chance to hit wide open shots from outside. There are plenty of players on the Hoosiers that can hurt you other than Zeller, but he is the straw that stirs the drink for Indiana.
It is unknown as of now if Jordan Morgan will play yet, so the duo of Jon Horford and Mitch McGary will be huge in this game and will be tasked with defending Cody Zeller.
Indiana is fast break team. To prevent the Hoosiers from running all over them, Michigan will have to be smart offensively and limit their turnovers. They cannot afford to let Indiana run up and down the floor on them or things could turn out like they did during the Ohio State game.
For the offense, the key is to get everyone involved. Michigan is statistically the most efficient team in the nation. If they are able to spread the ball around like we have seen over the past four games or so, it will be a pick-your-poison scenario for the Hoosiers. Trey Burke is one of the best quarterbacks of offense in all of college basketball, so it will be up to him to find the open guys and make plays. His decision making will be a huge key on the road.
Expect a bit of a shootout in Bloomington on Saturday night, with the score likely in the mid-to-high 70s. I believe that Tom Crean will go to Cody Zeller early, so it is up to whoever ends up playing down low to hold Zeller down.
I don’t usually make picks at the end of my previews, but since this is a special one, I will make an exception. Call me a homer, but I think Michigan wins this game before a national audience. I believe they are the most talented team in the nation, yet there are some out there who still aren’t believers. The lack of respect factor is something I think the Wolverines thrive off of and the coaches will have them ready to go this time around after the Ohio State debacle.
This is the beginning of a tough four game stretch in conference play for Michigan. What better way to start it off than making a statement to all of America on the road Saturday night. I just have a suspicion they sneak out of Bloomington with a victory and a plethora of national respect.
Tipoff for the game is 9pm on ESPN.
You can follow me on Twitter @Anthony_Broome and our site @BBlueRecruiting.