Sunday afternoon is bound to be crazy at the Crisler Center.
The seventh-ranked Michigan Wolverines (22-5, 12-5 B1G) take on the second-ranked Indiana Hoosiers (22-5, 13-4 B1G) at home in a game that has conference championship aspirations on the line.
With an Indiana win, they will win the Big Ten regular season championship outright. If Michigan emerges victorious, not only will they clinch a share of the title for themselves, but Ohio State and Michigan State can also get in on the action with wins over Illinois and Northwestern, respectively.
The first meeting between these two teams down in Bloomington was a tough experience for the Wolverines, and a game where they displayed their trademark “dig a giant hole early, then come back all guns blazing” routine. Unfortunately for them, it did not work well that time around. I don’t expect this to happen again, as the home crowd should have John Beilein’s team fired up.
The key to this game, much like it was in the first match-up, is to limit what Cody Zeller is able to do offensively. Indiana is a team with a ton of talent with guys like Victor Olidipo, Christian Watford, and Jordan Hulls, but he is the guy that is the focus when the Hoosiers hit on all cylinders. Zeller was allowed too many opportunities for offensive rebounds and put backs in the first go round because none of the Wolverine big men seemed interested in putting a body on him. Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan have to be better.
Trey Burke, as it has been all year, is the guy that will be instrumental in this game. He scored 25 points in their first meeting, but it came from 9-for-24 shooting and 4-of-12 from beyond the arc. He needs to make better decisions than the previous game in order to give Michigan a chance. The rest of the team responds to however Burke plays, so if he comes out fired up right from the start, I’d be hard pressed to tell you that Michigan doesn’t win this game. If he is truly the National Player of the Year, this would be the game to show it.
This is the kind of game that can put a team on a run. Being the regular season finale, every game from here on out will go a long way towards Michigan’s run to a national championship. I have said it in the past, but despite their defensive shortcomings and sub-par shooting at times, I would not be shocked at all if Trey Burke carries his team through the NCAA Tournament much like Connecticut’s Kemba Walker did a few years back.
But hey, it would be nice to get a share of the regular season conference title wrapped up first. With a win, Michigan could be as high as a two-seed or with a loss could be as low as a fifth seed in the Big Ten Tournament, depending on how some other games shake out.
All I know is, expect one of the better basketball games of the Big Ten season. The game tips Sunday afternoon at 4pm on CBS.