Big Game Preview: No. 1 Michigan at No. 3 Indiana

Coach Crean and his team will undoubtedly prepare for the 1-3-1 zone that Beilein will probably employ from time to time. However, Indiana has Zeller, who is both a big target and an excellent passer out of the high post for the Hoosiers, who shoot 43 percent from distance (third in America). Wolverines starting center Jordan Morgan sat out against Northwestern on Wednesday with a sprained right ankle; his status for the Indiana game is uncertain. Funny enough, coach Beilein was thinking about starting freshman Mitch McGary in Morgan’s place, but the following exchange took place between the coach and the freshman and it showed that Michigan truly is about the team:

Late Tuesday night, an undecided Beilein asked McGary, “What do you feel about tomorrow? I don’t know what to do yet. You both practiced well.”

McGary responded, “Coach, I’ve been coming off the bench for two years. I’m cool with coming off the bench.”

The exchange characterizes both Michigan’s unselfishness, as well as its depth. Beilein went with it, tabbing Horford for the start shortly before the start of the game, and Jon Horford registered one of the best games of his young, injury plagued career.

If Morgan can’t go, it is an undeniable blow to Michigan in the middle. With Horford gaining confidence and freshman forward/center Mitch McGary playing with energy off the bench, Michigan could still manage to pull off the win without Morgan. But their guards will have to do an excellent job helping and recovering to their men because of Indiana’s aforementioned ability to shoot the ball from deep.

One has to believe, though, that Morgan probably sat out the Northwestern game with College Gameday and the Hoosiers in mind. For Zeller to get the better of Michigan, he’s got to aggressively seek the ball, which he has struggled to do at times, especially during the Hoosiers’ two losses. Equally important, his teammates have to look to get Zeller the ball in position to score, which could be a challenge considering Michigan’s length and athleticism.

Glenn Robinson III vs. Christian Watford: Will the freshman with the basketball blood outplay the senior who hit the shot heard ’round the world?

Robinson plays an efficient brand of basketball that centers around dunks and layups in transition, off the bounce or thanks to back cuts and movement within the offense. He’s shooting 60 percent from the field and is capable of stepping out and making a 3-pointer every once in a while when the defense is sleeping. Simply put, he does an excellent job of scoring within Beilein’s game plan. When left unattended, can be a nightmare for opponents.

Christian Watford, and Indiana in general, will have their hands full with this Big Ten rookie and future NBA starter.

Watford, on the other hand, has been somewhat of a disappointment for IU fans because he’s been so consistently mediocre. The senior from Alabama has been through the lows of his freshman and sophomore years and the highs of the past two seasons as an upperclassmen. Many expected somewhat of a breakout season for the smooth, 6-9 forward, but instead he’s playing a complementary role on a deep team. Watford is averaging 12.9 points (44.3% FG, 48% 3FG), but with his smooth stroke, he is capable of going for 20-plus on any given night.

If he has a big game, it could open the middle up for Zeller to operate and makes Indiana that much harder to guard.

Prediction: In an uptempo affair, Indiana 84, Michigan 78.

Jeremy Bauman is an aspiring scout and shooting coach who writes columns and blogs for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.

 

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