Friday, March 03, 2006

Michigan Indiana Preview

Michigan v. Indiana
Staturday, 2:31 EST on ESPN-Plus(regional)

When Mike Davis resigned Indiana was in the midst of a freefall. The Hoisers had dropped four straight to #1 UConn, Wisconsin, #19 Iowa, and Penn State. They were blown out by #1 UConn and Wisconsin, and came up three points short against #19 Iowa and Penn State. Then #13 Illinois thumped Indiana just three days after Davis' announced his resignation. Indiana had gone from a NCAA tournament lock to a tournament watcher. At the rate they were dropping games, the NIT was starting to look pretty far away too. Rock bottom.

Since the Illinois game, the Hoisers have won three straight against Penn State, #16 Michigan State, and Purdue (State) (just to stick with a theme). While beating highly over rated and over-ranked Michigan State team, in Bloomington, isn't a "hang your hat on" win, its still a win.

In their last two games the Hoisers have shot extremely well from the floor, hitting 47.5% of their shots and 43% of their threes. They're currenlty ranked fourth in scoring offense and first in three-point shooting in the Conference. They've also finished strong. In their last game at Purdue, the Hoisers shot a blazing 71% from the field in the second half and before that, they shot 53.6% in the second half against Michigan State. While two games aren't enough to start a trend (as they stunk up the second half against Penn State), it does show they've recently taken the offense up a notch when it matters most. Forward Marco Killingsworth, guard/forward Robert Vaden, and guard Marshall Strickland usually do most of the scoring for the Hoisers. Strickland hits about half his threes and Vaden hits at a 43% clip as well, so the three point line will be critical to defend.

Defensively, meh. Indiana ranks eighth in scoring defense. Michigan State scored 71 against them, and probably should have won the game had Indiana not shot the ball so well. Surprisingly, the Hoisers rank 5th in defensive rebounding, two places ahead of Michigan. While overall they're grabbing boards, their not blowing anyone away with their ball hawking prowess. On the boards look for Killingsworth and Vaden to do most of their rebounding.

Now Michigan. We're almost healthy! Yea! Lester Arbam should finally (ohpleaseohplesase) be back in action on Saturday. Unless you've been living in a cave, or just don't care about Michigan basketball, you know he's been nursing a side ankle sprain since January. As the Diag reported earlier this week, Abram's been practicing with the team and is ready to play come Saturday. This will bring another much needed scorer back into the mix. When healthy, Lester can pour it in. He's scored in double figures in 10-of-15 games he's played in, and has shot well from behind the arc (45%), the floor (59%), and at the line (77%). Again, Yea!

Michigan had a rough outing against Ohio State after topping Illinois the game before. Everyone looked flat and a little tired. Daniel Horton and Dion Harris were out of sink all night, with only Horton reaching double figures in scoring, barely. With a week to practice, rest and get healthy, we should see an entirely different team than we saw agains Ohio State. Abram's return will be a huge boost to the Michigan team. The week off should also have allowed Dion Harris to nurse his own injured ankle back to health and, hopefully, find his jumpshot. Horton will be Horton. You've gotta come down a little from the performance he put on against Illinois. Expect him to return to form, control the ball, and hit his open shots. One of the more pleasant surprises as the season has reached clutch time has been the emergence of Courtney Sims as not only a scorer, but as a decent defender and rebounder. If he can put up another double-double Michigan stands a great chance of cementing its tourney bid.

For both Michigan and Indiana, the game is a must win. Michigan needs the win to cement its invite and bump up its seeding. Indiana needs the win solely to have a chance at the tournament. Its big for both teams, so watch for the first half to be tight and low scoring. I'm expecting nerves on both sides of the ball for both teams, some early fouls (Please not on Graham Brown. Please?), and a lot of errant shots. Whoever gathers themselves first and takes control will be in the drivers seat the rest of the game.

Gonna be tough to watch, but Michigan should pull this one out.

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