Monday, 11 March 2013

IU v MICH: Tale of Two Teams

Sunday 10th March 2013, once the Men's College Basketball is over may well come down as an important date for the two teams who played each other that night - Indiana Hoosiers and Michigan Wolverines - with the Big 10 regular season title on the line.

For the Hoosiers, it was the opportunity to win a Big 10 title for the first time since 1993 when Bobby Knight was in charge; for the Wolverines it was the chance to get a tie of the same title and also warrant a top 5 ranking before tournament week.

Michigan were up, and yet contrived to miss three free throws which would have put a knife in Indiana.  And yet a team who have been hot and cold for much of the Big 10 conference play, decided to be anything but ice from the line and throw away the chance of a big time victory.

The failure from the free throw line, allowed Indiana to have a chance and if you allow a team containing Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo the chance to get a victory; those leaders will come to the fore.

That is conceivably the difference between these two teams who end up with only one more loss than each other; yes if Michigan had won, they would have finished 26-5 which is Indiana's finishing record.

Cody Zeller put away the go-ahead shot with 13 seconds remaining, yet it felt like an eternity as it rolled on the rim and then fell through the net to garner a 72-71 victory in Ann Arbor.

Whereas, Indiana could call upon two Wooden award nominees in Zeller and Oladipo to come up big and want to take the final shot; for Michigan it seems freshman Trey Burke went awol. Burke had 20 points but off of 20 shots, which is poor; Zeller had 25 points off of less shots.

Burke came to a standstill once Oladipo went man-to-man on Burke near the end of the 1st half, this caused Burke to worry and it did unnerve his play.  Oladipo gained another notch in his Player of the Year resume in  nullifying Burke last night.

What does this mean for both teams heading to the Big 10 tournament?  Indiana will not be concerned by losing their first round match, as it seems they are assured of a #1 seed in the tournament proper.  For Michigan, they would need to win the Big 10 tournament and hope teams like Duke, Kansas and Louisville all lose early also.

This loss could result in Michigan dropping from a #2 seed to a more likely #3 seed based on their level of wins this season - three of the six losses came by a margin of three points or less.  Their best win was probably at home to Michigan State Spartans by one point; there has been no dominant victory.  Unlike Indiana who beat Ohio State (then ranked #10) on the road 81-68.

The question marks remain again over the play of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr who whilst being a great backcourt pair; the pair have not got that marquee moment like Zeller has had on numerous occasions this year.  Nor can they explode like Ryan Kelly has for Duke, and nor is the supporting cast as strong as say Ben McLemore's fellow Kansas Jayhawks who can step up if the freshman is having a rough night.  For Burke and Hardaway; the pressure of carrying the team appears to be too much to burden them with; this makes them fallible to an early tournament exit if they cannot sort out their defence, they can score for fun but then so can their opponents.

In other Big 10 results last night; Wisconsin held off Penn State 63-60; Michigan State defeated Northwestern 71-61 and Ohio State beat up Illinois 68-55 at home.  The Spartans and Buckeyes would have shared the Big 10 title with Indiana and Michigan had the Wolverines held on.  But for Indiana, there was a party that had been delayed by 20 years, Cody Zeller was ready to celebrate.

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