IU gives Michigan plenty to play for

The Michigan Wolverines (22-7, 14-3) have wrapped up the regular season title so what can motivate them tonight in the regular season finale at Ann Arbor? How about the Indiana team that narrowly wrestled away a share of the conference crown from them a year ago and took one from the Wolverines last month in Bloomington?
So yeah, plenty of motivation for Michigan today.
Indiana's 63-52 win over the Wolverines on February 2nd was the third
straight win for the Hoosiers in the series and fourth in the last five
meetings. It was a nightmare game for the visitors as John Beilein's team
shot a conference low 40.0 percent from the floor and gave up 53.5
percent shooting to Indiana. That remains the Hoosiers highest field
goal shooting during the Big Ten season.
Michigan failed to handle Yogi Ferrell
throughout that loss. The sophomore point guard had one of the best
performances of the conference season by any player, hitting 7-for-8
from beyond the arc and 8-for-10 overall in a 27-point effort. Freshman
Noah Vonleh also contributed a double-double with 10 points and 12
rebounds. His work helped Indiana outboard the visitors by 10 rebounds.
Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Nik
Stauskas (17.3 ppg) was held to a conference low six points in
that game, making just one of six shots from the floor.
"We just guarded him well, and we did a good job of limiting his
touches and didn't give them a lot of great open looks. If they get
open looks, then they are really good," said Indiana coach Tom Crean
Really, really good is what Michigan was Tuesday night at Illinois. The
Wolverines knocked down an amazing 16-for-23 from 3-point range.
Stauskas led the way with 7-for-9 from that distance but
style="font-weight: bold;">Caris LeVert and reserves
style="font-weight: bold;">Zak Irvin and
style="font-weight: bold;">Spike Albrecht all hit at least a
pair from downtown.
Many expected Michigan to fall off from last year after losing Big Ten
Player of the Year Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA and
center Mitch McGary to a season-ending back injury. But Stauskas and
LeVert have taken big leaps this year as sophomores. LeVert has
especially been good of late, averaging 18.0 points over his last five
"He doesn't try to do what he can't do, much improved ball handler and
shooter and I think he's one of the better driving guards in the league
because he really drops his shoulder and really pounds the ball and
never over dribbles and really drives it with a fierceness," said
Crean. "He also can see and makes passes. He is long and athletic so he
can see over top of people and he looks like he would be a lot of fun
to coach because he looks like he just continues to improve."
The center tandem of Jordan
Morgan and Jon Horford
has helped absorb the loss of McGary.
Both check in at 250 pounds and combined score 10 points and grab nine
boards per game. Morgan, whose field goal mark of 67.4 percent is among
the nation's best, has been hobbled by a back injury this week but
yesterday John Beilein was optimistic about his status.
"He fell on his back and got a pretty good bruise, but he's a warrior,
and nothing's stopping him from being able to play in his last game,"
Beilein said. "Pain would be the only thing that would keep him out of
there, or if we see that he's not moving well."
Morgan is Michigan's only senior.
Indiana has a similar issue with its center, freshman
style="font-weight: bold;">Noah Vonleh. The 6-foot-10 starter
has missed the last two games with a left foot injury.
"He was in practice some today, so we'll see," said Crean yesterday. "I
know he wants to play. We'll just have to wait and see tomorrow."
As Big Ten champion Michigan is locked now into the No. 1 seed for next
week's Big Ten Tournament. Indiana, with its current 7-10 conference
mark, seems ticketed for the 8/9 seed game on Thursday. If the Hoosiers
were to pull that out it would mean another game against the Wolverines
on Friday in Indianapolis.
Just one more reason on top of many for the Wolverines to come out with
plenty of motivation tonight.
"They beat us here last year on Senior Night. And they got us pretty
good," said Beilein this week. "They led from wire to wire at their
place this year. So, I think there's a strong sense of urgency for our
guys now, that this is the way they'd like to finish the season."
This is an ESPN broadcast that tips at 6:00 p.m. Bob Wischusen and Dan
Dakich will have the call.
For more on Michigan, check out the
Game Day page.
Projected Michigan starters and key reserves with current year
Key reserves: