Hoosiers have backs against wall vs. Michigan

Not one Big Ten team was included when the NCAA Tournament selection committee revealed its current top 16 seeds on Saturday afternoon.

Consider that another alarm for teams like Indiana and Michigan.

When the Hoosiers and Wolverines meet Sunday afternoon at Assembly Hall, they’ll continue the fight for their NCAA Tournament lives. Both teams are hovering around the bubble as the conference season grinds into the final full month. For a Michigan team that hasn’t won a single true road game this season, a victory at Assembly Hall would help solidify its resume.

Meanwhile, the Hoosiers have their backs against a wall with only two more home games left on the regular season schedule.

“We’re anxious to play,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “These guys are extremely anxious to go.”

Indiana hasn’t defeated a team ranked in KenPom.com’s top 50 since beating North Carolina on the final day of November. A victory over Michigan State aside, that was the last time the Hoosiers claimed a win of note. With six games remaining, including four on the road, Indiana simply needs to get wins where it can find them.

Getting one against Michigan won’t come easy.

IU’s 90-60 loss in Ann Arbor on Jan. 26 was its worst performance of the season — and one of the worst margins of defeat in Crean’s nine seasons as coach. So the Hoosiers should have some added motivation to play well and erase the taste of that night against the Wolverines.

“We couldn’t have defended a lot worse than what we did,” Crean said. “It’s amazing when you shoot 60 percent at halftime and you’re down 15, but we never defended at a high enough level in that game and we never rebounded at a good enough level in that game.”

That was also the game where James Blackmon Jr. injured his leg, forcing him to miss the team’s next three games. After suffering the injury with less than three minutes remaining in the first half, Blackmon didn’t attempt a single shot over his final 15-plus minutes.

Returning from the injury for Thursday’s loss to Purdue, Blackmon was clearly not yet in a rhythm after a two-week layoff. He finished with 11 points, while going 3-for-14 from the field.

Crean and the rest of the Hoosiers will hope Blackmon is a bit closer to his normal level by tipoff at 1 p.m.

“He wasn’t that sharp. Not at all,” Crean said of Blackmon’s performance against Purdue. “It’s tough. We can’t expect that he would be after missing that kind of time, but he wasn’t nearly as himself as he’s gonna have to be, and as he will be when he’s healthier. … In the (first) Michigan game, he hurt himself. He tried to play through it and it just wasn’t there. We need that. It’s hard when you’re coming off the weeks and you haven’t practiced much. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or you’re an upperclassman. When you miss practice time, when you miss the rhythm of it, it’s hard. Hopefully he’ll be much better (today).”

Indiana is also hoping De’Ron Davis will be able to play after he took a shot to the face while battling for a rebound against Boilermakers forward Isaac Haas. Davis was unable to return to Thursday’s game, but Crean said he has shown progress in recent days.

After a limited practice on Friday evening, Davis appeared to be much better in Saturday’s practice, according to Crean.

Michigan is 0-6 in road games this year and comes to Bloomington on the heels of whooping the Spartans on Tuesday.

Point guard Derrick Walton has scored at least 20 points in each of his last four games, averaging 22.5 points during that stretch. He’s also seven rebounds away from becoming the first Wolverine to score 1,000 points, grab 500 boards and dish 400 assists for his career.

“He’s definitely playing at a high level right now,” IU guard Robert Johnson said. “He’s their point guard, so he’s basically the engine that makes them go. It’ll be important to not let him get going.”

While Indiana’s struggles with ball security continue, Michigan leads the country in fewest turnovers per game (9.5). The Wolverines are also fifth in the nation in fewest fouls per game (15.2).

And just like the Hoosiers, they’ll be looking for an important win on Sunday afternoon.

“Here we go,” Crean said.

8 comments

  1. This season sums up Tom Crean. He can beat anyone on a given night but he can lose to anyone as well. His teams all get complacent at some point during the season and they all lack fundamentals like controlling the ball, blocking out and playing defense. The perfect ending would be to get on a hot streak and somehow make the dance and then win two games and then get beat. That would truly be the epitome of Tom Creans tenure at IU

  2. ^^^Realizing the above post was not intended to be apologetic, I still beg to differ…
    Tom Crean cannot beat “anyone on a given night.” His big victories have always come at Assembly Hall. In the Sweet 16 March Madness sample set, he consistently appears to be out of his league and miserably distant of beating “anyone”…or any “one” quality coached team.

    Without the one stellar post player from Indiana who provided leadership, a good share of post dominance during the regular season, and statewide recruiting momentum, this current coach would have gone down as the worst in the history of the program.

    The product you are currently witnessing is a result of all that momentum provided said recruit finally drying up.

    What is left are bigger long shots/odds founded in the same old observations;
    the reappearance of warts and signature dysfunctions of a Crean team(turnovers, lack of defensive focus, poor free throw shooting, stupid fouls, whining about calls, overall lack of maturity/team chemistry), a brand of basketball that is more often a complete embarrassment to the candy stripes, more hopelessness for realistic chances at deep tournament runs, and a failure to meet the standards of a basic competency to lead teams donning a Hoosier uniform historically known for playing far above the minimal, “anyone,” level of excellence.

  3. Today’s game does represent your “anyone.” Though Michigan has more talent and a post player gaining immense confidence, it has upset potential due to the following:

    It is at home.
    It is immediately after an embarrassing loss to an in-state rival whose name makes most of us nauseous.
    It is against a team we’ll pull out all the motivational stops….Crean will be more demanding of tenacity because who wants to look terrible in front of their brother-in-law?
    It will be officiated in the backdrop of two weeks of whining about “bad calls.”

    This game is as good as “anyone” to steal……No different than Nebraska, IPFW, @Northwestern, and “the unmentionable” team from West Lafayette who has never “rivaled” our March Madness cloth. This is a one of those “can beat anyone,” Tom Crean games. It is not of “do or die” tournament consequences. There is little pressure in the world of happenstance injuries already excused in securing this coach another year of b-ball dysfunction. Flip a coin.

  4. A season-opening game in the vacation paradise of Hawaii….? If you really want to hang your “beat anyone” on “any given night” hat on that one, you’re more than welcome. IPFW could have likely also caught Kansas in a luau skirt.
    It’s not worthy of something in the wide 9-year sample set(especially in the world of beating “somebody” in a true road environment that would include the name Zeller on the roster).

    We’ve won one true road game this year(that’s about the average) on a last-second shot at PSU. Yup…anyone on any given night.

  5. It’s laughable that Indiana can beat anyone anytime. Though through the last decade they have a few big wins which really Indiana hitting 3’s pulling off upset giving them false reputation they are a 3 point threat of a team. They have never been an effective 3 point threat as long as you guard and crowd them a little. They have lost more than won when relying on their undisciplined 3 point shooting. Then, when they do try to run plays they are ineffective as Penn State or take your pick in the average teams in big ten.
    Michigan is just another team that will demonstrate shooting the 3 ball effectively not at Michigan but as a visit to the Assembly gym. So what is the excuse this time? In addition many IU recruits are not high bb IQ and elite or even extremely high bb ability talent that it takes to be a top program in the country. T.C. and staff also do not have ability to lead a top bb program in country. I do not care about big ten or being just another ordinary team in big ten.

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