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Posts Tagged ‘Big Ten’

Michigan hoops preview: #10 (1) Indiana

Friday, March 11th, 2016


UM-Indiana
Michigan vs #10 Indiana
Friday, March 11 | Indianapolis, Ind.. | 12 p.m. ET | ESPN
Line: Indiana -6
Offense
74.8 Points/gm 82.7
(849-1,809) 46.9 Field Goal % 50.2 (910-1,811)
(314-803) 39.1 3-pt FG % 41.9 (312-745)
(383-520) 73.7 Free Throw % 72.0 (432-600)
12.0 FT Made/gm 13.9
32.4 Reb/gm 37.4
14.9 Assists/gm 16.1
9.8 Turnovers/gm 13.6
Defense
67.2 Points/gm 68.8
(791-1,788) 44.2 Field Goal % 44.1 (795-1,803)
(232-666) 34.8 3-pt FG % 34.5 (194-562)
32.6 Opp. Reb/gm 30.3
5.5 Steals/gm 7.0
2.2 Blocks/gm 3.9
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (16.5), Derrick Walton (11.9) Points/gm Yogi Ferrell (17.1), James Blackmon Jr. (15.8)
Derick Walton (5.7), Caris LeVert (5.3) Reb/gm Troy Williams (6.0), Thomas Bryant (5.8)

Michigan stayed alive with a 72-70 overtime win over Northwestern in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday afternoon. Their reward? A matchup with Big Ten champion Indiana, who beat the Wolverines 80-67 on Feb. 2 in the season’s only meeting to date.

The Hoosiers have high hopes of making a deep NCAA Tournament run after winning the outright Big Ten title and look to capture the Big Ten Tournament crown as well. Michigan can clinch an at-large bid with an upset of Indiana, but will likely have to settle for the NIT if they lose.

Senior guard Yogi Ferrell led Indiana with 17 points and nine assist in the first meeting, while sophomore guard Robert Johnson added 16 points. Ferrell is the Hoosiers’ unquestioned leader, averaging 17.1 points per game, but Johnson has missed the last three games with a high ankle sprain he suffered against Purdue on Feb. 20.

Freshman forward OG Anunoby came off the bench to match his season-high of 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and senior guard Nick Zeisloft — a three-point specialist — scored eight.

Michigan made just 7-of-23 three-point attempts in that first meeting and will need to do better than that if they want a chance of winning. More importantly, Michigan must play with the same defensive intensity that it did against Northwestern on Thursday. Indiana made 33 shots in that first meeting — only 10-of-30 from downtown — and if Michigan can’t hold the Hoosiers below 27 field goals today they’ll find themselves in the NIT next week.

Michigan 72 – Northwestern 70 (OT): Wolverines keep tourney hopes alive

Friday, March 11th, 2016


Irvin vs Northwestern(MGoBlue.com)

It took an extra five minutes, but Michigan kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive on Thursday afternoon with a 72-70 overtime win over Northwestern in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

In the season’s first meeting, Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, Duncan Robinson, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman went a combined 1-of-11 from three-point range. But on Thursday, the four combined to make 10-of-22 from downtown to lead the Wolverines to the win in Indianapolis.

Four Factors
Michigan Northwestern
48 eFG% 45
23 OReb% 32
12 TO% 11
34 FTR 18

In the first meeting, Northwestern stormed out to a 17-6 lead and Michigan had to fight back. This time, Michigan raced out to a 18-5 lead and took a 34-25 lead into the locker room. But Northwestern used a 12-3 run over a span of more than five minutes midway through the second half to battle back and tie the game at 52.

Michigan led 59-55 in the final minute, but Alex Olah hit a three to bring the Wildcats within one. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Michigan had to call timeout twice to avoid five-second calls. On the third try, Robinson caught the pass in the corner near Northwestern’s bench and appeared to travel, but it wasn’t called. Instead, he drew a foul and made one of two. But Olah made a put-back at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

Robinson kicked off the extra period with a three and then tied the game at 70 with another with just 46 seconds remaining. Northwestern guard Bryant McIntosh missed a shot, giving Michigan a chance to win it. Irvin dribbled to his right and pulled up from the right elbow to hit the game-winning shot.

Michigan made 12-of-19 threes for the game and 16-of-20 free throws, outscoring Northwestern from the charity stripe 16 to nine. Robinson led the Wolverines with 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 4-of-6 three-point shooting. Irvin added 19 points and eight rebounds, while Abdur-Rahkman scored 14 on 4-of-7 three-point shooting, in addition to eight rebounds. Walton was held to just two points on 0-of-7 shooting, but did add seven rebounds and led the team with five assists.

Northwestern got 21 points from Tre Demps, 20 from Olah, and 19 from McIntosh. Olah also pulled down 13 rebounds. The rest of Northwestern’s lineup combined for just 10 points.

Michigan will face top-seed Indiana in the quarterfinals in a win-and-you’re-in contest. The game tips off at 12pm Eastern on ESPN.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
34 Mark Donnal* 1-3 0-2 0-0 2 1 3 5 2 1 1 1 0 18
10 Derrick Walton* 0-7 0-3 2-2 0 7 7 1 2 5 3 0 1 41
21 Zak Irvin* 6-16 2-6 5-6 0 8 8 0 19 2 1 0 2 42
22 Duncan Robinson* 6-10 4-6 5-7 0 3 3 2 21 1 1 0 0 37
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman* 5-13 4-7 0-1 1 7 8 1 14 3 0 1 0 41
03 Kam Chatman 1-2 1-2 0-0 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 0 6
05 D.J. Wilson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0+
11 Andrew Dakich 1-1 1-1 0-0 1 0 1 1 3 1 0 0 0 6
13 Moritz Wagner 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 2 0 0 1 0 0 2
24 Aubrey Dawkins 1-3 0-2 0-0 1 0 1 1 2 1 1 0 0 8
32 Ricky Doyle 1-3 0-0 4-4 2 1 3 1 6 0 0 0 0 24
Totals 22-58 12-19 16-20 9 30 39 15 72 14 8 2 3 205
Northwestern 25-68 11-27 9-12 14 31 45 18 70 16 7 2 2
205
Full Stats

Big Ten Tournament bracket set, Michigan to face Northwestern

Sunday, March 6th, 2016


Big Ten Tournament

The Big Ten Tournament gets under way on Wednesday with Minnesota against Illinois and Rutgers against Nebraska. The top two seeds, Indiana and Michigan State, get double byes into the quarterfinals and won’t play until Friday.

Michigan (20-11, 10-8) will face ninth-seed Northwestern (20-11, 8-10) in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament at 12pm on Thursday in Indianapolis. A win would pit the Wolverines against top-seed Indiana at noon on Friday.

Michigan won the season’s only matchup against Northwestern, 72-63, on Feb. 24. The Wolverines made just four three-pointers in that game, but outscored the Wildcats 20-5 at the free throw line. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led Michigan with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while Derrick Walton added 16 and Aubrey Dawkins 11.

Northwestern, meanwhile, has won three straight since that loss, beating Rutgers, Penn State, and Nebraska by an average of 20 points. In the first meeting, Michigan had no answer for Alex Olah, who scored 19 points, while Tre Demps and Aaron Falzon each scored 14.

Big Ten Tournament
First Four First Round Quarterfinals Semifinals Championship Champion
Wed, Mar. 9 Thu, Mar. 10 Fri, Mar. 11 Sat, Mar. 12 Sun, Mar. 13
9. Northwestern 70
12pm BTN 8. Michigan 72
8. Michigan 72 12pm ESPN 8. Michigan
1. Indiana 69
13. Minnesota 52
4:30pm ESPN2 12. Illinois 68 1pm CBS
12. Illinois 85 2:25 BTN 12. Illinois 58
5. Iowa 66 2:25pm ESPN 4. Purdue
4. Purdue 89
10. Penn State 75  3pm CBS
6:30pm ESPN2 7. Ohio State 54
7. Ohio State 79 6:30pm BTN 2. Michigan State
2. Michigan State 81
14. Rutgers 72 3:30pm CBS
7pm BTN 11. Nebraska 70
11. Nebraska 89 8:55pm ESPN2 11. Nebraska 86
6. Wisconsin 58 8:55pm BTN 3. Maryland
3. Maryland 97

Evaluating Michigan’s tourney chances: a Q&A with 1-3-1 Sports

Friday, March 4th, 2016


UM bball(MGoBlue.com)

Joe Cook from 1-3-1 Sports is a good friend of mine, a friend of the blog, a Michigan grad and fan, and a bracketologist that you need to know. Since starting his NCAA Tournament projections in the 2011-12 season, Joe has been one of the best bracketologists (who project both which teams gets in and what seed they will receive) anywhere in the world – hands down (and forget about Lunardi and Palm, as you’ll see below).

Today, Joe has graciously agreed to answer a few questions for Maize & Go Blue about Michigan’s chances of Dancing later this month with just one more regular season game to go, how the Selection Committee works, Michigan fans’ rooting interests down the stretch, and much more.

Q: Joe, let’s get right to the people’s question: What needs to happen for Michigan to make the field of 68 on March 13? Do the Wolverines still control their own destiny?

Answering this question has become a little tricky with Iowa’s recent slide. The Hawkeyes have lost four in a row, and holding court against them in Ann Arbor will no longer carry the weight we thought it would two weeks ago. It’s hard for me to sit here and say that a win on Saturday night locks up an at-large bid for Michigan, because that’s misleading.

In the hypothetical scenario where UM beats Iowa and loses in the first round of the Big Ten tourney, they would ruin the one pristine portion of their resume remaining – no bad losses. If we see this unfold, I believe Michigan is roughly a coin flip to make the field on Selection Sunday. If it happens that Michigan loses to the Hawkeyes, and wins one game in the B10 Tournament before bowing out, I believe they’ll have about a 1 in 4 chance of making the field. In any scenario where Michigan wins at least two more games, they will not be left out of the tournament. Similarly, in the event that Michigan loses two straight to close the season, they can make plans to host some NIT games.

Michigan’s NCAA Tournament scenarios
Scenario Beat Iowa and win 1st Big Ten Tournament game Beat Iowa, lose 1st Big Ten Tournament game Lose to Iowa, win 1st Big Ten Tournament game Lose to Iowa and 1st Big Ten Tournament game
Tournament Odds In 50% 25% Out

Q: As it stands today, where does Michigan land in your projections? What are the chances John Beilein’s squad will have to play an extra game in Dayton?

I currently have the Wolverines as an 11-seed and one of my last four at-large teams in the field, slotted for a play-in game against Cincinnati. Piggybacking off of my answer above, I believe that the only scenario that is likely to put Michigan in Dayton on Selection Sunday is the one where they beat the Hawkeyes and lose in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. My hunch is that the Wolverines will be on the outside looking in if they only garner one more mediocre win. Lose twice in a row, and they’ll be in Ann Arbor; win twice or more, and they shouldn’t have to deal with the extra game.

Q: Who are the four or five teams that Michigan fans should really be pulling for down the stretch and the four or five teams that Michigan would really like to see flounder late?

Down the stretch, Michigan fans really need to pull for any team that Johnny B. and company have played already, as this will improve their RPI and SOS. In particular, Michigan fans should root for NC State, Penn State, Texas, and Maryland.

Rooting Interests
Root for Root against
N.C. State St. Bonaventure
Penn State Butler
Texas VCU
Maryland Tulsa
St. Mary’s Temple
Wichita State

NC State (116) and Penn State (111) closing the season well could potentially boost their RPIs into the top 100, giving Michigan three more “solid” wins on their tournament team sheet. Texas finishing strong could show the committee that Michigan is capable of beating a top 25 team on a neutral court (though they need to forget the part where this was in November and Michigan had Caris LeVert for this particular game). If Maryland can climb their way up to a 2-seed come Selection Sunday, that would “add” a win over a true powerhouse to Michigan’s resume.

Furthermore, cheering for teams like St. Mary’s and Wichita State to win their conference tournaments to avoid bid stealing is also important. In terms of teams to cheer against, it would help Michigan most to see fellow bubble teams struggle. This list is chock-full of mid-majors, including St. Bonaventure, Butler, VCU, Tulsa, and Temple.

Q: The Big Ten has clearly been one of the top, if not the best, conferences in college basketball for a couple years running, but this season we’ve heard all sorts of conjecture and debate about which conference is king. Based on your bracketology and your formulas, what conference do you see getting the most teams into the NCAA Tournament and which conference do you think has everyone else looking up to it this year? How many teams do you expect the Big Ten to get in?

I honestly believe this is the most balanced I’ve seen power conferences spread since I’ve started my bracketology work. In my most recent bracket, released today (Friday, March 4th), there are seven teams apiece coming from the ACC, the Big Ten, the Big 12, and the Pac-12… how’s that for balance!? Barring some miraculous conference tournament run by an underdog, I don’t see any of these conferences getting any more than seven in the final field, so I think a three- or four-way tie is the most likely scenario. With six locks to make the tournament (Michigan State, Maryland, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, and Wisconsin), Michigan will be the deciding factor on whether or not the Big Ten can get half of its teams in the field.

Q: I don’t want you to give away all of your prized secrets and formulas, but can you give us an idea of what your models take into account when projecting the field and their seed lines?

In years past, I was relatively busy with credentialing tasks related to furthering my career as an actuary, so I didn’t have as much time to watch college basketball as I would have liked. In those days, I used some simple linear regression models involving RPI, SOS, KenPom, etc. to develop a baseline for projecting the seeding of teams. Now that I’m at a point where I have a little more free time, I’ve used it to add in a lot more of my own “eye test” to really balance the qualitative analysis of a team with the quantitative analysis. Nonetheless, I want to make it clear that as a bracketologist, I’m not seeding teams based on my own personal judgment of the team’s merits; rather, my goal involves trying to go inside the minds of the committee members to attempt to analyze the teams the way the committee has in the past.

Q: Speaking of Committee members, from your research and experience, what does the Selection Committee factor into their decisions when filling out the bracket? And if you could, would you change anything about that process?

When you take a look at the list of the people who make up the Selection Committee, you’ll realize that they are some busy folks who probably don’t watch that much college basketball. Thus, it’s totally understandable for them to rely heavily on rating metrics to analyze and distinguish the teams they’ve had little exposure to during the season. That being said, I believe the committee is a dinosaur in that they still rely way too much on the outmoded rating system that is the RPI rankings. Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin, and Kenneth Massey have all come up with ranking and rating systems for college basketball that are far more nuanced and indicative of the quality of a team; it would be nice if the committee focused more on these metrics.

Q: Obviously there are many factors that the Selection Committee weighs when deciding the field, but what would you say is the single best indicator of whether a team will make the Tournament? And what do you think should be the best indicator?

I believe the single best indicator of whether or not a team will make the tournament is whether or not they win their conference tournament. All jokes aside, including a degree from Ohio State, the single best indicator, unfortunately and without a doubt, is a team’s RPI ranking. The general rule of thumb is that a team outside the RPI top-60 should not be considered for an at-large bid. It is noteworthy that Michigan is currently ranked 58th in the RPI rankings. In a perfect world, the selection process would be one big eye test, where a group of unbiased college basketball aficionados gather together and hash it out to determine the NCAA Tournament field.

Kansas

KUAthletics.com

Q: We’ll be going head-to-head in our bracket picks again this year, but I want a little bit of an advantage after you’ve beaten me the past two years, so can you tell us one or two teams that you are really looking to perform well later this month?

I’m still looking forward to those rounds of golf you are now indebted to me! This year, I’m going to be doing a rather in-depth statistical analysis to create a model for projecting a team’s tournament success. This model will be based on factors that are correlated to the success of past tournament teams. The model is near completion, but some final tweaking needs to be performed before I input this year’s information. Thus, I’ll be relying solely on the basketball I’ve watched this year to make my picks.

I believe Kansas will be a tough out, despite Bill Self’s occasional ineptitude in March. Oklahoma’s offense built around Buddy Hield is explosive, but Lon Kruger’s 16-16 record in the NCAA Tournament makes me shy away from wholeheartedly suggesting the Sooners. I think that if the bracket shakes out right, North Carolina and Michigan State could make it a rematch of the 2009 championship game, and I doubt the Spartans would get completely housed this time around.

Q: We all see Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm on TV as we get closer and closer to Selection Sunday, and I think too many people take these guys’ word as gold because they have such a large platform, but just how good are the national bracketologists and how well have your projections matched up with theirs in the past? Are there are any national pundits that seem to stand out as doing very well or very poorly when compared to the Bracket Matrix?

In the bracketologist rankings on the Bracket Matrix website, in terms of the bracket veterans (bracketologists who have been releasing projections for three or more years), Lunardi is ranked 36th of 89 and Jerry Palm is ranked 56th of 89 in terms of accuracy. As for how my projections stack up…I’ll just say they stack up very well. The Bracket Matrix website aggregates the projections of all the bracketologists across the internet, and creates composite projections, while also ranking the bracketologists for accuracy. The blurb at the top of the rankings page explains the scoring and ranking process. Looking at the results, I have been the second most accurate bracketologist over the past four years, and the most accurate over the past three years. If this year goes as planned, I’ll be able to move into the top overall spot in the rankings and never look back!

Big Ten hoops power rankings: March 1

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016


Power Rankings_header

Michigan State held onto the top spot this week, while Iowa plummeted to sixth following their third straight loss. Indiana moved up to second after clinching at least a share of the Big Ten title, while Wisconsin continued its ascension up to third this week.

Michigan remained eighth and finds itself on paper thin ice as far as NCAA Tournament hopes are concerned. The Wolverines may need a win over Iowa and at least one in the Big Ten Tournament to earn an at-large bid.

Penn State stayed in the ninth spot, while Northwestern jumped one and Illinois jumped two to 10th and 11th, respectively. Nebraska, Minnesota, and Rutgers fill out the cellar.

“Another week, another missed opportunity for Michigan,” said Derick. “Now it’ll take a win over a desperate Iowa team on Senior Night to limp into the Big Dance.”

1. Michigan State (24-5, 11-5) – Even – 1.0 (Last week: 1.7)
MichiganStateLogo
Last Week: Beat Ohio State 81-62, Beat Penn State 88-57
This Week: Wednesday at Rutgers, Saturday vs Ohio State
MSU 3-1-16
RPI: 14 | Best win: Nov. 17 vs #4 Kansas (79-73) | Worst loss: Jan. 20 vs Nebraska (70-71)
2. Indiana (23-6, 13-3) – Up 1 – 2.7 (Last week: 3.7)
IU logo
Last Week: Beat Illinois 74-47
This Week: Tuesday at #16 Iowa, Sunday vs #14 Maryland
Indiana 3-1-16
RPI: 27 | Best win: Feb. 11 vs #4 Iowa (85-78) | Worst loss: Nov. 23 vs Wake Forest (78-82)
3. Wisconsin (19-10, 11-5) – Up 2 – 3.0 (Last week: 4.7)
Wisconsin logo
Last Week: Beat #8 Iowa 67-59, Beat Michigan 58-57
This Week: Wednesday at Minnesota, Sunday at #15 Purdue
Wisconsin 3-1-16
RPI: 33 | Best win: Feb. 13 at #2 Maryland (70-57) | Worst loss: Nov. 13 vs Western Illinois (67-69)
4. Maryland (23-6, 11-5) – Even – 4.0 (Last week 4.3)
maryland-logo
Last Week: Lost at #20 Purdue 79-83
This Week: Thursday vs Illinois, Sunday at #12 Indiana
Maryland 3-1-16
RPI: 10 | Best win: Jan. 28 vs #3 Iowa (74-68) | Worst loss: Feb. 18 at Minnesota (63-68)
5. Purdue (22-7, 10-6) – Up 1 – 4.7 (Last week: 6.3)
Purdue logo
Last Week: Beat #10 Maryland 83-79
This Week: Tuesday at Nebraska, Sunday vs Wisconsin
Purdue 3-1-16
RPI: 18 | Best win: Feb. 9 vs #8 Michigan State (82-81 OT) | Worst loss: Jan. 10 at Illinois (70-84)
6. Iowa (20-8, 11-5) – Down 4 – 5.7 (Last week: 2.0)
Iowa logo
Last Week: Lost to Wisconsin 59-67, Lost at Ohio State 64-68
This Week: Tuesday vs #12 Indiana, Saturday at Michigan
Iowa 3-1-16
RPI: 22 | Best win: Jan. 14 at #4 Michigan State (76-59) | Worst loss: Feb. 17 at Penn State (75-79)
7. Ohio State (19-11, 11-6) – Even – 7.3 (Last week: 7.0)
Ohio State logo new
Last Week: Lost to #6 Michigan State 62-81, Beat #8 Iowa 68-64
This Week: Saturday at #2 Michigan State
Ohio State 3-1-16
RPI: 74 | Best win: Dec. 19 vs #4 Kentucky (74-67) | Worst loss: Jan. 10 at Illinois (70-84)
8. Michigan (20-10, 10-7) – Even – 7.7 (Last week: 7.7)
Maize M
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 72-63, Lost at Wisconsin 57-68
This Week: Saturday vs #16 Iowa
Michigan 3-1-16
RPI: 57 | Best win: Jan. 12 vs #3 Maryland (70-67) | Worst loss: Feb. 16 at Ohio State (66-76)
9. Penn State (15-14, 6-10) – Even – 9.7 (Last week: 9.0)
Penn State Logo
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 56-55, Lost at 6 Michigan State 57-88
This Week: Thursday vs Northwestern, Sunday vs Illinois
Penn State 3-1-16
RPI: 98 | Best win: Feb. 17 vs #4 Iowa (79-75) | Worst loss: Nov. 24 vs Radford (74-86)
10. Northwestern (18-11, 6-10) – Up 1 – 10.0 (Last week: 11.0)
NorthwesternLogo
Last Week: Lost at Michigan 63-72, Beat Rutgers 98-59
This Week: Thursday at Penn State, Sunday vs Nebraska
Northwestern 3-1-16
RPI: 121 | Best win: Jan. 12 vs Wisconsin (70-65) | Worst loss: Jan. 16 vs Penn State (62-71)
11. Illinois (13-16, 5-11) – Up 2 – 10.3 (Last week: 12.7)
IllinoisLogo
Last Week: Lost to #18 Indiana 47-74, Beat Minnesota 84-71
This Week: Thursday at #14 Maryland, Sunday at Penn State
Illinois 3-1-16
RPI: 163 | Best win: Jan 10 vs #10 Purdue (84-70) | Worst loss: Nov. 13 vs North Florida (81-93)
12. Nebraska (14-15, 6-10) – Down 2 – 12.0 (Last week: 10.0)
Nebraska logo
Last Week: Lost at Penn State 55-56
This Week: Tuesday vs #15 Purdue, Sunday at Northwestern
Nebraska 3-1-16
RPI: 169 | Best win: Jan. 20 at #11 Michigan State (72-71) | Worst loss: Dec. 20 vs Samford (58-69)
13. Minnesota (8-20, 2-14) – Down 1 – 12.3 (Last week: 13.0)
Minnesota-Logo
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 83-61, Lost at Illinois 71-84
This Week: Wednesday vs Wisconsin, Saturday at Rutgers
Minnesota 3-1-16
RPI: 239 | Best win: Feb. 18 vs #6 Maryland (68-63) | Worst loss: Dec. 5 vs South Dakota (81-85 2OT)
14. Rutgers (6-23, 0-16) – Even – 14.0 (Last week: 14.0)
Rutgers logo
Last Week: Lost at Minnesota 61-83, Lost at Northwestern 59-98
This Week: Wednesday vs #2 Michigan State, Saturday vs Minnesota
Rutgers 3-1-16
RPI: 283 | Best win: Dec. 23 vs Fairleigh Dickinson (72-64) | Worst loss: Nov. 19 vs St. John’s (59-61)

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Feb. 23

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016


Power Rankings_header

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new leader. For the first time since we began our power rankings on Jan. 19, Iowa has been dethroned from the top spot. Although they are two and a half games back in the Big Ten standings, Michigan State made the move to the top of our power rankings. The Spartans have climbed from six to five to two to one over the last four weeks. Since dropping three in a row in mid-January, Izzo’s squad has won six of their last seven — the lone blemish a one-point overtime loss at Purdue — and look to be rounding into form just in time to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa fell to number two after losing at Penn State, while Indiana, who holds a half-game lead over Iowa, moved up two spots thanks to a win over rival Purdue. Wisconsin continued its surge up the rankings, moving to the fifth spot, while Michigan continued its slide, all the way down to eighth. Minnesota broke out of the 13th spot for the first time in our rankings, thanks to an improbably upset of sixth-ranked Maryland, switching spots with Illinois, and ruining what would have been a thrilling battle of winless teams with Rutgers on Tuesday.

“This week was not a good one for Michigan,” said Derick. “After a win over Purdue seemingly set the stage for a coast into the tournament, the Wolverines laid an egg in Columbus and fell just short of an upset in Maryland. Now Michigan has three remaining must-win games: Wednesday vs. Northwestern, either at Wisconsin or against Iowa, and the first matchup in the Big Ten tournament. If that sounds like a tall order, that’s because it is.”

1. Michigan State (22-5, 9-5) – Up 1 – 1.7 (Last week: 2.0)
MichiganStateLogo
Last Week: Beat Wisconsin 69-57
This Week: Tuesday at Ohio State, Sunday vs Penn State
MSU 2-23-16
RPI: 16 | Best win: Nov. 17 vs #4 Kansas (79-73) | Worst loss: Jan. 20 vs Nebraska (70-71)
2. Iowa (20-6, 11-3) – Down 1 – 2.0 (Last week: 1.0)
Iowa logo
Last Week: Lost at Penn State 75-79
This Week: Wednesday vs Wisconsin, Sunday at Ohio State
Iowa 2-23-16
RPI: 13 | Best win: Jan. 14 at #4 Michigan State (76-59) | Worst loss: Feb. 17 at Penn State (75-79)
3. Indiana (22-6, 12-3) – Up 2 – 2.3 (Last week: 3.7)
IU logo
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 80-64, Beat #17 Purdue 77-73
This Week: Thursday at Illinois
Indiana 2-23-16
RPI: 29 | Best win: Feb. 11 vs #4 Iowa (85-78) | Worst loss: Nov. 23 vs Wake Forest (78-82)
4. Maryland (23-5, 11-4) – Down 1 – 4.3 (Last week 3.5)
maryland-logo
Last Week: Lost at Minnesota 63-68, Beat Michigan 86-82
This Week: Saturday at #20 Purdue
Maryland 2-23-16
RPI: 9 | Best win: Jan. 28 vs #3 Iowa (74-68) | Worst loss: Feb. 18 at Minnesota (63-68)
5. Wisconsin (17-10, 9-5) – Up 1 – 4.7 (Last week: 6.0)
Wisconsin logo
Last Week: Lost at #8 Michigan State 57-69, Beat Illinois 69-60
This Week: Wednesday at #8 Iowa, Sunday vs Michigan
Wisconsin 2-23-16
RPI: 45 | Best win: Feb. 13 at #2 Maryland (70-57) | Worst loss: Nov. 13 vs Western Illinois (67-69)
6. Purdue (21-7, 9-6) – Down 2 – 6.3 (Last week: 4.0)
Purdue logo
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 71-61, Lost at #22 Indiana 73-77
This Week: Saturday vs #10 Maryland
Purdue 2-23-16
RPI: 23 | Best win: Feb. 9 vs #8 Michigan State (82-81 OT) | Worst loss: Jan. 10 at Illinois (70-84)
7. Ohio State (18-10, 10-5) – Up 1 – 7.0 (Last week: 7.7)
Ohio State logo new
Last Week: Beat Michigan 79-66, Beat Nebraska 65-62 (OT)
This Week: Tuesday vs #6 Michigan State, Sunday vs #8 Iowa
Ohio State 2-23-16
RPI: 76 | Best win: Dec. 19 vs #4 Kentucky (74-67) | Worst loss: Jan. 10 at Illinois (70-84)
8. Michigan (19-9, 9-6) – Down 1 – 7.7 (Last week: 7.3)
Maize M
Last Week: Lost at Ohio State 66-76, Lost at #6 Maryland 82-86
This Week: Wednesday vs Northwestern, Sunday at Wisconsin
Michigan 2-23-16
RPI: 57 | Best win: Jan. 12 vs #3 Maryland (70-67) | Worst loss: Feb. 16 at Ohio State (66-76)
9. Penn State (14-13, 5-9) – Up 2 – 9.0 (Last week: 10.3)
Penn State Logo
Last Week: Beat #4 Iowa 79-75, Beat Rutgers 70-58
This Week: Thursday vs Nebraska, Sunday at #6 Michigan State
Penn State 2-23-16
RPI: 101 | Best win: Feb. 17 vs #4 Iowa (79-75) | Worst loss: Nov. 24 vs Radford (74-86)
10. Nebraska (14-14, 6-9) – Even – 10.0 (Last week: 10.0)
Nebraska logo
Last Week: Lost at #22 Indiana 64-80, Lost to Ohio State 62-65 (OT)
This Week: Thursday at Penn State
Nebraska 2-23-16
RPI: 161 | Best win: Jan. 20 at #11 Michigan State (72-71) | Worst loss: Dec. 20 vs Samford (58-69)
11. Northwestern (17-10, 5-9) – Down 2 – 11.0 (Last week: 9.0)
NorthwesternLogo
Last Week: Lost at #17 Purdue 61-71
This Week: Wednesday at Michigan, Saturday vs Rutgers
Northwestern 2-23-16
RPI: 108 | Best win: Jan. 12 vs Wisconsin (70-65) | Worst loss: Jan. 16 vs Penn State (62-71)
12. Minnesota (7-19, 1-13) – Up 1 – 12.3 (Last week: 13.0)
Minnesota-Logo
Last Week: Beat #6 Maryland 68-63
This Week: Tuesday vs Rutgers, Sunday at Illinois
Minnesota 2-23-16
RPI: 222 | Best win: Feb. 18 vs #6 Maryland (68-63) | Worst loss: Dec. 5 vs South Dakota (81-85 2OT)
13. Illinois (12-15, 4-10) – Down 1 – 12.7 (Last week: 12.0)
IllinoisLogo
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 82-66, Lost at Wisconsin 60-69
This Week: Thursday vs #18 Indiana, Sunday vs Minnesota
Illinios 2-23-16
RPI: 153 | Best win: Jan 10 vs #10 Purdue (84-70) | Worst loss: Nov. 13 vs North Florida (81-93)
14. Rutgers (6-21, 0-14) – Even – 14.0 (Last week: 14.0)
Rutgers logo
Last Week: Lost at Illinois 66-82, Lost to Penn State 58-70
This Week: Tuesday at Minnesota, Saturday at Northwestern
Rutgers 2-23-16
RPI: 275 | Best win: Dec. 23 vs Fairleigh Dickinson (72-64) | Worst loss: Nov. 19 vs St. John’s (59-61)

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Feb. 16

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016


Power Rankings_header

Iowa held onto the top spot yet again, but the top six all beat each other last week making for a little bit of movement. Michigan State is the biggest riser of the week, climbing three spots to second. Spots four through eight and the bottom three remain the same from last week.

“The top of the Big Ten is starting to get muddled…which must mean March is close,” said Sam. “Iowa holds onto the top spot for me despite dropping a game at Assembly Hall, Michigan State moves up despite losing at Mackey, and Maryland drops a bit after getting blown out at home by Wisconsin. The Badgers continue to climb my power rankings and seem poised to get a seventh Big Dance bid for the conference. Michigan, meanwhile, had a huge bounceback week capped with a tough win over Purdue at home, but Purdue’s win over MSU at home keeps them ahead of the Wolverines. This is going to be fun.”

1. Iowa (20-5, 11-2) – Even – 1.0 (Last week: 1.3)
Last Week: Lost at Indiana 78-85, Beat Minnesota 75-71
This Week: Wednesday at Penn State
2. Michigan State (21-5, 8-5) – Up 3 – 2.0 (Last week: 4.3)
Last Week: Lost at #18 Purdue 81-82 (OT), Beat Indiana 88-69
This Week: Thursday vs Wisconsin
3. Maryland (22-4, 10-3) – Down 1 – 3.5 (Last week: 1.7)
Last Week: Beat Bowie State 93-62, Lost to Wisconsin 57-70
This Week: Thursday at Minnesota, Sunday vs Michigan
4. Purdue (20-6, 8-5) – Even – 4.5 (Last week 4.0)
Last Week: Beat #8 Michigan State 82-81 (OT), Lost at Michigan 56-61
This Week: Tuesday vs Northwestern, Saturday at #22 Indiana
5. Indiana (20-6, 10-3) – Even – 5.0 (Last week: 3.7)
Last Week: Beat #4 Iowa 85-78, Lost at #8 Michigan State 69-88
This Week: Wednesday vs Nebraska, Saturday vs #17 Purdue
6. Wisconsin (16-9, 8-4) – Even – 5.5 (Last week: 6.0)
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 72-61, Beat #2 Maryland 70-57
This Week: Thursday at #8 Michigan State, Sunday vs Illinois
7. Michigan (19-7, 9-4) – Even – 6.5 (Last week: 7.3)
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 82-74, Beat #18 Purdue 61-56
This Week: Tuesday at Ohio State, Sunday at #6 Maryland
8. Ohio State (16-10, 8-5) – Even – 8.0 (Last week: 7.7)
Last Week: Beat Northwestern 71-63, Beat Rutgers 79-69
This Week: Tuesday vs Michigan, Saturday at Nebraska
9. Northwestern (17-9, 5-8) – Up 2 – 9.0 (Last week: 10.7)
Last Week: Lost at Ohio State 63-71, Beat Illinois 58-56
This Week: Tuesday at #17 Purdue
10. Nebraska (14-12, 6-7) – Down 1 – 10.0 (Last week: 9.0)
Last Week: Lost at Wisconsin 61-72, Beat Penn State 70-54
This Week: Wednesday at #22 Indiana, Saturday vs Ohio State
11. Penn State (12-13, 3-9) – Down 1 – 11.0 (Last week: 10.3)
Last Week: Lost at Nebraska 54-70
This Week: Wednesday vs #4 Iowa, Saturday at Rutgers
12. Illinois (11-14, 3-9) – Even – 12.0 (Last week: 12.0)
Last Week: Lost at Northwestern 56-58
This Week: Tuesday vs Rutgers, Saturday at Wisconsin
13. Minnesota (6-19, 0-13) – Even – 13.0 (Last week: 13.0)
Last Week: Lost to Michigan 74-82, Lost at #4 Iowa 71-75
This Week: Thursday vs #6 Maryland
14. Rutgers (6-19, 0-12) – Even – 14.0 (Last week: 14.0)
Last Week: Lost to Ohio State 69-79
This Week: Tuesday at Illinois, Saturday vs Penn State

Michigan hoops preview: Minnesota

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016


UM-Minnesota
Michigan at Minnesota
Wednesday, Feb. 10 | Minneapolis, Minn. | 9 p.m. ET | Big Ten Network
Line: Michigan -7
Offense
76.8 Points/gm 69.0
(653-1,354) 48.2 Field Goal % 41.1 (537-1,305)
(248-616) 40.3 3-pt FG % 31.6 (147-465)
(288-388) 74.2 Free Throw % 70.0 (367-524)
12.0 FT Made/gm 16.0
32.2 Reb/gm 33.7
15.5 Assists/gm 12.5
9.8 Turnovers/gm 11.0
Defense
66.0 Points/gm 74.2
(583-1,337) 43.6 Field Goal % 44.5 (602-1,354)
(175-503) 34.8 3-pt FG % 35.4 (164-463)
32.3 Opp. Reb/gm 38.8
5.8 Steals/gm 5.3
2.3 Blocks/gm 3.8
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (12.1) Points/gm Nate Mason (13.4), Joey King (11.4)
Derick Walton (5.6), Caris LeVert (5.4) Reb/gm Jordan Murphy (7.8), Bakary Konate (4.3)

Michigan is out of the Big Ten title hunt after a horrendous week that included blowout losses to Indiana and Michigan State, both at home. The good news is the Wolverines get a chance to bounce back against one of the conference’s cellar dwellers, Minnesota. Michigan beat the Gophers in the season’s first meeting, 74-69, on Jan. 20.

Since then, Minnesota has lost its last four, and is still winless since a Dec. 16 win over Chicago State. The Gophers were 6-5 at that point, but currently stand 6-17 overall and 0-11 in Big Ten play. They rank 12th in the Big Ten in both scoring (69 points per game) and scoring defense (74.2 ppg). Only Penn State shoots worse from the field (41.1 percent) and only Penn State and Rutgers shoot worse from three-point range (31.6 percent). Simply put, Minnesota is a bad basketball team.

Sophomore guard Nate Mason (6-foot-1, 185) leads the way with 13.4 points and 4.4 assists per game. He almost led the Gophers to an upset of Michigan three weeks ago with a season-high 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting. He almost did the same in a close loss at Indiana on Jan. 30 with 21 points.

Freshman guard Dupree McBrayer (6-foot-4, 175) has been the other starting guard as of late. He averages just 4.9 points per game on the season while shooting just 28.3 percent from the field and 15.8 percent from three-point range. He managed nine points against Michigan in the first meeting.

Freshman Jordan Murphy (6-foot-6, 230) and redshirt junior Charles Buggs (6-foot-9, 230) are the starting forwards, averaging 10.7 and 6.2 points per game, respectively. Murphy leads the team with 7.8 rebounds per game. He scored 13 against Michigan the first time out on 6-of-11 shooting, but Buggs scored just two points and missed all four shots he attempted. Sophomore Bakary Konate (6-foot-11, 235) is the center, averaging 4.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He leads the team with 27 blocks, but was mainly a non-factor in the first meeting.

Senior forward Joey King (6-foot-9, 240) and senior guard Carlos Morris (6-foot-5, 185) are also heavy rotation players, averaging 11.4 and 10.3 points per game, respectively. Morris scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the first meeting. King has been hot and cold in Big Ten play with games of 22 against Penn State, 18 against Indiana, and 20 against Illinois, but has been held to five or fewer points in five of the last eight games. In the last three games, he has made just 2-of-9 shots from the field and 1-of-7 from three-point range for a combined seven points.

Freshman guard Kevin Dorsey (6-foot-0, 175) is the only other Gopher averaging double digit minutes. He was held scoreless in nine minutes of action against Michigan the first time, but scored 21 points on 10-of-19 shooting against Indiana a week and a half ago. He has scored nearly as many points in the last two games (32) as he did in the first nine games of Big Ten play combined (34).

While Michigan is expected to win this one, Minnesota surely sees it as a great opportunity to pick up its first conference win of the season. Richard Pitino will tell his team that a team lacking confidence and reeling from back to back home blowouts is ripe for the picking. But Michigan could get a much needed boost if Caris LeVert returns. He likely won’t be in full game shape even if he plays, but at least it’s an option at this point after missing the last 10 games with a foot injury.

Whether or not LeVert plays, Michigan must come out of Minneapolis with a win if it wants any hope of making the NCAA Tournament next month. At 17-7 overall and 7-4 in the Big Ten right now, Michigan may need to go at least 5-2 the rest of the way and pick up a win in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament to earn a trip to the Big Dance. And with repeat matchups against Purdue, Maryland, and Iowa ahead, winnable games are few and far between.

Big Ten hoops power rankings: Feb. 9

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016


Power Rankings_header

The top two teams remain the same this week, but Michigan took a three spot tumble thanks to blowout losses to Indiana and Michigan State. The bottom seven remain essentially the same.

“Michigan is unsurprisingly the big faller this week after being the janitor’s mop,” said Sam. “Not many other changes, though Penn State maybe had the most unexpected victory of the week by beating Indiana at home. Purdue has a huge week with games at Michigan State and Michigan in the coming days that should give further insight there, while Iowa continues to roll with Maryland lurking just behind.”

“The big mover in this week’s rankings is obviously Michigan,” said Derick. “The Wolverines looked like a Big Ten contender halfway through the conference schedule, but got bombed by Indiana and MSU at home. Caris LeVert isn’t playing, but even with its star player, Michigan has shown it isn’t competitive with upper-tier teams this season.”

1. Iowa (19-4, 10-1) – Even – 1.3 (Last week: 1.3)
Last Week: Beat Penn State 73-49, Beat Illinois 77-65
This Week: Thursday at Indiana, Sunday vs Minnesota
2. Maryland (21-3, 10-2) – Even – 1.7 (Last week: 1.7)
Last Week: Beat Nebraska 70-65, Beat #18 Purdue 72-61
This Week: Tuesday vs Bowie State, Saturday vs Wisconsin
3. Indiana (19-5, 9-2) – Up 1 – 3.7 (Last week: 3.0)
Last Week: Beat Michigan 80-63, Lost at Penn State 63-68
This Week: Thursday vs #4 Iowa, Sunday at #8 Michigan State
4. Purdue (19-5, 7-4) – Up 2 – 4.0 (Last week 5.7)
Last Week: Lost at #4 Maryland 61-72
This Week: Tuesday vs #8 Michigan State, Saturday at Michigan
5. Michigan State (20-4, 7-4) – Even – 4.3 (Last week: 5.3)
Last Week: Beat Michigan 89-73
This Week: Tuesday at #18 Purdue, Sunday vs Indiana
6. Wisconsin (14-9, 6-4) – Up 1 – 6.0 (Last week: 7.0)
Last Week: Beat Ohio State 79-68
This Week: Wednesday vs Nebraska, Saturday at #2 Maryland
7. Michigan (17-7, 7-4) – Down 3 – 7.3 (Last week: 4.0)
Last Week: Lost to #22 Indiana 67-80, Lost to #10 Michigan State 73-89
This Week: Wednesday at Minnesota, Saturday vs #18 Purdue
8. Ohio State (14-10, 6-5) – Even – 7.7 (Last week: 8.0)
Last Week: Lost at Wisconsin 68-79
This Week: Tuesday vs Northwestern, Saturday at Rutgers
9. Nebraska (13-11, 5-6) – Even – 9.0 (Last week: 9.0)
Last Week: Lost to #4 Maryland 65-70, Beat Rutgers 87-63
This Week: Wednesday at Wisconsin, Saturday vs Penn State
10. Penn State (12-12, 3-8) – Up 1 – 10.3 (Last week: 12.0)
Last Week: Lost at #5 Iowa 49-73, Beat #22 Indiana 68-63
This Week: Saturday at Nebraska
11. Northwestern (16-8, 4-7) – Down 1 – 10.7 (Last week: 10.7)
Last Week: Beat Minnesota 82-58
This Week: Tuesday at Ohio State, Saturday vs Illinois
12. Illinois (11-13, 3-8) – Even – 12.0 (Last week: 11.3)
Last Week: Beat Rutgers 110-101 (3OT), Lost to #5 Iowa 65-77
This Week: Saturday at Northwestern
13. Minnesota (6-17, 0-11) – Even – 13.0 (Last week: 13.0)
Last Week: Lost at Northwestern 58-82
This Week: Wednesday vs Michigan, Sunday at #4 Iowa
14. Rutgers (6-18, 0-11) – Even – 14.0 (Last week: 14.0)
Last Week: Lost to Illinois 103-110 (3OT), Lost at Nebraska 63-87
This Week: Saturday vs Ohio State

Michigan hoops preview: #22 Indiana

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016


UM-Indiana
Michigan vs Indiana
Tuesday, Feb. 2 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 9 p.m. EST | ESPN
Line: Michigan -3
Offense
77.4 Points/gm 85.2
(600-1,234) 48.6 Field Goal % 51.7 (667-1,291)
(233-565) 41.2 3-pt FG % 43.2 (220-509)
(269-361) 74.5 Free Throw % 71.8 (321-447)
12.2 FT Made/gm 14.6
32.8 Reb/gm 38.2
16.0 Assists/gm 16.7
9.8 Turnovers/gm 14.6
Defense
64.4 Points/gm 68.5
(518-1,221) 42.4 Field Goal % 43.4 (558-1,287)
(151-451) 33.5 3-pt FG % 33.3 (125-375)
31.6 Opp. Reb/gm 30.0
5.7 Steals/gm 7.4
2.5 Blocks/gm 4.3
Individual Leaders
Caris LeVert (17.6), Duncan Robinson (12.5) Points/gm Yogi Ferrell (17.5), James Blackmon (15.8)
Derick Walton (5.9), Caris LeVert (5.4) Reb/gm Troy Williams (6.5), Thomas Bryant (5.5)

After sweeping its easiest four-game stretch of the Big Ten season, Michigan returns home Tuesday to kick off a much more difficult second half of the conference slate against Indiana. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers come into the game after a pretty worry-free first half of their own.

Seven of Michigan’s last nine games will come against teams with a winning conference record, and none will be bigger than Tuesday’s matchup against an Indiana team currently tied at the very top. The Hoosiers, though they’ve yet to play any of the Big Ten’s top six teams, are 8-1 and winners of 13 of their last 14 games.

With top-five duo Maryland and Iowa setting the pace, Michigan will have to put together a string of quality wins in February to earn a double bye in next month’s Big Ten Tournament. That journey begins Tuesday night.

Here are three keys to the game.

1. Bielfeldt is back

It’s been a wild ride for former Michigan forward Max Bielfeldt over the last 12 months, going from bench warmer to rotation center to starting big man at Indiana.

Calves came out of nowhere in 2015, playing more than 20 minutes in eight of Michigan’s final 14 games. The redshirt junior topped 20 minutes only once in the team’s first 18 games: A four-point effort against Detroit.

But now Bielfeldt is a major contributor for the Hoosiers, averaging 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 17 minutes per game. He’s also raised his field goal percentage by more than 10 percentage points, shooting a stellar 58.2 percent from the floor.

As a graduate transfer, this will be Bielfeldt’s last game at the Crisler Center, but Michigan fans will see a much different player than the one who came off of John Beilein’s bench with a minute left in blowouts. Bielfeldt is more involved on both ends of the floor with the Hoosiers and has scored in double figures nine times this season.

Beilein said on Monday that he didn’t agree with the NCAA allowing Bielfeldt to transfer to another Big Ten school. That quote alone will tell you Bielfeldt’s old coach understands the veteran’s value on the court.

2. To Caris, or not to Caris?

While the mysterious absence of Caris LeVert in Michigan’s backcourt continues to drag on, both sides of Tuesday’s matchup are focused squarely on one question: Will he play?

But regardless of LeVert’s status, the more appropriate question for Michigan fans might be, “Should he play?”

That’s no knock on LeVert. The senior guard is clearly the team’s most valuable player, leading the way in points, assists and rebounds before his “lower leg” injury. But it’s worth wondering if such a big stage is the right time for Beilein to pull the trigger.

Since LeVert hit the bench, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton have really stepped up their play. Irvin is making a concerted effort to drive to the basket and find his teammates while Walton is filling LeVert’s absence on the defensive boards.

With the offense starting to click in its current rotation, is it the right time to reinsert a player like LeVert, who not only demands the basketball in his hands on most of the team’s possessions, but also might be knocking off a month’s worth of rust?

The obviously problem is that, with Michigan’s upcoming schedule, there’s really no good time to make the transition. The Wolverines only have two opponents left on their schedule — Northwestern and Minnesota — that they can beat without playing a solid game. With having LeVert ready by March as Beilein’s primary goal, he might have to bite the bullet and accept the growing pains that’ll come from putting LeVert back on the court.

Would the future first-round draft pick agree to come off the bench? If so, that might be a good way to ease him back into the flow of things. LeVert has never suggested to be a player with a huge ego, but coming off the bench would definitely be a transition for the third-year starter.

Michigan has been very vague about the nature of LeVert’s injury, so we probably won’t get an answer to our questions until he trots onto the court.

3. Protect this house

Michigan will play perhaps the most difficult second-half schedule in the Big Ten, but it can at least watch its destiny play out on its own turf.

Over the next five weeks, Michigan will host Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern and Iowa at the Crisler Center. That means before the conference title is decided, four of Michigan’s five greatest competitors for the conference crown will take a trip to Ann Arbor.

If the Wolverines can take care of business on their home court, the path to the Big Ten championship will run along Stadium Boulevard.

The Hoosiers didn’t make the trip north last season as the only meeting between these two teams came at Assembly Hall. In fact, last time Indiana saw Crisler, Michigan was cutting the nets and getting ready to raise another banner.

Michigan’s 84-80 win over the Hoosers on March 8, 2014, put the cherry on top of another Big Ten title for Beilein’s squad. Michigan polished off a 23-7 regular season with a 9-5 run in the final minute to hold off Tom Crean’s upset attempt. After a Stanford Robinson bucket tied the game at 75 with under 90 seconds to go, a Glenn Robinson 3-pointer and six perfect free throws sent Michigan into the conference tournament with a No. 1 seed.

Tuesday night’s game will begin with a much different feel. Michigan, for one, is unranked and expected to be a middling seed when it heads to Indianapolis. Meanwhile Indiana, at 18-4 overall, has its eyes set on a top-three seed in the Big Dance.

But those differences don’t change the importance of this game. Michigan can’t afford to drop home games like this if it hopes to emerge as a true contender. This appears to be a bit of a validation game for two teams hoping to keep pace with loaded rosters like the Hawkeyes and Terps.

Michigan’s guards will have their hands full with Ferrell on defense, but Indiana’s athleticism in the front court might be the biggest deciding factor in this contest. With eyes on LeVert, Bielfeldt, Crean and Ferrell in his last trip to Crisler, it should be an entertaining matchup to kick off February in the Big Ten.