The top two teams in the Big Ten Conference settle their differences on the court at Assembly Hall on Saturday night, as the top-ranked Michigan Wolverines come calling on the third-ranked Indiana Hoosiers.
At 20-1, Michigan is off to its best start ever, and the last time the Wolverines owned the top ranking in the AP poll was back on Nov. 30, 1992. Coach John Beilein's squad has won four straight since suffering its lone defeat of the campaign (56-53 at Ohio State), with their most recent triumph coming in a 68-46 rout of visiting Northwestern on Wednesday night, running its home record to a perfect 13-0 this season, and 28-1 over the last two years.
Indiana held down the top spot in the nation through the first month of the season, but a tough overtime loss to Hoosier State rival Butler put an end to the team's dream of a perfect campaign. Since then, IU has won 10 of 11 bouts and sits at 19-2 overall and 7-1 in conference (same as Michigan). The Hoosiers have won the last four games since suffering a 64-59 loss at home to Wisconsin on Jan. 15, the most recent of which being a 97-60 shellacking of another in-state rival in Purdue this past Wednesday.
Indiana owns a 101-56 advantage in the all-time series with Michigan, and the teams have split the last 10 meetings. The Wolverines will host the Hoosiers in the regular-season finale on March 10.
Trey Burke (17.9 ppg, 7.1 apg) is among the best guards in the Big Ten, while backcourt mates Tim Hardaway, Jr. (15.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Nik Stauskas (12.6 ppg), along with forwards Glenn Robinson III (12.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Jared Morgan (6.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) give Michigan one of the finest starting groups in all of college basketball. The team as a collective unit averages 78.0 ppg, laying claim to substantial differentials in scoring (+19.4), rebounding (+7.5) and turnovers (+2.7), all while shooting 51 percent from the field, which includes a near-41 percent showing from 3-point range. The Wolverines jumped on top of Northwestern early in their recent matchup, and kept the pedal down the rest of the way in what turned out to be a 22-point triumph. Michigan got 18 points from Burke, 13 from Robinson III, 11 from Stauskas and 10 from Jon Horford, who filled in for the injured Jordan Morgan (ankle). The Wolverines committed only two turnovers in the game, while holding the Wildcats to a mere 37.3 percent shooting, which included a dismal 4-of-19 effort from 3-point land.
Indiana owns the nation's No. 1-ranked scoring margin (+23.6) -- Michigan is third -- as the Hoosiers average 84.0 ppg while allowing just 60.4 ppg. Cody Zeller (16.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg) continues to pace the team in both scoring and rebounding, all while shooting nearly 60 percent from the field and 74 percent from the charity stripe. Victor Oladipo (14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.3 apg) is next in line in the scoring column, and additional help comes from Christian Watford (12.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Jordan Hulls (11.1 ppg, 3.3 apg) and Will Sheehy (10.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg). All five starters scored in double figures for IU in its recent win at Purdue, with Zeller logging a double-double consisting of 19 points and 11 rebounds. The team as a whole drained 49.3 percent of its total shots, including 12-of-25 3-point tries, and it was almost perfect at the free throw line (19-of-20). The Hoosiers committed only eight turnovers, while goading the Boilermakers into 18. A 39-29 edge on the glass certainly helped matters, as did the fact that the home team hit only two treys on the night.