A share of the Big Ten Conference regular- season title is up for grabs for the seventh-ranked Michigan Wolverines, as they close out the regular season with a home date against the second-ranked Indiana Hoosiers at the Crisler Center on Sunday afternoon.
Indiana has already clinched a share of the conference crown, but with a win in this matchup it would secure its first outright regular-season championship since 1993. Although undoubtedly one of the best teams in the nation, the Hoosiers have slipped up of late with losses in two of their last three, including a 67-58 home defeat at the hands of Ohio State on Tuesday night.
Michigan would earn a share of the title for the second straight season if it were to come out victorious in this contest, marking the first time since 1985-86 it has accomplished that feat. The Wolverines have won two straight nail-biters, beating nationally-ranked Michigan State on March 3 (58-57), and outlasting Purdue on the road on Wednesday (80-75) to improve to 25-5 on the season, and they are a perfect 17-0 at home and 32-1 in Ann Arbor over the past two seasons.
Indiana hosted then-No. 1 Michigan on Feb. 2 and came away with an 81-73 win to extend its lead in the all-time series to 102-56.
The Hoosiers put together one of their worst performances of the year the last time out, shooting less than 40 percent from the field while registered their lowest point total in the nine-point home setback. Cody Zeller was strong in defeat, pouring in 17 points, while Christian Watford added 12 points. It was an atypical performance for Indiana, which ranks third in the nation in scoring (81.1 ppg) and sixth in field goal percentage (.491). Zeller is in the midst of an All-America-caliber campaign, scoring 16.5 ppg on 57.3 percent from the field while adding 8.0 ppg and more than a block and a steal per game to boot. Victor Oladipo (13.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg) is also an outstanding shooter at greater than 63 percent. Watford (12.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Jordan Hulls (10.6 ppg) are equally deadly from beyond the arc, combining for 124 3-pointers at a 48.2 percent clip, while Will Sheehey provides a spark off the bench with 9.5 ppg. In addition to its incredible offense, IU also plays well at the other end of the court, allowing only 61.9 ppg.
Michigan appeared to be in deep trouble against Purdue in its latest game, as it was down by 12 midway through the second half on the road, but the team caught fire down the stretch, shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 17- of-22 from the foul line after intermission, as it captured the ever-important victory. Trey Burke was the catalyst in the triumph with 26 points, seven assists and three steals, while Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway, Jr. poured in 17 and 16 points, respectively. Much like Indiana, the Maize and Blue boast a very powerful offense (75.6 ppg) while supporting it with an equally-strong defensive approach (62.3 ppg). Burke is one of the nation's elite point guards. Not only does he hand out a Big Ten-best 6.9 apg with nearly a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, but he nets the second-most points in the league (19.1 ppg) on an outstanding 49.2 percent shooting from the field. Hardaway, Jr. (14.9 ppg) and Stauskas (11.6 ppg) are also in the midst of solid seasons, and the top-three scorers have each drilled at least 56 3-pointers. Glenn Robinson III rounds out a potent attack with 10.9 ppg and 5.5 rpg.