Friday, March 03, 2006

One Final "It comes to this"

IU's win over an undermanned-yet-feisty Purdue squad has put it back in contention for a NCAA bid. A win at Michigan (1:30pm, Saturday) would mean the Hoosiers were in.

My guess, Michigan wins. I don't like it, and I hope I'm wrong, and it would mean that I was wrong about at Michigan being one of the few road games Indiana would steal this season. But here is why:

1) It's at Michigan.
It's been a friendly arena for Indiana to win in the last few years, but this year Michigan hasn't imploded, and is in fact a decent team. Especially at home. Throw in this year's Big 10 road difficulties, and on the road is the last place you want to be when you desparately need a victory.

2) It's senior day for Michigan.
I know that is was senior day for Purdue as well, but there's no doubt that Purdue is the worst team in the Big Ten. And Purdue's four seniors (Matt Kiefer, Gary Ware, Bryant Dillon, & Matt Carroll) are just not game-changers like Michigan's three scholarship seniors are (Daniel Horton, Chris Hunter, Graham Brown).

3) Michigan is made to destroy Indiana
The Wolverines specific advantage, offensive rebounding, is Indiana's biggest weakness. IU's going to have a hard time getting defensive stops, as even tho Michigan doesn't shoot well, they'll just rebound and try again until they score just like they did at Assembly Hall. Also, this is going to probably keep IU's best rebounder, Marco Killingsworth, in foul trouble and off the floor for much of the game.
On defense, Michigan has a variety of athletic bigs to throw at Marco and keep the Hoosiers out of the paint. Unless IU comes out on fire from long-range, and can get the maize-and-blue scrambling to cover shooters, it's going to be hard to get anything going to the basket.

I think IU would have a reasonable chance (50-50) of taking advantage of the sloppy ball-handling and weak outside shooting of Michigan if they were at least at a neutral site. But they aren't, and I think it's a very long shot indeed for Indiana to upset Michigan on Senior day.

So what does this mean? Well, IU will fall to 8-8 in the conference, and be in 7th, and have to pick up two wins in the Big 10 tourney to get an at-large bid. That'll mean beating the #10 seed (Northwestern, most likely) and upsetting whoever gets the #2 seed, which will probably be Iowa. Indiana hasn't fared well against Iowa in the Big 10 tournament, but I actually bet that could be a pretty good draw for Indiana.

So, even if IU doesn't win this weekend, and in fact gets blown out, I counsel my fellow Hoosiers to remain calm and realize that all is not lost yet.


At 10:29 AM, Blogger WeLoveCov said...

Good analysis of the Michigan game. The Hoosiers still have a lot of talent so the stars could align for a victory - especially if they are hot shooting 3s. If they get in I also wouldn't be surprised if they rode a hot streak to the Sweet 16, I really wouldn't. They could shoot their way to a first game upset, and then with a short prep for Killingsworth for a team who has never seen him before could lead to a monster game from him reminiscent of the non-con season.

I hope whoever the new coach is cuts down on the Davis-era tendency for guys to just go out and jack up 3s. Unfortunately the early success of Coverdale-Fife-Hornsby shooting treys somehow turned the 3 into Indiana's blueprint for winning ballgames.

Early this season when IU was playing great, a big part of the reason was better shot selection - they still shot a lot of 3s but they were "good" shots - in the flow of the offense or uncontested looks. If I turn on an IU game and see the guys shooting 3s 10 or 15 seconds into the shot clock, I groan. Sure you can blow teams out that way, but you can also look alot of games if the shots aren't falling.

Live by the 3, die by the 3.


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