At the beginning of the season, Michigan head coach John Beilein likely didn't envision his team clawing for NCAA tournament berth late in the season. However, after a string of unfortunate losses and injuries, the Wolverines find themselves in desperate need of a win. With Indiana trending downward, Michigan will need to strike the iron while its hot in Bloomington today. Elsewhere in the conference, Maryland takes on Iowa in hopes of building off their most recent double-digit win over Beilein's Wolverines. Ohio State also tries to avoid an upset from Myles Mack and Rutgers when they take on the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, NJ. What to expect on a packed conference Sunday.
Game of the Day
Michigan Wolverines @ Indiana Hoosiers - 1 ET (CBS)
Michigan (13-10, 6-5) is nearing in on desperation mode. While the Wolverines have been able to post an above .500 conference record so far, their blowout loss to Iowa on Thursday did no favors for their resume. If they are able to win out, they'd finish the season with 20 total wins and the opportunity to add more in the Big Ten tournament. While this may seen highly unlikely, considering the strength of their remaining schedule (vs. #20 OSU, @ #17 Maryland), there's always the possibility something crazy could happen. Regardless, Indiana poses their first obstacle in trying to grab a spot.
Once ranked #22 in the nation, the Hoosiers (16-7, 6-4) have faltered as of late. After dropping three of their last four, they head into Sunday looking to regain their touch that led them into the top 25. A huge boost will be the return of freshman phemon James Blackmon Jr. The standout guard is slated to return after missing their last game against #5 Wisconsin due to an ankle injury. Blackmon's scoring (16.5 PPG) leads the high powered Hoosier offense that's averaging 80.2 PPG on the season. His presence on the court alleviates much of the pressure from Yogi Ferrell and will allow one or the other to get more open looks on the perimeter. Troy Williams also looks to step up against a smaller Michigan team.
A key one-on-one matchup in this contest to watch will be Williams on Michigan forward Ricky Doyle. While the freshman Doyle has a two inch height advantage, Williams' freak athleticism will provide an interesting contrast to a more stagnant Michigan frontcourt. Look for Indiana to go to Williams early in attempt to establish a rhythm in the post.
With the Wolverines' Derrick Walton, Jr. sidelined indefinitely with a foot injury, Zak Irvin will have to all but take over on offense. Putting up only 7 points in their loss against Iowa does not bode well for a guard heavy offense. Irvin will need to play well if Michigan wants any chance of pulling this out. Bloomington can get wacky, and no Big Ten road win is easy. Edge goes to the Hoosiers in this one.
#17 Maryland Terrapins @ Iowa Hawkeyes - 3:15 ET (BTN)
Maryland (19-4, 7-3) is all but a lock for the tourney. However Iowa could use this game to push themselves over the edge. The Hawkeyes (14-8, 5-4) are currently one of the "Last Four Byes" in the ESPN.com bracketology rankings, and could use a win against a ranked opponent to better secure their spot. After beating Michigan by 18, this could become another step in the right direction.
However, Melo Trimble and company have other plans. Following a humiliating 24 point loss to Ohio State, the Terps responded well, beating Penn State behind 23 points from Dez Wells. Wells is hot right now, and could prove to be a mismatch for a tall Hawkeye team. While Iowa's big guys Adam Woodbury and Jarred Uthoff offer a lot as far as post play, Wells' athleticism is unmatched. It should be interesting to see how Hawkeyes head coach Fran McCaffery chooses to deal with him.
The gut feeling is that this one will be close. However, Iowa could be a dark horse. After all, some teams play better when they have something to lose.
#22 Ohio State Buckeyes @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights - 5:30 ET (BTN)
Its fair to say the rest of the Big Ten learned their lesson when they witnessed then #4 Wisconsin fall to the Scarlet Knights earlier last month. For Thad Matta's Buckeyes, this is a mistake they want to avoid replicating. D'Angelo Russell is playing like a member of first-team all Big Ten and will look to continue his hot streak when facing up against guard Myles Mack. Mack and Kadeem Jack, cordially known as 'the Mack and Jack Show' lead Rutgers in scoring and will try to grab a huge win. While essentially eliminated from tournament consideration, there's always the NIT to play for. Ohio State should leave New Jersey with a win.