On Thursday evening, Indiana went on the road to face Michigan in what figured to be a crucial game for both sides. With mixed starts to Big Ten play, each desperately needed a win for their resume and the pressure would be on to get the job done.
However, despite the importance of the game, only one side showed up when the game actually began. Michigan came out firing in the first few minutes and built a massive lead before halftime. Indiana was able to trim it to 15 at the break, but the Hoosiers never got in position to serious challenge the Wolverines. Michigan ended up winning by 90-60 final score against Indiana.
Let's see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. Michigan Is Scary When It Plays Well.
For virtually John Beilein’s entire tenure in Ann Arbor, the common phrase that’s gone accompanied him is that his teams “live and die by the three.” In short, if the team is shooting well, they’ll do well. And if they aren’t shooting well, things won’t be pretty.
On Thursday night, things went very well.
While Michigan did a lot more than shoot threes, there’s no arguing that the Wolverines were red hot for the entire night. Not only did shooters like Zak Irvin and Duncan Robinson hit big looks, but even players like Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and DJ Wilson made some difficult shots.
Michigan is certainly a good bit back from the nation’s elite teams like Arizona, Gonzaga, UCLA, and Villanova, but when the Wolverines play like they did on Thursday night, they’re going to be very tough out for anybody.
2. DJ Wilson Is Emerging As A Star.
Perhaps no player has been a brighter spot for the Wolverines this season than forward DJ Wilson. After seeing virtually no action during his first few seasons in Ann Arbor, he worked his way into a starting role this season. And as the calendar prepares to turn to February, Wilson is starting to turn into a star player.
The impressive thing about Wilson’s game is that it’s so diverse. Not only can he hit the boards, but he can create in the post, shoot from long range, protect the rim, and even operate as a facilitator. All told, he finished with 11 points, five rebounds, four blocks, and three assists on the evening.
Wilson doesn’t deserve to be in first team All-Big Ten consideration, but he’s rapidly becoming Michigan’s best player and deserves more acclaim around the conference. And if he can keep this up, he’s going to earn some major NBA attention too.
3. Indiana Could Be In Trouble.
On Thursday morning, I took an in-depth look at the Hoosiers and why I thought Indiana would end up being a bubble team on Selection Sunday. While I don’t want to gloat, Thursday’s blowout loss to Michigan didn’t exactly change my opinion.
However, things could get much worse for the Hoosiers.
Projecting the future is always dangerous, but Indiana will follow its loss to Michigan with a road trip to Northwestern, a home game against Penn State (who Indiana nearly lost to eight days ago), a road trip to Wisconsin, and a home game against Purdue.
Even if Indiana does find a way to get through the Nittany Lions, fans can’t feel great about beating any of those other teams after Thursday night. And if not, Indiana could end up on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday.
4. Replacing OG Anunoby Is Easier Said Than Done.
After Saturday’s win against Michigan State, many were hopeful about replacing OG Anunoby (out for the season with injury). After all, if Indiana could take down a Spartan team coached by Tom Izzo without Anunoby, why couldn’t the team find ways to continue that success down the road?
Well, that campaign proved problematic on Thursday night.
Zach McRoberts ended up starting for the Hoosiers and he was thoroughly destroyed for the duration of the evening. Not only did he have significant problems guarding Michigan’s Moritz Wagner, but he also finished with zero points and one rebound, despite playing 18 minutes of game time.
This is just game two without Anunoby, but if Thursday tells Hoosier fans anything, it’s that things could be difficult in the weeks ahead without the big man.
Most would have expected a tight game between Indiana and Michigan on Thursday night, but ultimately, that didn’t turn out to be reality. Michigan came out firing and walked away with a crucial win for the postseason. Michigan will now head to East Lansing and Indiana will head to Northwestern this weekend.