On Sunday afternoon, the Indiana Hoosiers headed up north to face off against the Michigan Wolverines in what figured to be an interesting battle between two teams desperate to look up NCAA at-large bids. It was also set to be the only regular season meeting between the two teams this season.
Early on, the teams went back and forth. Indiana would hit a big bucket and the Wolverines would respond at the other end. But Michigan gradually took control as the game approached halftime thanks to some great play from Austin Davis and Zavier Simpson. In the second half, Indiana’s defense fell apart and Michigan cruised to an 89-65 win.
Let's see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned
1. Michigan is really dangerous with Isaiah Livers in its lineup.
This is going to come off as incredibly obvious, but it needs to be said. Michigan is a different team with Isaiah Livers in its lineup. The junior forward has been fantastic in his limited time this season and has made a substantial impact for the Wolverines when he’s out there. Michigan looks like a top 15 team with him on the floor, and an NIT team when he’s been out with injury.
If you don’t believe me, just look at it this way. Michigan’s lost nine games this season and six of them have come with Livers out or limited due to injury. The other three losses were against ranked opponents in early December. And since Livers returned against Michigan State last weekend, Michigan is 3-0 with two of its more dominating wins in that stretch. The Wolverines have also steadily risen up KenPom once again.
Michigan’s rough January will prevent the Wolverines from playing a role in the Big Ten title race or competing for a top seed, but this team looks dangerous right now. If the team can find a way to win at Rutgers on Wednesday, watch out.
2. Austin Davis deserves some attention.
Ever since returning from injury, Livers has been the player who most have credited for Michigan’s recent resurgence. However, another player who deserves a lot of attention is Austin Davis. The fourth-year big man has really emerged over the last few weeks and provided a huge boost for the Wolverines on Sunday. His post footwork remains really impressive and he routinely finds a way to convert down low. Davis’ defense probably still needs some work, but he came up big on Sunday, delivering nine points and five rebounds.
Michigan still needs to do quite a bit down the stretch to achieve the team’s goals, but if Davis keeps playing like this, it will be a log easier. Fans are hoping his boost can also provide a nice boost for Jon Teske, allowing him more time to rest on the bench.
3. Indiana’s postseason hopes are starting to look grim.
A few weeks ago, Indiana looked to be in great shape for the NCAA Tournament and beyond. The Hoosiers were sitting at 15-4 overall and were coming off a huge win over Michigan State. With 12 regular season games remaining, it seemed inevitable that Indiana would add the requisite wins to hear its name called on Selection Sunday.
But fast forward to Sunday evening and things are starting to look rough, as Indiana has now lost five of its last six games. And Sunday’s loss was particularly rough, as the Hoosiers were run off the floor by the Wolverines. Indiana now sits at 16-9 overall.
Now, Indiana still has plenty of time to get things figured out. The Hoosiers still have six regular season games, with three coming at home. However, KenPom projects Indiana as a favorite in just two games (Minnesota and Wisconsin) moving forward. And that’s a scary thought considering it could very well take 18 or 19 wins to make the NCAA field.
We’ll see how things shake out in the next few weeks, but the pressure will be on the Hoosiers to get things figured out. And quickly.
4. The Hoosiers need to figure things out defensively.
By this point in the season, we all have a pretty good view of Indiana’s roster deficiencies. We know the team has an underwhelming backcourt and struggles to get things done from outside the arc. After all, Indiana is one of the nation’s weakest three-point shooting teams.
However, Indiana has shown some things defensively under head coach Archie Miller. The Hoosiers were 32nd in defensive efficiency last year and had some solid defensive performances earlier this season. But on Sunday, that all fell apart. Indiana couldn’t stop Michigan down low and struggled to stay with the Wolverines off screens and cuts to the hoop. It was something that really hurt the Hoosiers all day, leading to the lopsided result.
Defense also isn’t necessarily talent dependent. Yes, talent matters, but effort matters a lot as well. And while the Hoosiers were really physical out of the gate, the physicality fell apart as the game continued. In the second half, Michigan got a plethora of easy opportunities largely because of Indiana’s inability to stay with players off the ball. If Indiana is going to get back in the NCAA picture, fixing these issues is a must.
Sunday’s matchup between Indiana and Michigan projected to be an exciting one between two teams desperately trying to secure NCAA bids. Instead, Michigan ran away with things in the second half and sent Indiana home in embarrassing fashion. It figures to have a huge impact on both teams’ respective seasons.
Both teams will now be off until Wednesday, when Indiana will go on the road to face Minnesota and Michigan will go on the road to face Rutgers. A win for either squad would be a welcome boost for their respective NCAA profiles.