Indiana Assembly Hall
In Spike Albrecht’s lifetime, the Michigan men’s basketball team has won just two games at Indiana’s Assembly Hall. Expand the timeline and the Wolverines’ outlook doesn’t get much brighter — they trail the Hoosiers in the all-time series between the schools, 104-57.
Nonetheless, Michigan (6-5 Big Ten, 13-10 overall) will give it another go Sunday afternoon. It’s a quick turnaround for the Wolverines, especially coming off a 72-54 loss to Iowa on Thursday night in Ann Arbor.
Michigan, at least, can take solace in the fact that the Hawkeyes’ principal advantage — their size — is not an attribute that holds true for Indiana.
While the Hoosiers’ offensive productivity (12th in the country at 80.2 points per game) is even greater than that of Wisconsin or Iowa, the emphases in scoring distribution are markedly different. The Badgers and Hawkeyes center their offenses on 7-foot presences in the low post: Frank Kaminsky and Adam Woodbury.
On the other hand, Indiana (6-4, 16-7) uses its guards mainly for scoring, which could pose a major defensive challenge for the Wolverines. Hoosiers guards James Blackmon Jr. and Yogi Ferrell account for roughly 40 percent of the Hoosiers’ points.
“They’re a driving, smaller team, ” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “Now they’ve become a great shooting team. It’s really been a challenge for everyone to guard a unique style, putting five shooters out there.”
Two of Michigan’s best on-ball defenders, who normally might be tasked with reigning in Blackmon and Ferrell, are sidelined with injuries — junior guard Caris LeVert is out for the season after undergoing surgery on his left foot, while sophomore guard Derrick Walton Jr. remains sidelined with a foot injury of his own.
LeVert and Walton’s absence puts the defensive onus on the freshmen in Michigan’s backcourt, namely guards Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who have seen their playing time increase dramatically.
“When you have a tremendous backcourt, like we’ve had for several years, it puts pressure on everybody, ” Beilein said. “Yogi Ferrell is really playing at a high level right now, and he can get seven 3s in a game or he can get 10 assists in a game. That’s Trey Burke-like.”
Beilein cited Ferrell’s seven 3-pointers in Michigan’s 63-52 loss at Assembly Hall last Feb. 2 as a game-changer, and said that the key to stopping Ferrell is simply to stay in front of him.
“They have other components now that give him more space, ” Beilein said. “The big challenge is for Muhammad, Spike (and sophomore guard Andrew Dakich) to stay in front of Yogi, and you still have other shooters to worry about.”
Though Dawkins and Abdur-Rahkman are playing vastly more than they were expected to prior to the injuries, Beilein isn’t worried about them running into issues with fatigue given their minutes played, the team’s travel and their various other freshman-year responsibilities.
“It hasn’t been as long a year for them, because they didn’t play minutes early, ” Beilein said. “We’re concerned about it, but not like (we are) with Spike Albrecht … They’re young, they’re fresh, they’re uninjured.”
Both Walton and LeVert also remain valuable to Michigan’s backcourt on an instructional level.
“(Walton) and Caris have been really good about assisting our guys, watching practice, talking to them about what they have to do, ” Beilein said.
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