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Wednesday, Feb. 21
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Big Ten lead at stake for IU, Michigan

All the hoopla from ESPN’s College Gameday aside, Saturday’s titanic clash between No. 1 Michigan and No. 3 IU at Assembly Hall carries major implications.

A Wolverine win would likely bolster their lead at the top of the rankings. A Hoosier victory could vault the home team back to the top of the polls.

Either way, whichever team emerges will have sole possession of first place in the Big Ten halfway through the conference schedule.

“It’s going to be crazy from beginning to end, from when the doors open for College GameDay to the end of the game,” sophomore guard Remy Abell said. “The energy in the arena will definitely make an impact.”

The excitement is perhaps justifiable, as Assembly Hall has never before hosted a matchup between two teams ranked so highly.

After starting the year ranked No. 5, Michigan suffered only a single setback to archrival Ohio State ascended to the top spot after the latest flurry of top-5 upsets, their first time at the top since the “Fab Five” era of the early 1990s.

Michigan trails only IU in scoring by Big Ten teams and is third nationally in field goal percentage. IU Associate Head Coach Tim Buckley said the Wolverine offense is as potent as it is due to the list of ways they can overwhelm opposing defenses.

“They can get out in transition,” Buckley said. “They can get to the rim. They can shoot threes. They’ll break you down in the pick-and-roll. They’ll force you to overhelp so you’ve got to rotate and while you rotate they’ll make the extra pass, so they share the ball really well.”

Both teams thrive on up-tempo offenses to wear down opponents. Saturday will be far from the first time this season IU has faced a foe that tries to beat the Hoosiers at their own game, but none of those teams possessed the firepower of the Wolverines.

“If it’s an up-and-down game and both teams are playing the pace, you’re going to have to play your bench a little bit more and guys are going to have to get rest,” Buckley said. “You’ve got to look at foul trouble and a lot of other factors. That’s the way they like to play and that’s the way we like to play, so it should be an entertaining basketball game.”

Michigan boasts four players averaging at least 12.1 points per game, led by sophomore guard Trey Burke. Burke beat out sophomore forward Cody Zeller for a handful of conference freshman accolades last season and has since his numbers improve in almost every statistical category.

“I don’t know if you can stop Trey Burke,” Buckley said. “I think you’ve got to try to make the game difficult for him or you’ve got to try to keep him from getting where he wants to get and setting his teammates up. He’s too good a player to say you’re just going to stop him.”

IU’s 97-60 domination of Purdue on the road Wednesday would seem to give the Hoosiers momentum for Saturday, but Buckley dismissed the win as a non-factor.

“We know that going into this game we’ll have to improve like we did the last game,” Buckley said. “Everything worked well for us at Purdue. You can’t assume it’s going to be that way again, so you’ve got to be prepared.”

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