Maybe it’s a fluke. It could just be circumstance, or possibly even a statistical outlier.
Whatever it is, there’s just something about Assembly Hall that hasn’t bode well for Michigan.
The Wolverines are 1-16 in their last 17 trips to Bloomington, dating back to 1995. Their lone win came in IU Coach Tom Crean’s first season with IU still recovering from NCAA Sanctions related to Kelvin Sampson.
Michigan would like to see that streak end, looking for just its second win at Assembly Hall in a handful of the freshmen players’ lifetimes Sunday at 1 p.m. Winning would require Michigan to bounce back from an 18-point loss to Iowa in an Assembly Hall gym that Wolverines’ point guard Spike Albrecht said was among the toughest in the country.
However, the Hoosiers (16-7, 6-4) aren’t concerned with the series against the Wolverines (13-10, 6-5) or even their 14-point loss to Wisconsin on Tuesday. For them, beating Michigan would mean a welcome return to the win column after losing three of their last four.
“When you get a couple stretches where you haven’t been winning, you kind of just get to get to the next game and try to get that winning streak going,” junior guard Yogi Ferrell said.
IU has cooled off since starting out the Big Ten season 5-1 and climbing into the national rankings.
In the last two weeks, IU has lost three road games by an average of 14 points per contest. Their lone win in that stretch came at home against a struggling Rutgers team.
The most one-sided loss came against Wisconsin when IU’s already vulnerable defense was shredded in allowing 92 points.
Without dreading on that loss to much, IU got back to work. Crean lauded his team’s ability to learn from its loss to the Badgers and move forward quickly, trying to ensure the defeat doesn’t become a trend.
“We put that behind us right after we saw the film, and as soon as we started watching the Michigan film,” Ferrell said.
If recent trends hold true, Michigan is a favorable opponent for IU to regain confidence against. The Hoosiers have won four of their last six against the Wolverines, a team still without starters Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr.
On the opposite end of the injury spectrum, IU expects freshman guard James Blackmon Jr. to return from an ankle injury. And while it appears Hanner Mosquera-Perea is still out, Crean did say the junior forward recovering from a knee injury is “getting closer.”
Like IU, Michigan has used a hybrid lineup similar to IU’s that oftentimes features four wings. They’re a team that mixes up defenses, increasingly using various zone looks to compensate for a lack of size and take advantage of quick guards around the perimeter.
That defense quickly stood out to IU in film sessions.
“They play very hard on defense,” Ferrell said. “We noticed that, especially on film. They’re definitely one of the harder defensive playing teams in the Big Ten.”
IU will want to play improved defense itself after continuing a trend of inconsistent play against Wisconsin.
Sunday might allow that.
The Hoosiers have been a stronger team at home, losing just once all season. Picking up another win in Bloomington could help restore confidence before heading to Maryland next week.
The Hoosiers’ schedule to close the season is one of the easiest in the conference, but with the parity so far this season, wins are never a sure deal.
The only thing they truly control is their own play against the Wolverines Sunday afternoon.
“Michigan is playing as hard and as competitive as anyone in the league,” Crean said. “Michigan will come in here just like we need to be. They’ll come in with an attitude of doing whatever it takes and playing with great toughness and energy and we’ve got to be the same way.”