Cody Zeller, Trey Burke

Previewing Indiana vs. Michigan

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You thought the Super Bowl was the biggest game this weekend?

On Saturday night at 9:00 p.m. ET, we get the matchup we’ve all been waiting all season for. Michigan and their juggernaut offensive attack heads into Bloomington to take on a Hoosier team that seems to finally be hitting their peak this season. Michigan is the No. 1 team in the country. Indiana is No. 3. Both are national title favorites. Both are battling for supremacy in the Big Ten race. 

Here’s a look at what you can expect on Saturday night:

Michigan: Trey Burke is the best point guard in the country and arguably the nation’s most valuable player.

He’s averaging 17.9 points and 7.1 assists on the season, numbers that we haven’t seen someone post in the Big Ten since Magic Johnson was still known as Earvin. He’s the engine that that makes the Wolverines go. Michigan loves to attack in transition, where they are lethally efficient, but when they are forced to play in the half court, the Wolverines are a much more patient team. They spread the floor and run a lot of high-ball screens, with the goal being for Burke to be able to penetrate, draw help and kick the ball out to one of the three shooters Michigan has on the wing.

Those are the guys that have been the difference makers this year. Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. They are all as versatile as the typical John Beilein wing, but instead of being slow and unathletic 6-foot-3 guards, these are big, physical, athletic slashers with NBA potential that just so happen to be knockdown jumpshooters.

Indiana: Like Michigan, Indiana loves to get out and run the floor as well. But where Michigan is more opportunistic and patient when the easy buckets aren’t there, Indiana’s transition game is more systematic. Cody Zeller runs the floor as well as any big man in college basketball, routinely beating his defender to the paint at the other end of the floor. Jordan Morgan (if his ankle is healthy), Mitch McGary and Jon Horford are going to have their work cut out for them.

When they are forced into the half court, the Hoosiers like to go four-around-one, forcing defenses into a decision: do they leave their center one-on-one in the post against Zeller, or do they try to double him and rely on help and rotations to get back out to shooters. And as you might imagine, shooting is not something that Indiana lacks.

Key Matchup: Who guards Trey Burke?

Michigan only has one loss on the season and that came against Ohio State. What the Buckeyes did was essentially allow Aaron Craft to spend the entire game going one-on-one with Burke defensively. They helped on ball-screens when necessary, but for the most part it was Craft keeping Burke from using the high ball-screen and forcing him away from side ball-screens.

This is where it gets interesting for the Hoosiers. Victor Oladipo may be the best all-around defender in the country, and the smart money would be on him taking the personal challenge of slowing down Burke. But Oladipo is also 6-foot-5 and the only perimeter player in Indiana’s starting lineup taller than six-feet. If Oladipo is on Burke, than two of Michigan’s big wings will have a six-inch height advantage. Do they trust Yogi Ferrell, a freshman, to be able to guard Burke and cut down on his penetration? Does Tom Crean use a bigger lineup, taking Ferrell or Jordy Hulls off the floor in favor of Will Sheehy or Remy Abell? Does he take the chance of using a zone against the Wolverines?

You want to beat Michigan? Stop Burke, but that’s easier said than done.

Key Stat: Offensive boards

Indiana is a very good offensive rebounding team. It’s not because they’re all that big or super athletic, it’s because they have a number of guys that simply pursue the ball well on that end of the floor. Oladipo, who never seems to get tired, is a nightmare to try and keep from crashing the offensive back boards, while Zeller has proven to be a better rebounder on this end than he was a season ago. And while Michigan is, statistically speaking, a good defensive rebounding team, the fact of the matter is that this group doesn’t have a ton of size on the floor. That didn’t matter against Kansas State or Pitt earlier this season, but the Wolverines got crushed on the offensive glass by Minnesota.

Transition and offensive rebounds are the two best times to shoot threes, and we all know how much Indiana loves shooting open threes. You can slow them down in transition, but you’re not going to stop them. Preventing second-chance points and the open looks they get off of those rebounds will be key.

My pick: Indiana

The Hoosiers are playing at home. They have one of the best on-ball defenders in the country to put on Burke. Forget about everything else: those are two things that are going to be very difficult for Michigan to over come.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

Follow Hank on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr

The AP’s college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org