Indiana (16-7, 6-4 Big Ten) hosts Michigan (13-10, 6-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon. The Hoosiers have won three of the last four meetings between the two teams, including five straight at Assembly Hall. Tom Crean is 5-1 at home against Michigan since getting to IU. The one loss came in Crean's first season in Bloomington, and it was an OT game.
The Wolverines are severely undermanned, and Sunday's matchup is not a favorable one for them. They are without guards Derrick Walton Jr. and Caris LeVert, and backup Spike Albrecht will continue to play through an injury. So you have a team with a depleted backcourt against an Indiana club that boasts one of the best group of guards in the country.
It's a must-win game for the Hoosiers, and I expect them to win it by a wide margin. Michigan has hung tough -- especially on the road at Michigan State a week ago -- but this is not a game that I see the Wolverines staying close in. Could be wrong, but to me, this is one of the biggest mismatches of the season to date.
Prediction: Indiana 84, Michigan 63
Could Mosquera-Perea return Sunday?
We already know freshman guard James Blackmon Jr. is good to go Sunday against Michigan after missing Tuesday's game with an ankle injury, but could the Hoosiers also get big man Hanner Mosquera-Perea back? It's a possibility.
Mosquera-Perea hasn't played since Jan. 10 against Ohio State after suffering a knee injury in practice, and he was expected to be out until "mid-February." But Indiana coach Tom Crean wouldn't rule him out when he met with the media on Saturday.
“Hanner’s getting closer," Crean said. "He has not gone up and down the court scrimmaging yet, so we’ll see how that goes, but he’s definitely getting a lot closer. For me to tell you he’d be ready to go tomorrow, I wouldn’t tell you that yet today.”
Need to get better in the middle of games?
Crean said Saturday that his team fought hard and played well at the beginning of the game against Wisconsin on Tuesday and did the same at the end of the game. But, Crean said, IU has to be better in the middle of games.
That's a problem he's mentioned a couple of times recently, something he mentioned as a reason for shaking up the starting lineup in a home game against Rutgers last Saturday. In that game, Crean opted to bring Robert Johnson and Troy Williams off the bench to give the Hoosiers more consistency in the middle of the game.
Crean's comments got me thinking, so I went back and did some research. I looked at Indiana's production in the first 10 minutes and last 10 minutes combined compared to its production in the middle 20 minutes of all Big Ten games.
Here's what I found:
In all games: Indiana outscored its opponents 37.7 points per game to 35.5 points per game in the first 10 and last 10 minutes combined. In the middle 20 minutes, the Hoosiers have been outscored 34.4 points per game to 38.2 points per game.
In only wins: Indiana has outscored its opponents 38.5 points per game to 33.3 points per game in the first and last 10 minutes combined. In the middle 20 minutes, the Hoosiers have actually outscored teams 37.5 points per game to 35.3 points per game. Marginal, but still.
In only losses: Indiana has been outscored 39.3 points per game to 36.5 points per game in the first 10 and last 10 minutes combined. Again, fairly even. But in the middle 20 minutes, the Hoosiers have been outscored 42.5 points per game to 29.8 points per game. That's significant.
So, Crean does have a point. In the Hoosiers' Big Ten losses, they have been dominated in the middle 20 minutes of games. That's where the games have gotten away from them, for the most part.
Here's another finding: In every one of Indiana's conference road games, it has been outscored in the middle 20 minutes, including wins at Nebraska and Illinois. In total, the Hoosiers have been outscored 247-189 in the middle 20 minutes of road games, an average of 41.2 points per game to 31.5 points per game.