Conference tournaments are great for teams on the bubble, or underdogs desperately trying to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
They are not so good for Indiana.
The Hoosiers have had an awfully poor history in the Big Ten Tournament, and that continued on Friday afternoon. Michigan's Kameron Chatman buried a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to the Hoosiers back to Bloomington with a shocking 72-69 loss. Chatman had made only 7 3-pointers all season.
"I knew we were going to be what coach calls, 'double eyeballing,' and I knew I was going to be in the corner," Chatman said. "I told myself I was going to be ready to shoot it. I didn't think Derrick [Walton] was going to pass it to me, and he ended up passing it to me. I hesitated a little bit, but then seeing how much time was on the clock, I just let it go."
Indiana (25-7) is now just 11-19 all-time in the Big Ten tourney, and Friday wasn't the first time the Hoosiers were eliminated in heartbreaking fashion (See: Hoffarber, Recker). For whatever reason, they just have not fared well in the conference tournament, regardless of what they accomplished in the regular season.
Luckily for Indiana and its fans, the season isn't over yet. The Hoosiers, who won the outright Big Ten regular season championship, are still likely to be a 3-seed in next week's NCAA Tournament. If not, a 4-seed figures to be the floor.
But still, the Hoosiers did not play well on Friday, and that's at least somewhat concerning going forward. Michigan scored 22 points off 15 Indiana turnovers, and the Hoosiers shot just 39 percent in the second half. Still, the Hoosiers had a 5-point lead with 2:36 remaining and still led by 3 with less than a minute.
"When you don't play great in the game, it over magnifies the possession at the end," said Indiana coach Tom Crean.
The Wolverines, fighting for their tournament lives, knocked down two 3s in the final 46 seconds, including the buzzer beater from Chatman. OG Anunoby turned the ball over on the other end with 21 seconds left, and John Beilein opted not to call a timeout.
Derrick Walton waited a long time before starting any offense, and the Wolverines ended up with a contested corner 3 from a poor shooter. Chatman buried it, and Indiana heads home.
Welcome to March.
"We knew Chatman. He hasn't played a lot, but we knew he was capable of making 3s," Crean said. "He had too open of a look, and it was his moment to hit it."
Chatman's 3 was the final straw, but it was Duncan Robinson's long ball with 46 seconds that will likely haunt the Hoosiers. Indiana left Robinson, one of the best shooters in all of college basketball, wide open in the left corner when Zak Irvin drove to the basket. You can live with a contested 3 from Chatman. You cannot live with a wide open 3 from Robinson.
"Chatman's 3 hurt, but it was Robinson's 3 that hurt us even more," said Indiana's Troy Williams. "It's not our coverage, it's not how we defend, it's not how we practice."
Added Crean: "It's been a long time since we have come off the corners to give up a shot. And the shot Robinson hit, that's not how we defend. We don't leave the corners. We control the corners, we step up and stick, we stayed attached. We don't stay in denial, but we stay very close to the shooters. There was no need to come off Robinson in the corner, and we gave Chatman too much room at the end."
Indiana was without starting guard Robert Johnson for the 4th consecutive game (ankle), and Juwan Morgan was still very limited by his lingering shoulder injury. Both guys should be healthy by next week, which is significant given Indiana's lack of depth in the backcourt. Without Johnson, the rotation is limited to Yogi Ferrell, Nick Zeisloft and Harrison Niego.
Williams led four Indiana players in double-figures with 16 points, but had only six after halftime. Yogi Ferrell had 14 points and 8 assists, and freshmen Thomas Bryant and Anunoby had 13 points apiece. Bryant also had 7 rebounds, but it was Anunoby that kept Indiana alive late in the second half.
Anunoby, who continues to impress more and more as the season progresses, was a perfect 6-of-6 from the field with 3 blocks, 2 steals, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 27 minutes.
But it wasn't enough to stop the Wolverines, who got 17 points from the Indiana native Irvin and a Big Ten Tournament record 12 assists from Walton. Chatman had only 5 points and played only 8 minutes, but his 3 buried Indiana with 0.2 seconds remaining.
Indiana is off until at least next Thursday. We will find out the who, when and where on Selection Sunday.