IU/Michigan Preview

When the Indiana Hoosiers take the court against the Michigan Wolverines Wednesday night at Assembly Hall, it will be a match-up of two teams headed in seemingly different directions. Indiana, a once storied program under the guide of "The General," coach Bob Knight, is coming off the worst season since the LBJ administration.

Meanwhile Michigan is on the way up as former Duke Blue Devil Tommy Amaker has turned things around from the Fab-Five days of booster scandals and NCAA sanctions and has his Wolverines, at 12-5 and undefeated in the Big Ten, well on their way to the NCAA Tournament. The boys in blue are finally picking up Amaker's system and, having won six straight and nine of their last eleven games, could contend for the Big Ten title. The Hoosiers, on the other hand, still just a few games removed from a grueling six game losing streak and a blowout loss at perennial Big Ten doormat Northwestern, are hoping to maintain the momentum of a big home win against Wisconsin a week ago and a cardiac-inducing, 2 point double overtime win at rival Purdue on Saturday.

The biggest question mark for the Hoosiers will be whether starting SG Bracey Wright can get his shot going. Wright currently leads the Big Ten at 18.1 ppg but is shooting less than 33 percent from the three point line. The story this year, as it was last year, is that the Hoosiers can only go as far a Bracey Wright can take them. The junior put up 23 points against Purdue on Saturday and 30 a week ago at Wisconsin, both big wins for IU, but he was held to a paltry 7 points on 2-7 shooting in the loss at Northwestern.

The other big factor in IU's success this season has been the play of its freshman. Slated to start Wednesday will be the trio of D.J. White, the Big Ten freshman leader in points (12.6 ppg), blocks (2.14 bpg), and field goal percentage (.575), alongside Robert Vaden and A.J. Ratliff. With one of the top freshman classes in the country, IU has been relying heavily on their ability to catch up to the speed of Big Ten play in a hurry. In Saturday's game against Purdue, White, Ratliff, and Vaden all played over 40 minutes, and fellow frosh James Hardy, a wide receiver on the Hoosier football team, also contributed with 7 points in his first significant minutes of the season.

Michigan's fast start has been propelled by four players averaging double-digits in scoring led by sophomore swingman Dion Harris at 13.8 ppg. Juniors Daniel Horton (12.2 ppg) and Chris Hunter (11.2 ppg), along with sophomore Courtney Sims (10.7 ppg) have kept up the scoring, while junior big man Graham Brown leads the Wolverines in rebounds at 6.6 per contest. The Wolverines are third in the Big Ten in scoring defense at 61.3 ppg, but they are one of only two Big Ten teams with a negative turnover margin (-.8), and are third in total turnovers, with Horton being the Big Ten leader at 4.7 turnovers per game. The Hoosiers, on the other hand, are 8th in the Big Ten in scoring defense at 63.7 ppg. However, IU is 5th in the Big Ten in turnover margin (2.5) despite having two players (Strickland and Wright) among the Big Ten's top ten in turnovers per game.

One major thing that has hampered the Wolverines all year has been the injury bug. Wing Lester Abram, who was expected to be a main contributor for Michigan, is out for the year with a left shoulder injury. Daniel Horton and Graham Brown have both also been battling injuries all season, but should play against the Hoosiers on Wednesday night. If Michigan were fully healthy with Abram playing every game, they could contend for an NCAA tournament birth, but the injuries may have to make 2005 another building year for Tommy Amaker.

Amaker's offense is supposed to be a "freedom and flow" system, but too many times, it has resulted in too many one on one situations that caused a bad shot. When Daniel Horton drives the lane, and looks to get the ball to the perimeter for an open three, they succeed, but when Horton does not play aggressive, Michigan struggles to score. They aren't overly aggressive on defense, and may run some zone against an IU team that has not faired well against zone so far this year. The Hoosiers hold the all-time lead against Michigan at 92-51, and the Wolverines have not won in Bloomington since 1995. Mike Davis is 6-1 against Michigan, and despite his success in the past couple of weeks is still considered to be a coach on the hot seat.

The Hoosiers will tip off against the Wolverines at 8pm on Wednesday night from Assembly Hall. The game will be televised on the ESPN+ television network, and broadcast on the IU Radio network with Don Fischer still behind the microphone. Indiana is 7-7 on the year, and 2-1 in the Big Ten, they will be looking to be over .500 for the first time this year since December 4th.

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