Although most people would agree that Indiana are the best team in the Big Ten and probably the nation, they find themselves needing to win at Michigan in order to secure their first regular season conference title in over a decade without having to share it with anyone else.
The Wolverines included; at 12-5, and a win will give Michigan a share of the title for the second consecutive season, boosting their hopes that the formula they’ve been working on this season, which is let Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway lead a bunch of freshman as far as they can take them, which was to the number one spot on the AP poll for a very short while, and hopefully to at least the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1994.
One thing going for Michigan is that they’ve kept their home court clear of upsets. Their five conference losses this season, including to Indiana on February 2, came on the road, with the loss to Penn State two weeks ago probably the most painful and humiliating of all. Still, a win at Purdue has them feeling very confident going into the game, as well as the fact that no team has earned consecutive wins in the rivalry in 10 years, while Trey Burke is playing like the best, or one of the best players in the nation, averaging 19.1 points per game.
For Indiana, the win at Michigan State three weeks ago seemed to be the final stamp of approval for their dominance in the conference and the nation. But then came losses to Minnesota and at home to Ohio State, and suddenly the best offense in the nation, led by two players that are both lined up to win the player of the year award, isn’t clicking as well as before, with the chance to win the school’s first outright conference title since 1993 slipping away.
A big problem has been the form of Christian Watford, averaging 12.7 points and 6.4 rebounds this season, but has been having bad games recently, averaging only 9.3 points while shooting only 33.3% from the field since the win at Michigan State.
Prediction – Something feels like the Hoosiers are losing their edge just a little bit at the wrong kind of time, but it’s not too late to turn the ship around. They’re a stronger team on both ends of the floor than Michigan, and if the right kind of energy pushes Zeller and Oladipo early on, Indiana should win and claim the conference title without anyone sharing it with them.