With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Michigan Wolverines.
After a improbable run to the national championship game that ended in defeat to Louisville, Michigan is once again back on the national scene despite losing national player of the year Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA.
That’s largely because of the two guys pictured above, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. Both turned down spots in the first round of June’s NBA Draft in favor of returning to Ann Arbor. Whether returning to school was the right decision was the right call for either guy with a monster 2014 draft looming is a debate for another day. The story for now is that Michigan has one of the best young duos in college basketball.
McGary’s monster NCAA tournament has landed him on plenty of preseason All-American lists despite an otherwise underwhelming freshman campaign. Over the season’s final six games, McGary averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, and his presence transformed Michigan from a trendy upset pick to a national runner-up. Robinson, meanwhile, was one of the nation’s most efficient offensive players as a freshman. His offensive rating ranked 10th nationally and he shot 65.2 percent on 2-point field goals. Robinson has work to do in terms of making his game more consistent from the perimeter, but there’s no questioning his elite athleticism.
Hoosier fans have often griped about Cody Zeller’s touches this season, but a re-watch of the final minute and a half of Indiana-Michigan reveals this simple fact: IU’s last five possessions were all about getting its big man the ball.
The first two didn’t end so hot: A quick entry pass from Yogi Ferrell on the right wing to Zeller on the right block resulted in a turnover — the ball going out of bounds. The second possession was again a pass off the right wing. Victor Oladipo entered the ball to Zeller, who was set up down in the right corner. A move to the middle of the lane resulted in a travel call for Zeller and IU was on the ropes.
But the Hoosiers stuck with it, running similar action on the last three plays, all resulting in Zeller scores. It was enough to top the Wolverines by a point and win an outright Big Ten title.
A look at these three scores in the latest edition of Film Session:
I. Ferrell streaks down the right side of the court. Oladipo is in a familiar spot in the corner. Christian Watford trails and heads to the familiar left wing. Like we similarly saw on the Ferrell entry pass turnover, Zeller comes over from the left block as Jordan Hulls looks to get a body on Jordan Morgan to set a screen for Zeller and free him:
Hulls gets some body on him and there appears to be a small window to hit Zeller on the right block:
But Yogi decides against it. As he brings the ball back up a bit, we see some secondary action, as Watford sets a screen for Hulls to try and free him up top for a 3-pointer. Zeller is also trying to make himself more available up near the right wing:
Indiana wrapped up the regular season on Sunday afternoon with a come-from-behind 72-71 thriller over Michigan at the Crisler Center. The victory gave the Hoosiers an outright Big Ten championship for the first time since 1993.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from IU’s win over the Wolverines:
· Zeller plays the role of closer: Most of the debate for Big Ten player of the year coming into Sunday centered around Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo. Cody Zeller, however, came into the game as the leading scorer and rebounder on the conference’s most successful team and IU’s star sophomore proved just how dominant he can be in the game’s final minutes. Oladipo closed the door on Michigan State last month in East Lansing and on Sunday, Zeller seized the opportunity and scored IU’s final six points in 52 seconds. His final basket with 13 seconds remaining gave the Hoosiers the lead for good at 72-71. Afterward, Oladipo endorsed his friend and teammate for the league’s player of the year award. “Cody, Cody, Cody Zeller should be the player of the year,” Oladipo said. “If you guys don’t give it to him, no disrespect, but there’s something wrong with y’all.” While he’s unlikely to beat out Burke or Oladipo, Zeller gave voters something to think about on the season’s final day.
· Led by Oladipo, Indiana owns the glass: The Hoosiers knew they didn’t rebound the ball well enough in Tuesday’s loss to Ohio State and dominated Michigan in the rebounding battle all afternoon. Indiana rebounded 57.1 percent of its misses and Oladipo led the charge with seven of his game-high 13 rebounds coming on the offensive end. In all, IU finished with 24 offensive rebounds and 17 second chance points, a fact that was not lost on Michigan coach John Beilein. “I thought we defended them very well at times, most of the time but we just let them crash three or four guys and somebody always seemed to be missing someone so the rebounding was a huge part of this game,” he said. “It’s a shame when we defend so well and they just walk in and get a layup. It happened over and over.”
· Sheehey bounces back from poor Ohio State game: Indiana has proven to be a resilient team all season as proven by the fact that the Hoosiers have bounced back from every loss with a win. Not only was the story of IU bouncing back as a team present on Sunday, there were also individuals who avenged poor performances from Tuesday. Will Sheehey shot just 1-of-6 in IU’s loss to Ohio State and for the first time I can remember this season, he wasn’t the first man off the bench. Maybe that served as extra motivation for the IU junior or perhaps it was just a proven scorer finding his touch after an off night, but Sheehey’s 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting were pivotal.
The Hoosiers looked out of sorts for too long in the first half after bolting out to a 10-3 lead. Hanner Mosquera-Perea — who hadn’t played since MSU on Feb. 19 — and Remy Abell were hoisting misses during a nearly five-minute scoring drought. After a couple buckets, Indiana would then hit another four-minute scoring drought and find itself down a season-high 11 points, as the Crisler Center reached fever pitch.
It was maybe the most listless nine minutes of play from the Hoosiers all season in a game they desperately needed to bring it. But eventually the ship began to sail the right course again. Victor Oladipo got — what else? — a steal and a lay-in. Christian Watford (1-of-7) made his only bucket of the game on — what else? — a trailing 3-pointer. Cody Zeller, after looking soft, started to assert himself for scores and — what else? — trips to the free throw line.
At half, despite scoring under a point per possession, the Hoosiers were down just 33-30.
The second half would be a back-and-forth affair. Indiana went up 36-35 on a Jordan Hulls 3-pointer. The Wolverines then pushed the lead to six at the 15:22 mark, after back-to-back Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway 3-pointers. In the final 20 minutes, the Wolverines would connect on 7-of-12 from distance and never turned the ball over in a stadium they were perfect in this season … until this late afternoon. Burke continually broke down the D, kept his dribble to the baseline and found open teammates in the corner, who would connect on the 3-ball.
But the Hoosiers stayed in it all second half because they had some advantages of their own — namely size and offensive rebounding. Zeller would continue to attack and get to the line. He finished with a beastly 25 points (10-of-19, 5-of-8 from the line) and 10 rebounds. He must continue to attack and stay the course and want it like he did today, with tournament time officially here. It wasn’t all great, as Zeller recorded six of Indiana’s 14 turnovers, but with his aggression comes a bit of sloppiness now and again.
In a game they didn’t shoot particularly well, (42.9 percent from the field, 47.9 effective field goal percentage), second-chance points were enormous for the Hoosiers. They rebounded 57.1 percent of their misses and the effort led to 17 second-chance points. Jeremy Hollowell got a rebound and put it back in. Will Sheehey — who had a huge 10 points, including two triples — got a putback for a score. Victor Oladipo ripped a Watford airball prayer out of the sky as the shot clock was expiring and connected for two as the buzzer sounded.