The Big Game Before the Big Game: Michigan vs. Indiana Roundtable

Andy Lyons

The day after the Super Bowl is not yet a national holiday, so you can't go too crazy during Sunday's big football game. However, feel free to go bananas for the ultimate B1G showdown on Saturday night, which Graham, Brian, and I break down here

Michigan and Indiana will tip-off from Assembly hall at 9:00 ET on Saturday night. Graham and Brian will break down the Michigan side of things while I take on Indiana. If you consider yourself a fan of basketball at any level, you should try to find a way to watch this game.

Jordan Morgan's status (ankle injury) is still in doubt for Saturday. How will his potential absence affect Michigan's ability to defend against Cody Zeller?

Graham: Indiana has proved something very quickly this year: They can win without Zeller scoring heavily. So yes, Morgan’s energetic defense is huge. But it’s not the hinge that is keeping Michigan competitive in this game.

Brian: Morgan's injury is a significant blow to Michigan. Michigan's weakness is its overall size and its strength inside. Mitch McGary has played well this year both spelling and playing with Morgan, but Morgan's presence has been essential to Michigan's early season success. McGary, Jon Horford and even Max Bielfeldt have played well in Morgan's absence, but that was against Illinois and Northwestern. Missing Morgan, or having him at less than full strength, is a big loss for the Wolverines.

Besides Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Glenn Robinson III, who is the most important player for Michigan in this game?

Graham: Stauskas. Nailing three’s, something Sparty did to stay close last week, is a Stauskas specialty. If he’s hot and ready at game time, Michigan is that much more dangerous from the perimeter.

Brian: Mitch McGary & Jon Horford. If Morgan can't play or isn't at full strength, it will be essential for McGary and Horford to not only stay out of foul trouble and hold Zeller in check, but to also make an impact themselves.

Indiana's chemistry is obviously very good. Where did this come from? Is it a Tom Crean creation or just a mix of the right players?

Aaron: I guess Tom Crean should get some of the credit, but I think most of the chemistry comes from a good chunk of the team growing up together. Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, and Will Sheehey have played together for the past two-and-a-half seasons. Last year Cody Zeller entered the mix and this season Yogi Ferrell is a key addition. Indiana hasn't had to deal with too many new pieces at once.

It also helps that there's a good mix of inside and outside scorers. Obviously Zeller dominates around the rim and Hulls is a perimeter specialist, but it's the abilities of Oladipo and Watford to score from anywhere that helps make the team so tough to deal with.

Was there a game this year that really defined "2012-13 Indiana basketball"?

Aaron: I'd love to be able to point to a game and say "this is the one that really shows what a great team Indiana is," but I can't really do that for this season. Last year, we had the Kentucky win that was a big upset and it represented the culmination of the rebuilding process under Crean. This season, the team was ranked number one going into the season, and its been favored in every game. I expect we won't see a "defining game" until the B1G or NCAA Tournament.

As much as this is a battle between the two top teams in the conference, it's also a contest between individuals. State your case for Trey Burke as National Player of the Year over Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo.

Graham: Without Oladipo, Indiana is still Top 5. Without Burke, Michigan isn’t. Burke is the unquestioned leader of the nation’s No. 1 team…and he has done it all this year, even showing surprising defensive presence on top of the passing and fast-break triggering.

Brian: Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo are two of the best players in the country and having both on the floor at the same time makes Indiana a formidable team. Trey Burke is surrounded by a great supporting cast at Michigan, but that's what it is - a supporting cast. Burke is Michigan's most important player and the Wolverine's wouldn't be where they are without him. That, and his stellar play, gives Burke the edge for both conference and national POY honors at this point.

Is this the biggest game so far of the 2012-2013 College Basketball season?

Graham: It is the biggest game of the CBB year, no question. Venue? Storied, rocking. Teams? Top 5 talent. Programs? The legendary Hoosiers v. an exciting running team with the most recognizable colors in college sports. Players? POY candidates and lottery picks. Stakes? B1G outright leader.

Brian: No question. The top two teams in the country's best conference coming in with 20-1 and 19-2 records and ranked #1 and #3, it's hard to imagine a bigger game. The bigger question is, will this game be as big when the re-match rolls around?

Aaron: I suppose so far this is the biggest game of the season. I know ESPN is giving it that kind of treatment (although I suppose if the game was on CBS or something I wouldn't notice as many promos). A couple of weeks ago Syracuse beat Louisville on the road, which seemed like a pretty big deal. However, since then, both squads have lost to Villanova. That would be like if both Michigan and Indiana went and lost to Iowa after this game. That seems unlikely, so this is the biggest game of the season.

Give your prediction for this game.

Graham: Indiana 70, Michigan 64. I don’t believe Michigan is a complete team yet. I don’t believe the inside scoring is consistent enough. I don’t believe Michigan knows how to play in the clutch away (example: Last five minutes of OSU game and all those unneeded 3’s).

Brian: In general, if Michigan is allowed to play its game, getting out and running, they're most likely going to win. The key to beating Michigan is slowing them down and beating them up. Play them physical, as Ohio State did, and you have a better chance of beating them. Indiana, however, can also get out and run, so it will be interesting to see If Indiana is content running with Michigan, or conversely, if Michigan goes against character and tries to slow Indiana down. I don't see it. I also don't see a win for the Wolverines. I anticipate a fast paced affair going the Hoosiers' way.

Aaron: Indiana 89, Michigan 87. Above all else, I'm hoping this game shows the country that B1G basketball can be entertaining as hell. Both teams excel at running down the floor (Zeller vs. Mitch McGary on the fast break should be fascinating), which will result in a high-scoring affair. Hulls wins it for IU at the buzzer.

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