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February 2, 2013

Staff Picks: Michigan at Indiana

The Michigan basketball team has traveled to Bloomington, Ind. for a game against the Hoosiers 75 times in the history of the program - and come to back to Ann Arbor with a victory in 12 of them.

You can't exaggerate plain ol' numbers. They speak for themselves. And what a 12-63 all-time road record against Indiana is saying is, "Well, good luck Saturday. You're going to need it."

Since a brief stint from 1985-88 in which the Wolverines won three of four games at Assembly Hall, they have posted a 2-20 record in that building. Before those Gary Grant-led teams beat the Hoosiers in their own arena, no Michigan team had won there since the Cazzie Russell years, a 16-game losing streak.

And since Indiana opened Assembly Hall in 1971, Michigan has won just five total times there. Only three Big Ten opponents have fewer wins in Assembly Hall: Northwestern (two) and the two relative newcomers, Penn State (two) and Nebraska (zero).

The best course of action for the Wolverines would probably be just to stay away. But that's not a realistic solution to a tough problem.

They'll play the game. Can they win?

John Borton: No. 1 vs. No. 3 draws the gaze from all of college basketball Saturday night, and this one should live up to the billing. Michigan thoroughly enjoyed the week in the nation's top spot, but there's nothing fun about heading into the Hall where The General rearranged the furniture. Michigan sports an extremely talented roster of 15, along with coaches and support staff. The Hoosiers can match that, and trump it with more than 18,000 alternate officials.

Score: Indiana 86, Michigan 83

Chris Balas: No. 1 in the nation has a nice ring to it -- and the Michigan kids think so, too, whether they'll admit it or not. The Wolverines match up well with the Hoosiers in what should be an up and down game.

If Tim Hardaway Jr. shoots the ball well, U-M has a great chance to win in a venue where they usually don't. If not, the Hoosiers win by a handful.

It's somewhere in between, with the home court advantage (and all that comes with it) the difference.

Score: Indiana 75, Michigan 72

Michael Spath: The most-hyped Michigan basketball regular-season game in more than a decade will live up to its billing, surpassing the excitement of last year's tilt with Ohio State. The Wolverines learned a great deal from their road loss in Columbus and will be better prepared to handle the energy and crowd at Assembly Hall. U-M hasn't been playing its best in recent weeks, and that's a concern because Michigan will need to be hitting on all cylinders to take down the Hoosiers. Here's one vote saying the Maize and Blue do exactly that.

Score: Michigan 78, Indiana 72

Andy Reid: "And Alexander wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer." - Hans Gruber, Die Hard.

It's lonely being at the top, just ask Howard Hughes, Lance Armstrong or any number of people who got drunk with power and either went totally insane or otherwise lost control.

So far, the Wolverines have avoided the plague of entitlement that has seemed to roast whichever team claims the No. 1 spot in the polls any given week. They're still playing hungry, like they have something to prove.

Will hunger be enough to win Saturday? Certainly not. Michigan will need strong shooting performances from Tim Hardaway and Nik Stauskas, as well as tenacious defense from the big men, especially if redshirt junior Jordan Morgan can't go.

This could be where the Wolverines stop having a good season - and start having a great one.

Score: Michigan 77, Indiana 76

Tim Sullivan: Michigan and Indiana's programs of late are on similar trajectories, but for different reasons. The Wolverines spent a decade (or more) in the wilderness due to NCAA sanctions committed long ago - and some poor coaching hires in between. Indiana's NCAA troubles are more recent, and the bad coaches fewer in number. Regardless of how we got to this point - and how it got to be so notable that U-M and IU are top-3 programs nationally - here we are.

Unfortunately for Michigan, "here" is Assembly Hall. The last truly hostile environment against a quality opponent didn't go so well in an eventual loss to the hated Buckeyes (in perhaps the most famous basketball arena named after a discount store), and the young Wolverines have some growing up to do before I'm willing to bet they'll acquit themselves better in a gym that is actually storied. If the Hoosiers get out to a big lead like the Buckeyes did, it'll be even tougher to recover.

Score: Indiana 79, Michigan 69







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