Behind enemy lines: Six questions about Michigan prior to the rematch

Ahead of Indiana’s game against Michigan on Sunday, The Daily Hoosier caught up with Wolverines beat writer Clayton Sayfie from to preview the matchup. Here’s what he had to say about UM and IU.

1. Michigan really let an opportunity slip on Thursday against Illinois. What do you think went wrong, and how big of a blow is that for the Wolverines?

That’s as big of a blow and as consequential as a regular-season loss can be. Michigan had the game there for the taking, with a shot to win at the end of regulation, a 7-point lead in first overtime and a great look for the tie at the end of the second overtime, but still didn’t come out victorious.

Michigan was down 7 late in regulation and forced overtime, so Illinois would’ve felt snake-bitten had it lost too, but the Wolverines could’ve played better throughout the rest of the game. They let the Illini get down hill on drives and in transition and get to the hoop. Illinois scored 46 points in the paint and 26 at the free throw line. In a game that lasted 50 minutes, the Illini only made 7 field goals outside the paint and still won.

2. On that note, how would you assess Michigan’s NCAA Tournament resume right now and its chances of getting into the field, and how much would a win in Bloomington help that cause?

A win over Illinois would’ve made it really tough for the committee to keep the Wolverines out. Now, they’re searching for that one to put them over the top, which is why Sunday’s game at Indiana is so big.

T-Rank gives Michigan just a 20.4-percent chance to make the NCAA Tournament as it stands right now. However, a victory over the Hoosiers would cause those odds to skyrocket. If the Maize and Blue don’t get it done at Assembly Hall, they’ll probably have to win a couple games in the Big Ten Tournament. With that event looking to be super wide open, that’s going to be a big challenge.

3. What did you take away from IU’s one-point win in Ann Arbor in February? Do you think UM will take the same approach on Sunday?

I thought Michigan played well until it didn’t score in the last 5:12 — a total collapse — leading for 33:54 of 40 minutes at Crisler Center.

The Wolverines played solid defense, for the most part, but Jalen Hood-Schifino (21 points) and Trayce Jackson-Davis (28) each went for 20-plus and led their team to the win. Indiana shot just 44.7 percent on twos and only attempted 6 threes — Miller Kopp and Trey Galloway were neutralized.

Hood-Schifino just shredded Purdue’s ball screen drop coverage with his stellar mid-range shooting, and Michigan uses the same strategy a lot of the time. If he makes those shots — he made a few at Crisler — — the Hoosiers will be really tough to beat.

Michigan freshman point guard Dug McDaniel was 1-of-9 from the field against Indiana and has to be much better in this matchup against a much taller player in Hood-Schifino. The Wolverines are 8-2 when he scores in double figures, so he’s a potential X-factor.

Race Thompson didn’t play, so it’ll be interesting to see how him being back in the lineup affects the matchup.

4. Michigan will win this game if…

First and foremost, Michigan wins this matchup if it can mentally and physically recover from Thursday night’s 50-minute slugfest, put it behind them and play like their tournament lives are on the line, because they are.

Also, Michigan will win if the offense executes for 40 minutes and the defense either prevents the Jackson-Davis/Hood-Schifino duo from going off OR takes away Miller Kopp and Trey Galloway. The Wolverines played good enough defense to win in the last meeting and will need a similar effort (Indiana is much better at home, so that’ll be tough), plus some good shooting on the other end of the floor.

5. Indiana will win this game if…

If it plays the way it normally does at home and doesn’t let the Iowa performance duplicate itself. Indiana is shooting a whopping 43.1 percent on threes at Assembly Hall during league play. If it gets enough looks from deep and knocks them down, the Hoosiers will come out on top.

6. What’s your score prediction and why?

Indiana was one of the hottest teams in the country just a couple weeks ago, and that squad is in there somewhere. The Hoosiers have been very good at home, and I think Mike Woodson will bring a stellar performance out of them after the embarrassment that was the Iowa game.

Michigan will be desperate to get a marquee win that could push them into the NCAA Tournament field, but it’s easier to bet on the Hoosiers getting it done on senior day.

Prediction: Indiana 78, Michigan 75

The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”