With the Big Ten title and the top seed in next week’s conference tournament already locked up, the only thing left for Michigan to accomplish in its regular season finale is to exact some revenge.
The No. 12 Wolverines can do that Saturday night when they try to snap a three-game losing streak against visiting Indiana.
Michigan (22-7, 14-3) clinched its first outright Big Ten championship since 1986 on Tuesday, blasting Illinois 84-53. The Wolverines matched a season high with 16 3-pointers on 23 attempts.
"We came with that mindset, this was our championship and we wanted to win it,” said guard Nik Stauskas, who scored 24 points and went 7 of 9 from beyond the arc.
After this game, the Wolverines will be off until facing the No. 8 or 9 seed in the Big Ten quarterfinals on Friday. That could very well wind up being the Hoosiers as well, but first they’ll get to host an Indiana team that’s had their number of late.
The Hoosiers slipped past the No. 1 Wolverines in Bloomington last season and won 72-71 at Ann Arbor in the regular season finale before upsetting then-No. 10 Michigan at home on Feb. 2. Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell hit 7 of 8 3s and finished with a game-high 27 points in the Hoosiers’ 63-52 victory.
A victory Saturday would give Michigan victories against all 11 conference foes this season. It would also give it 15 conference wins, the most for a Wolverines squad in Big Ten play since the Final Found-bound team in 1993 – victories that were later vacated.
A big part of Michigan’s struggles against the Hoosiers the past two seasons can be traced to Stauskas, who’s averaged 9.3 points on just 32.0 percent shooting. Stauskas missed five of six attempts and had six points last month in Bloomington, his lowest total in a conference game.
"(They) don’t let Nik get the ball," coach John Beilein said after that loss. "We didn’t get many good shots, and credit their defense. They played really good defense."
The Hoosiers (17-13, 7-10) likely said goodbye to their chances for an at-large NCAA tournament bid with Wednesday’s 70-60 home loss to Nebraska. Indiana had won back-to-back games versus ranked opponents, but shot 36.7 percent – 5 of 21 from 3-point range – against the Cornhuskers.
Ferrell went just 1 of 10 from beyond the arc as the Hoosiers played a second straight game without freshman Noah Vonleh, who is dealing with inflammation in his left foot. It’s unclear if Vonleh, who leads the conference with 8.8 rebounds per game in Big Ten play, will be cleared to return Saturday.
Vonleh had 10 points and 12 boards as Indiana outrebounded Michigan 31-22 last month.
Defense has also been a problem for Indiana of late, as the Hoosiers are allowing 73.3 points over their last three games after giving up 66.1 during the first 13 games of the conference season.
"You can’t have defensive mistakes," coach Tom Crean said after the loss to Nebraska. "You can’t have a mistake where you haven’t made them all game and then all of a sudden make one late. It never comes down to one or two things, but they do get magnified."
Michigan is 17-0 when it scores more than 70 points this season.