Michigan picked up a key Big Ten win to help bolster its NCAA Tournament resume on Sunday, defending home court in a 89-65 victory against Indiana. Perhaps even more encouraging was the performance of the Wolverines offense, which is starting to regain the form that had many pointing to Juwan Howard’s squad as a dark horse in the Big Ten.
Zavier Simpson (12 points, 11 assists) controlled the game early, and Michigan was able to get pretty much anything it wanted offensively against the Hoosiers. The ball was moving quickly around the floor and the Wolverines were getting either good looks from 3-point range or wide-open attempts at the rim. The result was an afternoon of balanced scoring with five Michigan players scoring in double figures and 57.4-percent shooting, including a 9-of-17 showing (52.9 percent) from downtown.
When Simpson was orchestrating the offense for others, he was causing problems for Indiana defense on his own, making them pay in the pick-and-roll with aggressive drives to the rim and a running hook shot that is becoming a staple of his offensive arsenal.
The game continued a recent theme for Michigan, highlighting how much better the offense — and frankly, the entire team — performs with a healthy Isaiah Livers in the lineup. The Wolverines are now 12-4 with Livers on the court and 4-5 when he’s out; they also improve in categories such as points per game and field goal percentage numbers when he’s healthy. Saturday’s win was a reminder of what a full-strength Michigan team can accomplish in 2020. After all, this is the group that beat Gonzaga on a neutral floor earlier this season.
For Indiana, the loss is a big missed opportunity for its tournament chances. The Hoosiers’ NCAA Tournament profile is lacking for quality road wins and a victory in Ann Arbor, Michigan, would have qualified as such. Indiana has only three games away from Assembly Hall left on the schedule — at Minnesota this Wednesday, at Purdue on Feb. 27 and at Illinois on March 1 — to try and improve its 1-6 record in true road games.
According to CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm, Michigan remains slotted on the 8-seed line after the win, while Indiana will hang on as a 9-seed in his projected field of 68. The Wolverines don’t see a bump in their projection for the win but should feel much better about the team’s form and postseason future given the way they played. Indiana might not drop from the projected field, but poor defense in the loss and the lack of quality road wins on the resume make the Hoosiers’ spot on the bubble a little less comfortable.