An NCAA Tournament bid could be on the line when #8 seed Michigan opens Big Ten tournament play Thursday afternoon against #9 seed Indiana in Indianapolis.
Both the Wolverines and Hoosiers enter postseason play on the bubble. Michigan (17-13) likely needs one more win to secure an at-large berth. Indiana (18-12) may need to go on a deeper run in its home state to make its first NCAA trip since 2016.
“Everyone in our locker room knows how much we need this game and they are willing to do anything to win,” Indiana forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “So we know where we stand and we know that we have to go get this one.”
Michigan will be bolstered by the return of coach Juwan Howard, who was suspended for the final five games of the regular season. He was involved in an altercation in the handshake line following a loss against Wisconsin in which he threw an open-handed punch at Badgers assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft.
Michigan went 3-2 to close the regular season under interim coach Phil Martelli and is coming off a 75-69 win at #23 Ohio State on Sunday
“The players have been resilient,” Martelli said. “They allowed us to coach them and to direct them.”
Michigan has beaten Indiana nine straight times, dating back to the 2015-16 season. In the lone meeting this season, Michigan won at Indiana 80-62 on Jan. 23 behind 25 points from 7-foot-1 center Hunter Dickinson.
Dickinson sat out Michigan's last game against Ohio State with a stomach ailment but is expected to return against the Hoosiers.
“He had his way,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said. “He was very boisterous about it. He came in and had a monster game. You're not going to beat that team if you don't slow him down. So we're going to have to do a better job on him to the point where he can't dominate like he did.”
Jackson-Davis (17.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 blocks per game) has led Indiana throughout the season, earning spots on the All-Big Ten second team and All-Big Ten defensive team.
Indiana starting point guard Xavier Johnson also has raised his level of play of late, averaging 19.0 points and 6.4 assists over his past five games.
“He's the head of the snake in my eyes,” Hoosiers forward Race Thompson said. “We go as he goes. I mean, he's been really locked in in practice, watching film, putting extra work in and keeping his head down and just staying focused on the team and how he can do his best to make our team better.”