It's pretty common that a college basketball matchup can be decided by each team's best player. But rarely are both freshmen.
But when the No. 22 Michigan basketball team welcomes No. 20 Indiana to Ann Arbor on Wednesday, it will be a showdown between two of the top frosh in the nation.
Both are coming off impressive games. Cody Zeller notched 26 points, four rebounds and three steals against Iowa. Meanwhile, Trey Burke – on his first-ever Columbus homecoming – handled the pressure well and scored 13 points and dished out five assists.
Other than the freshman showdown, here are three keys that could determine the outcome of Wednesday's game.
1. Contain Zeller. The 6-foot-11 Zeller is getting better and smarter every game. In the non-conference schedule, he racked up 62 fouls in 12 games. But in the 10 games since, he has fouled only 35 times. He isn't an outside threat like Ohio State's Jared Sullinger (Zeller hasn't attempted a single 3-pointer this season), but inside, he can do some damage. He's aggressive on the boards. But, Michigan will have to have strong help-side defense, just like it did with Sullinger. And again, if Jordan Morgan gets into foul trouble, Michigan is in trouble because Zeller will exploit any backup coming in for Morgan.
2. Make adjustments well. This is the first rematch of the season for the Wolverines, and Michigan coach John Beilein said their game plan will be very similar to the last time the teams played. But Indiana coach Tom Crean is smart. He’ll throw some things out there the Wolverines haven't seen much of and with sophomore forward Will Sheehey playing this time around, it'll give the Indiana offense a different look. Regardless, the Wolverines need to make their in-game adjustments -- learning from the last time they played, but also, learning throughout this game.
3. Limit Indiana's runs. The Hoosiers are coming off a 103-point performance against Iowa, a team that only gives up 73 points per game. Beilein likes to harp on how the 3-point line is incredibly dangerous, but with Indiana, it’s deadly. It wouldn’t be ridiculous to assume the Hoosiers could shoot at least 50 percent from range (they've done it nine times this season already) or attack the paint hard enough that they get to the free-throw line at least 20 times (they've done that 15 times). The Hoosiers play a high-possession game and so if the Wolverines can slow the tempo and limit any run Indiana starts, they have a much better chance.