ANN ARBOR, Mich. — There have been a lot of ups and downs at Michigan during Juwan Howard's first season back on campus as the head coach. They are a part of this big middle in the Big Ten — nine of the league's 14 teams have six or seven conference losses — and every game is magnified heading down the home stretch.
That's why Sunday's game with Indiana is huge for both teams. There are enough good things on each team's resume to think that an NCAA Tournament bid will happen, but there's still plenty of work to be done.
"We need to be locked in,'' Howard said. "I know our crowd will be excited, and so will we.''
And that starts on Sunday. Here are the particulars on the game:
- Who: Indiana Hoosiers (16-8, 6-7 in the Big Ten) vs. Michigan Wolverines (15-9, 6-7 in the Big Ten).
- When: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Feb. 16
- Where: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Mich.
- Latest Line: Michigan is an 8-point favorite as Sunday morning according to VegasInsiders.com.
- Poll rankings: Neither team is ranked in the Associated Press or Coaches polls. Michigan is receiving votes in both polls.
- Kenpom.com rankings: Michigan is No. 20, Indiana is No. 41
- TV: CBS
- Announcers: Tom McCarthy and Dan Bonner
- Radio: Indiana Radio Network
- Announcers: Don Fischer, Eric Suhr, Joe Smith
Here are three things you should know about the Michigan Wolverines
1. They are a different team with Isaiah Livers healthy
Michigan's losing streak coincided with Isaiah Livers being out with injuries. And now that he's back, this looks like a completely different team again.
Last weekend in a big win against hated arch-rival Michigan State, he scored 14 points and then the 6-foot-7 junior from Kalamazoo, Mich., added 17 in the win at Northwestern.
"It felt good," Livers said of his return to the court. "I was excited to get back out there. To actually be a part of it, physically helping my team, that was the biggest thing for me."
2. They have had Indiana's number lately
Michigan has won six straight games against Indiana, which includes a sweep last season. This will be the only meeting between the teams this year, unless they meet again in the Big Ten tournament.
They looked really good in November, beating North Carolina and No. 1 Gonzaga on back-to-back nights. (That's still Gonzaga's only loss). But then they hit the skids, going 4-8 in one stretch and really struggling to score. They'll be happy to see the Hoosiers, who haven't beaten Michigan since Feb. 2, 2016.
3. They win with veterans
Senior point guard Zavier Simpson and enter Jon Teske won their 104th career games at Michigan with a win at Northwestern on Wednesday night. It tied a Michigan record for most career wins with Glen Rice, J.P. Oosterbaan and Mark Hughes from the 1986-89 teams and Jordan Morgan, who won 104 from 2011 to 2014. They can break that tie with a win Sunday against Indiana.
This is the time of year when you see senior leaders step up, and that's certainly the case with the Michigan team. Simpson is one of the best point guards in the Big Ten — just a notch behind Michigan State's Cassius Winston and Maryland's Anthony Cowan Jr. in my book — and Teske is a handful because he's dangerous all over the floor.
He's been in a slump lately, but that can change at any minute. The 7-foot-1 senior has shot 6-for-29 over his last three games, including an 0-for-4 clip on 3-pointers, a 1-for-14 showing on shots away from the rim.