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Posted on Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Is the Michigan basketball team for real? We're about to find out

By Nick Baumgardner

The road.

It's where average teams go to die, where good teams go to be humbled and where great teams find a way.

The road doesn't care about your winning streak, or your national ranking. It really has no time for your potential, nor does it feel the need to take pity on your weary body.

It can be brutal, unforgiving and inherently cruel.

In Bloomington, Ind., when the home team is solid, it can be all those things and a whole lot more.

And, guess what, Michigan basketball fans. The home team in Bloomington this season is a bit more than solid. It's downright inhospitable.


Indiana has beaten No. 2-ranked Ohio State and No. 1-ranked Kentucky at home this season.

Associated Press

The 16th-ranked Wolverines have technically ventured onto the road twice this season.

A 12-point loss in Charlottesville to now 21st-ranked Virginia, and a 10-point win in Auburn Hills against Oakland (though, let's be honest, that one really doesn't count).

In one true rowdy road environment, Michigan is 0-1. And on Thursday (9 p.m., ESPN2), the environment the Wolverines will walk into has been a little more than rowdy over the years.

It's been a house of horror.

Michigan will be looking for just its third victory at Indiana since the 1987-88 season. The Wolverines have two wins in their last 21 trips to Bloomington's Assembly Hall, and Michigan's last win there came in overtime during the 2008-09 year — a season when Indiana won just six games due to a litany of NCAA issues left over from former coach Kelvin Sampson.

This season, Indiana coach Tom Crean seems to have resurrected the Big Ten's most storied basketball program. The Hoosiers, led by super freshman Cody Zeller, are off to a 13-1 start, with home wins against a top-ranked opponent (Kentucky) and second-ranked opponent (Ohio State) so far.

So, long story short, we're about to find out just how "for real" Michigan is.

Freshman point guard Trey Burke has been refreshingly steady this season, leading all Big Ten freshmen in assists with five per game, and he's second among freshmen in scoring at 14 points per game.

But on the road this season, he's winless.

Sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz has been reborn into an inside-out player so far, notching three double-doubles in a row while maintaining a 54.5 percent success rate from 3-point range.

But on the road this season, he's winless.

Tim Hardaway Jr. has shown flashes of turning the corner from impressive youngster into All-Big Ten performer, dropping 26 points last week against Penn State and hitting the game-icing shot to put away Minnesota.

But on the road this season, he's winless.

Clearly, you see where we're going here.

Michigan has been impressive at times, holding its own against Duke while on Maui, knocking off Memphis and rattling through a seven-game win streak against less-than-notable opponents.

The ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll gave the Wolverines their highest national ranking in 14 years earlier this week, and Michigan is projected by many to make back-to-back NCAA Tournaments for the first time since 1996.

But as of right now, it's winless on the road.

In college basketball, and in the Big Ten, there are good teams — and then there are teams that win on the road.

Which distinction awaits Michigan this season?

We'll get the first part of our answer Thursday night.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan basketball for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.

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Wally the Wolverine

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

After several down years, Indiana looks poised to be one of those teams that will vent its past frustration on every visitor. There will be no easy wins for visitors at Bloomington this year, so you better bring your A game or face possible embarassment. Crean looks like he's turned the corner down there.

Dennis Mamelson

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 11 p.m.

Nick - Indiana supporter since 1953 here. Excellent article. Looking forward to another IU victory knowing it will not be an easy task. Also, during bowl season I feel like every Big Ten school is my alma mater, especially the original 10. Congrats to the Wolverines on their exciting Sugar Bowl win. They had me on the edge of my seat. Great to see University of Michigan football back where they belong. The Big Ten is so much better when they are good. Between them and the Spartans we at least had something to be proud of. Go Blue. But not tomorrow, please. LOL.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

Michigan is real. They are a bit of a donut team and need to get a bit tougher in the middle.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

Your story has the validated the essence of the home court advantage. Indiana is regaining its past greatness as a formidable big 10 team. As Michigan continues to improve this next game will, indeed, be a good measure of the team's progress. Wisconsin has lost its last two home games to Iowa and MSU so winning in the road can be done. Let us hope Michigan can be the next team to dull the advantage of a home court. Go Blue!

Steve Fischer

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

This is a well-written story! MIchigan does have its work cut out for them. Indiana is a classy program with good smart kids and would be flawless over 50 years if it wasn't for the texting thing which under current NCAA rules would be a joke. Indiana has gotten up against the very best but Michigan should be just as excited. It will be fun.