Will a visit to Indiana be any tougher this season for Michigan? Zack Novak's not sure that's possible
Like most youngsters growing up in Indiana, Zack Novak was a fan of Hoosier basketball.
It was just something you did.
"I was a big Bob Knight fan," said Novak, now a senior co-captain on the Michigan basketball team. "He was one of my favorites growing up. I really respected the way he coached the game and the way he did things."
He's watched games there, he's played there three times and he's even won there. But will a return trip to Assembly Hall this season be any different, with the formerly dormant Hoosiers now seemingly back where they belong at 13-1?
Novak says no. It's Indiana.
It's not like it ever really got quiet to begin with.
"One of the things I've always kind of been surprised by, even though they have been down, is that it's rocking in there," Novak said. "I'm expecting it to be just like it's always been.
"I'm sure there will be a little bit extra to it, but it's always been a good place to play."
Novak, a product of Chesterton High School, is one of two Indiana natives on the Michigan roster. Fellow co-captain Stu Douglass is the other and played at Carmel High School.
The pair have played at Assembly Hall three times for Michigan, winning in overtime as freshmen during the 2008-09 season, before dropping the past two outings in Bloomington.
While they both have experience playing in one of their home state's most storied venues, Thursday will be the first time Novak and Douglass travel to Bloomington to face a Hoosier team that appears to be a contender.
"You try not to (treat it differently), but it definitely is a little different," Douglass said in an interview with MGoBlue.com. "There's a lot of tough places to play in the Big Ten, and Indiana is a huge basketball state — Purdue and IU have to be the top two for me.
"It doesn't matter if the students are on winter break, everyone there is loud. It's a tough place to play."
Novak and Douglass both understand what's in store for Michigan on the road in Bloomington, but they're not ready to call a victory in one of the Big Ten's toughest road environments impossible.
"Traditionally we've been pretty good on the road under coach Beilein here," Novak said. "I think that's one of our strengths. We play an intelligent brand of basketball and I think that travels well."
Michigan glad Indiana has returned to form
At 13-1 with victories against top-ranked and second-ranked opponents this season, Indiana and coach Tom Crean appear to have restored order to a program that won just 28 games in the past three seasons.
Is that a good thing?
"I think so," Novak said. "It's good for the Big Ten, the stronger the league the better. It's the same thing that's been going on here, down for a couple years and then bounce back with a resurgence.
"It's just like with (the Michigan football team) winning the Sugar Bowl. That's big."
Michigan sophomore Tim Hardaway Jr. agreed, saying the Hoosiers are back where they belong.
"It's a great thing," he said. "They've had their ups and downs throughout the years, but Cody Zeller and (Victor) Oladipo and (Will) Sheehey and (Christian) Watford and all those guys are doing a great job.
"They're doing of a great job of bringing that program back, and putting it where it's supposed to be."
Michigan coach John Beilein said he caught the end of the Michigan State-Wisconsin overtime thriller on Tuesday night, a game that featured a case of malfunctioning clocks.
The Badgers appeared to bury a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of the first overtime, but the shot was waved off as a review showed the ball had not left Ryan Evans' hand prior to the clock atop the basket reading all zeros.
A different clock in the arena was off-sync with the basket clock, showing Evans' shot did leave in time. However, rules state that the basket clock is the official time marker.
"That's the correct ruling, unfortunately the clocks weren't in sync," Beilein said. "That happened before in the Big East, either in a tournament or a Big East game where the light went on but the buzzer didn't go off.
"But they need to put that in for football? Why does football not have tenths of seconds on their clocks? ... Why does football not have that? Football, put it in."
You heard the man, football.
Adjust your clocks.
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