Tipoff: Michigan at Indiana, 9 p.m. Saturday
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BLOOMINGTON -- If the meek really do inherit the earth, then Will Sheehey is in trouble. No, that doesn't mean Indiana's sixth-man standout is arrogant or cocky, although Purdue's Paint Crew student section might disagree.
Sheehey radiates aggressiveness from the moment he steps onto a basketball court. He isn't afraid to voice his opinion or stir the masses. He doesn't lack confidence or passion.
“Will has got a great edge to him,” coach Tom Crean said. “He is a great young man who has got a great edge. He is not the player that he is without that edge and that energy. It fuels him.”
A fueled Sheehey is a 6-7 big play waiting to happen, whether it's hitting the jumper to beat VCU in last year's NCAA tourney or dishing out a career-high seven assists in Wednesday night's blowout win at Purdue. He's a good shooter, a versatile defender and an off-the-bench catalyst. And if, along the way, he gets a little mouthy, well, sometimes you take the bad with the good, and nobody can deny there's more good than bad.
“It's no accident that we're playing better because he's playing so well right now,” Crean said.
Sheehey averages 10.3 points and 3.8 rebounds. He shoots 51.4 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three-point range. He has scored as many as 19 points this season, as many as 21 in his career. He's just behind Victor Oladipo as IU's top defender. He has started one game, against Sam Houston State, when Crean used him to make a point to regular starter Christian Watford about effort and consistency.
Beyond that, he's a very good student with law school plans once his basketball playing days are over.
Sheehey is a big reason why the No. 3 Hoosiers have won four straight games, two on the road, entering Saturday's Big Ten showdown with No. 1 Michigan.
“He was in double figures in deflections (against Purdue),” Crean said. “He guards numerous people. He has got an energy and an edge that makes us a better, tougher team.”
IU (19-2 overall) will need all the edge and toughness it can muster in its first-place battle with Michigan (20-1). Both teams come in with 7-1 Big Ten records.
The Hoosiers just steam rolled Purdue at Mackey Arena for their most complete game of the season. They are ready, guard Yogi Ferrell said, for their biggest regular season game since beating No. 1 Kentucky last year. Confidence, he added, won't go over the top.
“We always want to have that humble mentality,” he said. “We never want to seem too cocky. We don't want to have that vibe.”
How good is Michigan? It is off to the best start in school history. It is ranked No. 1 for the first time in two decades. It won the NIT Preseason Tipoff by beating Pitt, Kansas State and North Carolina State. Six of its Big Ten wins have come by at least 14 points. The other was by eight points at Minnesota. Its lone conference loss was at Ohio State, 56-53.
The Wolverines are, by far, the Big Ten's most inexperienced team. Freshmen Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas and Spike Albrecht play extensively. Sophomore point guard Trey Burke is on everybody's list as a national player of the year contender. Junior swingman Tim Hardaway and senior forward Jordan Morgan bring crucial leadership and maturity.
Robinson and Stauskas are up for national freshman of the year honors, as is Ferrell.
Robinson, the son of former Purdue and NBA great Glenn Robinson, averages 12.1 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 60.1 percent from the field. Stauskas leads the Big Ten in three-point shooting (49.5 percent) while averaging 12.6 points.
Hardaway averages 15.5 points and 5.0 rebounds. Morgan averages 6.4 points and 5.2 rebounds. McGary, who was once recruited by IU and Purdue, averages 5.6 points and 6.0 rebounds. Albrecht averages 1.6 points in a more limited role, although he has played in every game.
Burke is the catalyst. He averages 17.9 points and 7.1 assists while shooting 49.6 percent from the field, 37.7 percent from three-point range and 77.9 percent from the line. He's the only Big Ten player to have scored at least 15 points in every conference game. He has had as many as 12 assists in a game, and recently surpassed 300 assists in his career.
"I give my teammates all of the credit," Burke told Michigan's media relations department. "When you're surrounded by guys that are so unselfish and do what is best for the team, then good things are bound to happen.
“I'm playing with guys that are such high-quality players. We all have jobs out there, and one of my roles is to make plays for the team, whether it's scoring or getting other guys the ball."
Those other guys appreciate his passing generosity.
"It's very important having him run the floor out there," Robinson told Michigan's media relations department. "He is a great leader and knows how to control the team. He just seems to find us in the right spot, at the right time -- the least we can do is make the shot for him."