No. 1 Michigan stays hot, moves focus to huge tilt at No. 3 Indiana as 'everyone's target'
ANN ARBOR -- Earlier in the week, Trey Burke proclaimed that his Michigan basketball team was deserving of a No. 1 ranking.
Burke talked the talk, but now, he says its time for No. 1 Michigan to start walking the walk.
Minutes after an impressive 68-46 home thrashing of Northwestern on Wednesday, Burke fielded questions about the Wolverines' next test -- their biggest test, to date.
No. 3 Indiana, on the road, in Assembly Hall.
During college basketball's regular season, there are big games, there are bigger games -- and then there's this game.
"A lot of people will have us as underdogs in this game," said Burke, who dropped 18 points and 8 assists against Northwestern. "With Indiana being No. 1 coming into the season, it's kind of like we're playing (against) the No. 1 team, in our minds.
"A lot of (people) are doubting us, wanting to see us lose. We're going to do everything we can to get the win."
Indiana moved to 19-2, 7-1 in Big Ten play, with a lopsided road win at Purdue on Wednesday night. Michigan hit 20-1 (7-1 in league play) by dominating Northwestern.
Saturday's game (9 p.m., ESPN) won't just reveal an early February leader in the Big Ten race, it'll also give the victor an inside track to a possible No. 1 NCAA tournament seed with the luxury of playing a regional through Indianapolis, an extremely valuable incentive for both of these midwestern clubs.
The Wolverines are 2-20 in their last 22 trips to Indiana's famed Assembly Hall, and have lost 15 of their last 16 games in Bloomington.
According to Burke, the only way to turn that tide is to approach the game with a Michigan vs. the world mentality -- because on Saturday, that just might be the case.
"When you're the top team, you're not only the other team's target, you're everyone's target," Burke said. "We just have to go out there with a chip on our shoulder, stay humble, and just try to win."
Michigan was all business Wednesday in Ann Arbor, ripping the nets on 10 of its first 11 field goal attempts and finishing the win over Northwestern with 14 assists against just two turnovers.
This could have been a trap game for Michigan, as the entire college basketball world had already shifted its focus to Saturday when the Wolverines were announced as The Associated Press' No. 1 team on Monday.
But Michigan stayed poised and eyed the next game, and only the next game.
Now, the next game gets bigger.
"Their fans are crazy, that whole atmosphere's just crazy," said Michigan freshman Glenn Robinson III, an Indiana native. "I just can't wait to get out there and see what it's like for myself."
With his team moving more under the microscope with each passing hour this week, Michigan coach John Beilein has done his best to keep his the focus on the moment.
He hates talking about the No. 1 ranking, he refused to mention Indiana until the Northwestern game ended and he's not looking beyond Thursday's practice at this point.
Moving forward, that'll likely be easier said than done.
"We're embracing this more than I've problem given up," Beilein said. "We've embraced being No. 1, but we're not focused like 'we've made it,' no, we've got a long way to go.
"There will be a lot of interest in (the Indiana) game. But if you're going where Michigan wants to go, there's going to be a lot of interest in games."
Does Michigan deserve to be No. 1?
We'll find out Saturday.
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