After a two and a half month hiatus, I triumphantly return to the ranks of the Basketball previewers! Of course, my return is timed to coincide with the toughest game on the schedule this year. Let’s take a look.
|Division:||NCAA Division 1|
|Stadium:||Assembly Hall…no, the other one.|
|Head Coach:||Tom Crean|
Not a single team in the country this season has looked the part of a potential NCAA Tournament champion. Several teams have occupied the number-one ranking in the country, and each has spit the bit eventually. The only team that comes close to looking complete has to be the Indiana Hoosiers.
Crean has done a credible job helping Indiana turn their fortunes around in his 5 years with the program. He has gone from 6-25, with only one big Ten win, to 24-4 this season and a potential #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. That’s an impressive climb, and it’s clear that Crean will be able to keep Indiana on the collegiate basketball map for the foreseeable future.
The biggest key to his success this year has to be junior guard Victor Oladipo (6-5, 214, #4). Oladipo has been a one man scoring machine, averaging just shy of 14 points per game on a ludicrous 63% shooting percentage from the floor. He is lethal from just about anywhere on the court, and matches his scoring production with tenacity inside. His six rebounds per game is third for the team by a fair margin.
|#32||L. Smith Jr.||28||27.607||10.25||45.7||70.0||40.2||4.964||1.607||0.5||0.143||1.821|
Of course, when one talks Indiana one must also talk Cody Zeller (7-0, 240, #40). The sophomore Center came into the season hyped as possibly the best big-man in the country, and thus far he’s done a decent job living up to those expectations. He clearly still has room to improve, but no-one’s going to complain too loudly about his team leading 16.5 points and 8 rebounds per game.
The Buckeyes are currently riding an impressive 3 game winning streak. After being pounded at Wisconsin, they have strung together wins against Minnesota, Michigan State, and at Northwestern. Securing a win against the Hoosier’s in Bloomington would be a big help on the tournament resume, particularly this late in the season. That said, even a close loss would not hurt OSU’s resume in the eyes of the committee.
What is more important, however, is that this game is one of possibly several defacto Big Ten regular season championships. If the Buckeyes can secure a win against the Hoosiers, then Indiana will still be in the driver’s seat for the conference regular season title. However, they would have to beat Michigan in Ann Arbor to secure the crown. Two straight losses, and two straight wins for the Bucks (assuming they can top Illinois), would give OSU a share of the conference crown. However, if OSU loses, Indiana wins the Big Ten regular season outright.
No pressure, right?
The Bucks have a fighting chance in this game. It is going to require 40 minutes of unbreakable defense against Oladipo and tough, high quality interior play from Ravenel, Williams, and McDonald against Zeller. If OSU can take both players out of the game, they have a fighting chance – but they also have to hit their baskets. An OSU team leaning on DeShaun Thomas for points will not likely win this one.
Indiana has struggled in other games, and has suffered losses at Minnesota, at Illinois, and at home against Wisconsin. It is not outside the realm of possibility for the Buckeyes to give them a handful in this one.
The game will be played in Bloomington, Indiana on Tuesday, March 5th. You’ll be able to see the game on ESPN at 9:00 pm eastern time. Don’t forget to join us for the BBN Liveblog, starting 15 minutes before the tip.