Here we go again. Indiana once again is facing off with the demon coach Bo Ryan and his white walkers in the land beyond the wall. The Hoosiers are going into a Kohl Center that has normally been a bastion of strength for the Badgers, but they've actually showed some cracks in the last two years defending home. Currently Wisconsin is sitting at 4-3 at home on the season and It would only be appropriate for the Hoosiers to even that up tonight.
However, they're going to have to face off with a much hotter Wisconsin squad than they did previously. Yes Wisconsin was undefeated coming into Assembly Hall in January, but their strength of schedule was not as brutal as it has been over their last 5 wins. After losing 4 of 5 following their first loss to the Hoosiers, the Badgers are 5-0 with wins on the road against Michigan and Iowa and a home win against Michigan State.
Leading the way for the Badgers are Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky. Dekker took some time to come on early in the season, but after the run of losses the sophomore has turned it on. Turning in three performances of an ORtg above 130 in his last five games. When he has struggled against Michigan State and Minnesota his battery mate Kaminsky picked up the slack. Combined the two have been terrors to the top half of the Big Ten. The concern is that they continue that tonight against our Hoosiers squad who are certainly having their own issues.
Where did Indiana go right in the first game that they have to replicate tonight? Obviously that's going to be turnovers. The Hoosiers best ball security game came against Wisky in Bloomington when they only turned the ball over 9 times. Include the ball security with a relentless assault on the rim offensively and the Hoosiers could certainly find another win by replicating their home game performance.
If you'll recall, Indiana didn't actually shoot all that well in that game. If it wasn't a layup the ball wasn't going in. So Indiana is likely going to have to do a little more to generate points further from 4 feet from the basket. Wisconsin isn't going to let that layup line happen again. Preferably you still want Indiana attacking the rim as the chances that they draw more fouls is high. A combined 14 free throws were attempted in the first game and that also is unlikely to repeat. If Indiana can improve upon their offensive performance against Northwestern, they should be able to handle getting the opportunities to force Wisconsin's hand. Of course, whether they hit those shots will forever be a concern with this Hoosier club.
Ultimately this game is going to land squarely on the shoulders of Noah Vonleh and Will Sheehey. Their defensive performances are going to be very important to causing some Wisconsin offensive struggles. Kaminsky and Dekker need to be slowed if not stopped all together. Sheehey and Vonleh will be the ones responsible for that.
If, and that's a big if. If, the Hoosiers pull off the victory, I can't promise I won't storm some court somewhere and find a net to cut down. This has been game number 1 in least likely to win all year and the Hoosiers haven't really proven that they can go into the belly of the beast, face adversity and come out in one piece. Still would love to see it happen. If it did I'd certainly feel a lot better about the ensuing four games after.