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Game Preview: Ohio State

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Just two short weeks since defeating the Buckeyes in Assembly Hall, the Hoosiers head out to Columbus for another showdown with Ohio State.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

GAME INFO:

Who? Ohio State Buckeyes (13-3, #16 KenPom)  v. Indiana Hoosiers (11-4, #56 KenPom)

When? 1:30 PM, CBS

Vegas? TBA

Pomeroy? OHIO STATE by 7, 26% chance of Indiana victory

_______________________________________

These guys again?

It hasn't been very long at all since the Buckeyes came to Assembly Hall and Indiana really started to turn some heads to their résumé by dispatching of the visitors 69-66. At the time, the Buckeyes were 22nd in the country and have since tumbled out of the rankings while Indiana has risen to 23rd, their first foray into the top 25 this season. D'Angelo Russell was held to an inefficient 13 points on 3-15 shooting including 1-5 from 3PT range, but his monster freshman campaign has continued to impress. The freshman enjoyed a nearly flawless performance against Northwestern, and the Buckeyes needed every bit of it to hold on to a 69-67 victory in Evanston.

Thad Matta has tinkered with his starting lineup since the Indiana game, as Marc Loving and Amir Williams found themselves on the bench to start the game against Northwestern, replaced by Jae'Sean Tate and the once-coveted senior transfer Anthony Lee, who played a season-high 22 minutes, only his second double-digit minutes stint since December 17th. It will be interesting to see if Lee gets the starting nod again on Sunday, against the team he once referred to as the frontrunner for his final year of eligibility.

Regardless of what combination Matta trots out to the court, the group will be more than capable of scoring points. Neither offense shot the ball very well in the first meeting, but Ohio State is 7th in the country in eFG% while Indiana is not far behind at 12th. (Which TOTALLY explains why they combined to hit 7 of 39 three point attempts in their first meeting.) Not one player who has logged minutes this season has an offensive rating under 106.3. Their defense has slipped a bit in conference play, while still ranking 70th overall, they're 9th in the B1G in conference games. (Indiana is 202nd overall, but only 11th in conference play.)

HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?

Four Factors
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Offense) 55.9% (12th) 16.7% (38th) 34.2% (82nd) 37.6% (169th)
OHIO STATE (Defense) 45.4% (59th) 24.5% (12th) 32.2% (225th) 28.0% (26th)
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Defense) 48.2% (149th) 15.9% (336th) 32.5% (237th) 26.3% (10th)
OHIO STATE (Offense) 56.7% (7th) 16.7% (37th) 34.5% (72nd) 31.6% (300th)

The numbers have shifted but the trends from the last game remain largely intact. Both teams can shoot the lights out and don't turn it over very often, they crash the offensive boards but struggle to prevent their opponents from doing the same, they excel at keeping opponents off the free throw line while having some issues getting there themselves. Ohio State, in particular, is downright horrendous at getting to the free throw line, not that it really matters, as Indiana's free throw defense, SECOND BEST IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, make any trip to the line a practically pointless endeavor.

If Indiana is second, who on earth could be firs-OH MY GOD

OHGOD

This is getting ridiculous. The season is well past its halfway point and Indiana is still KILLING IT when it comes to preventing their opponents from hitting free throws. Which brings me to my most important point for this game preview:

I WILL PAYPAL FIVE DOLLARS TO ANY MEDIA MEMBER AT THE POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE WHO ASKS TOM CREAN THIS QUESTION, VERBATIM:

"Going into tonight your team was ranked second in the country in defensive free throw percentage. Can you let us in on the strategy and work that goes into preventing an opponent from making their free throws? Is it voodoo? It seems like voodoo."

FIVE DOLLARS. VERBATIM. ANYONE.

Anyway, the key for Indiana in this game will be the same in pretty much every game moving forward: can they string together enough stops to go along with their ridiculous scoring? The defense isn't great, but it's starting to build an identity and intensity we didn't see earlier in the year. Unfortunately, at times it seems their defensive effort seems to be directly related to their offensive success. When the shots don't fall, defense becomes even more important because, with this team more than any other, it's just a matter of time until they start falling again, but they can't let the deficit balloon to 15 or 20 points while they tread water.

What to Watch For:

  • Can Indiana take this show on the road? Indiana has scratched out two close conference road wins while getting obliterated in their other road attempt, and Ohio State is much closer to Michigan State in talent level than Nebraska or Illinois. Another cold shooting night like in East Lansing could bury the Hoosiers early if the Buckeyes shoot as well as they typically do. Indiana is pretty much in "house money" territory with regards to this stretch of four games that began with Illinois, as many figured 2-2 was the best case scenario. Should the Hoosiers secure a win either Sunday or during their date in West Lafayette, we will almost be forced to start talking about Big Ten title scenarios non-ironically. It's worth pointing out that should they somehow win both, they will match their overall and conference win totals from last season ... in January.
  • This almost feels like a weird trap game. Coming off a big, emotional win in front of their home fans on a Thursday night and the always big rivalry game with Purdue coming up on Wednesday, is it all that crazy to think there's a chance this young team's focus could be less than 100% for an early afternoon Sunday game? I'm glad it's Ohio State, a team that should always command your focus, as it could be easy to overlook this game based solely on its placement if it were against a bottom-tier Big Ten team.