1. In the only regular-season meeting between the two teams on Feb. 25, the Wildcats won 72-65 in Evanston. A lot went wrong in that game for Indiana, including a stretch of over 10 minutes without a single point scored. What went right for Northwestern in that contest?
Zach: Northwestern's defense did a phenomenal job in the second half of that game but make no mistake, it was the offense that won the Wildcats that Feb. 25 game. Northwestern put up 40 points in the first half, enough to match the Hoosiers. A common theme throughout Northwestern's season has been spans where they cannot muster points. They were able to avoid those long scoreless stretches against Indiana, and they were efficient offensively, shooting 51 percent on the night. They were able establish Alex Olah early in the game, which they should look to do again, Tre Demps caught fire (23 points on 8/12 shooting) and Vic Law came off the bench to knock down three threes. Finally, the Wildcats won the rebounding battle by five, something that they must do if they want to win on Thursday.
2. Overall, Northwestern has finished well - winning 5 of their final 7 games of the season. Did something click for the Wildcats in the final three weeks of conference play, or was it just regression to the mean after several close losses earlier in the season?
Zach: There have been two main players who have stepped up. Demps has been on a tear recently, and he has been much more efficient shooting the basketball than he had been earlier in the season. Olah has been the other huge key to success. He has been much better offensively and looked more comfortable in the post. Additionally, in four of the past seven games, Olah has posted double-digit rebounds. To put that in perspective, he had only reached double-digit rebounds once in the previous 11 conference games before that. Finally, guys like Law have stepped up as Bryant McIntosh has struggled a little bit with his shot.
3. Tre Demps put up 23 points in the victory over IU, and has scored in double digits in all but one of his last eight games. Do you expect Demps to have another big game on Thursday night?
Zach: Demps, as I mentioned earlier, has been playing really well as of late. He's not forcing shots and he's letting the game come to him. He's Northwestern's best one-on-one scorer and can fill it up when he's feeling it. 23 points would be really impressive, but anything in the 15- to 17-point range would certainly be plausible and perhaps even expected. Also, if this game gets down to crunch time and it's within a possession or two, Demps is a major factor. His clutch play has been perhaps unmatched this year by anyone in the nation.
4. The B1G tourney is in Chicago this year. Will the late-season success give Northwestern students an excuse to trek over from Evanston to the United Center for this game and create a home court advantage for the Cats?
Zach: This is reading week for Northwestern students, so most of them don't have class as they prepare for finals next week. I wouldn't expect enough Northwestern students to travel to create a major home crowd advantage, but a decent amount should make the trek, and perhaps some Evanston fans will make the trip as well. There are student fan buses going, but it still remains to be seen if students will actually show up in droves. My guess is no.
5. Prediction: Who wins on Thursday night, and by how much?
Zach: Tom Crean can't seem to solve Northwestern, but he's coaching for his job and Indiana is playing for their NCAA Tournament lives. I think Indiana escapes, but Northwestern won't go down without a fight. 73-68, Hoosiers.
Thanks again, Zach! The Hoosiers and Wildcats tip off from the United Center on Thursday night at 6:30pm. Coverage of this game will be on ESPN.