Who? Indiana Hoosiers (16-12 (9-7) #72 KenPom) at Nebraska Cornhuskers (20-9 (11-5) #56 KenPom)
When? Tuesday, February 20, 9:00 p.m. EST, BTN
Where? Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Nebraska
Vegas? Nebraska (-4)
KenPom? Nebraska 71-67, 33% chance of an Indiana victory
Indiana enters Tuesday night’s contest at Nebraska on a four-game winning streak, marking their longest-sustained success of the 2017-18 season. With wins over Rutger, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa, though, it’s hard to gauge exactly how much better Indiana has been the past couples weeks. If you factor in the defensive improvement and take into consideration a couple nail-biters with Michigan State and Purdue preceding the current streak, it’s not unreasonable to be encouraged by the way the Hoosiers are playing. But the final two games of the season will serve veritable measuring stick.
That starts in Lincoln where Archie Miller’s club will take on the Cornhuskers, who are currently holding down the fourth spot in the Big Ten standings thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker over Michigan. And if they’re able to make the NCAA Tournament, it’ll be in large part because of the protection of their home court. The Huskers are 14-1 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
|-||eFG%||TO%||Off. Reb %||3P%|
|-||eFG%||TO%||Off. Reb %||3P%|
|INDIANA (#87th adj. offense)||51.6 (154th)||18.0% (132nd)||31.7% (88th)||32.5% (295th)|
|NEBRASKA (#51 adj. defense)||46.9 (21st)||18.0 (213th)||33.9 (333rd)||32.0 (29th)|
|NEBRASKA (#73 adj. offense)||50.0 (211th)||15.9 (29th)||29.3 (158th)||35.5 (145th)|
|INDIANA (#56 adj. defense)||50.6 (167th)||19.8% (111th)||28.8% (172nd)||32.0% (273th)|
On paper, the matchup isn’t all that uneven. Both teams have defended well in conference play and each are just on the outside of being a top-50 defensive club in the country. On the other end, both struggle offensively to knock down the three (save Rob Johnson’s record-tying nine on Saturday).
One distinct advantage on paper for the Hoosiers is rebounding. Nebraska gives up offensive rebounds at a rate of 33.9%, one of the worst in the country, and the Hoosiers get after the offensive glass, pulling boards down after their own missed shots nearly 32% of the time. Indiana may be able to get several second-chance looks, which could be critical given Nebraska’s outstanding defense.
Where do they stand? As mentioned above, the Hoosiers have a great opportunity in front of them this week to figure out exactly how far they’ve come in the past few weeks. A win at Nebraska would lock-up a winning record in Big Ten play and presumably the six-seed in the conference tournament, considering Penn State still plays Michigan and Nebraska and the Hoosiers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Nittany Lions. The difference between the six- and seven-seed? Playing the winner of the 11-vs-14 matchup or the 10-seed. If the season ended today, that would be the difference between playing the least shitty of Minnesota, Illinois, Rutger, and Iowa or Wisconsin.
More Seeding. With a win at Nebraska, the Hoosiers would also keep alive hopes of earning the 5-seed in the Big Ten Tournament. For that to come to fruition, Indiana would have to beat Ohio State to end the season and Penn State would have to beat the Cornhuskers but neither of those are out of question. What would that five-seed mean? The winner of the 12-vs-13 matchup and then a date with the four-seed. It also means staying opposite of the two- and three-seeds, meaning a Big Ten Championship game appearance would require beating only one of Michigan State, Ohio State, and Purdue, the three teams with chances of earning the one-seed.
Fatigue? Not so much. The Hoosiers are playing their 11th game of the season with fewer than three days turnaround from the previous contest. Their record in the first 10? A surprising 9-1, although that number is far less surprising when you learn that the nine wins were with Howard, Arkansas State, Eastern Michigan, Iowa, Tennessee Tech, Penn State, Maryland, Rutger, and Iowa. Nebraska is 13-2 in such games. There may not be a point to this and they may be stupid statistics but it was difficult coming up with a 3rd thing so hopefully at least one of you found this interesting.