INDIANA HOOSIERS (17-14)
IOWA HAWKEYES (18-13)
Verizon Center – Washington D.C.
Tip-off: Thursday, 6:30 pm ET
Both the Hoosiers and the Hawkeyes will be hoping to keep their tournament hopes alive with a win on Thursday.
Indiana was one of the most disappointing teams in college basketball this season, as the Hoosiers defeated both Kansas and North Carolina in the first few weeks of the season but finished just 17-14. The Hoosiers dealt with a ton of injuries throughout the year, but nobody is going to feel bad for them. They are not a tournament team as things stand right now, but they do have the talent to win the Big Ten Tournament this weekend. Their first task will be defeating Iowa, but that is not going to easy. The Hawkeyes just defeated the Hoosiers, as Iowa won 96-90 in an overtime game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes are coming into this one on a positive note, as they have won four straight games. Two of those victories were on the road against Maryland and Wisconsin, and those victories have Iowa on the bubble heading into this tournament. A few wins this weekend could secure a spot for Fran McCaffery’s team in the “Big Dance”. Indiana was just 1-2 both SU and ATS when playing on a neutral court this season, and that is not a good omen heading into Thursday’s game. Fortunately for the Hoosiers, the Hawkeyes were 1-2 both SU and ATS in that same situation.
The one thing that Indiana can do as well as anybody is score the basketball. The Hoosiers were an incredibly efficient team on that side of the ball, as they score 116.4 points per 100 possessions (30th in NCAA). The guy that will be running the show on that end is G Josh Newkirk (9.2 PPG, 3.2 APG). Newkirk is Indiana’s starting point guard and he will need to play very well in order to have the Hoosiers advance. He was excellent against Ohio State in the final regular season game of the year, scoring 18 points and also dishing out five assists in the victory. If Newkirk can perform like that on Thursday then the Hoosiers might just find a way to win. They will, however, also need good performances from their two stars, G James Blackmon Jr. (17.0 PPG) and C Thomas Bryant (12.9 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.5 BPG). Blackmon Jr. can get as hot as any player in the country, but Bryant is a guy that needs his touches to be effective. Indiana is at its best when Bryant is involved in the offense. The Hoosiers would be wise to ride their big man as often as possible in this one.
The Hawkeyes were out of the tournament picture just two weeks ago, but they got hot down the stretch and put themselves on the bubble. That’s all they could have asked for, but these next few games will be crucial. If Iowa can win two games in the Big Ten tournament then it will be extremely tough to keep them out. They have a very good resume, but they can’t be complacent now. The guy that must show up for Iowa is G Peter Jok (20.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG). Jok has led this team all season, and he was brilliant the last time he faced Indiana. Jok had 35 points in that game, going 6-for-12 from the floor and 22-for-23 from the line. He’ll look to keep drawing fouls moving forward, but he’ll need some help from his teammates. The two guys with the most to offer are G Jordan Bohannon (9.8 PPG, 4.5 APG) and F Tyler Cook (12.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG). Bohannon is an incredible shooter, and he is capable of getting very hot from deep. Cook, meanwhile, must finish around the basket and knock down his free throws. If he can do that then Iowa should advance.