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It's been an on-and-off season for both of these teams and both come in on somewhat of a run (at least before Thursday's games). Indiana has had some really great wins at Assembly Hall, but performing like that on the road has been another issue. And while the Hoosiers have wins over Kansas and North Carolina, they still have the losses to IPFW and Nebraska. With a tough remaining schedule, they'd like to win at least one more solid road game.

But Northwestern has other plans. The Wildcats didn't have as good of non-conference wins as Indiana, but still had solid wins against Wake Forest and Dayton, among others. Outside of the losses to Michigan State and Minnesota, this team has proven they are one of the better ones in the Big Ten, already with road wins at Penn State, Nebraska and Ohio State. But any time they've played someone with the caliber of Indiana, things haven't gone as well.

Northwestern's path to victory will be limiting what Indiana does from three-point range. The Wildcats have won most of their conference games through solid defense and limiting opponents to a Big Ten-worst three-point percentage. But this might be the best shooting team they've seen so far, at least in conference play. When James Blackmon Jr. (18.3 ppg) gets going, there aren't many that can stop him; Michigan State got a taste of that last weekend. But it's not just him with Robert Johnson an equally good shooter from deep. With those two leading the way in the backcourt to go with Thomas Bryant and an improving De'Ron Davis in the frontcourt, it's easy to see why this team has won big games.

Starting with that frontcourt, Northwestern has failed to get consistent production from its bigs whether its Derek Pardon, Gavin Skelly or Sanjay Lumpkin. So far, those guys have provided enough defensively and in rebounding that offensive deficiencies haven't been a problem. But that's not to say they can't be beat. Thomas Bryant has disappointed this season, but he's still a superior talent than most competition he sees every night. To help Indiana's case in the paint, Juwan Morgan looks ready to play in this game, although Zach McRoberts and Freddie McSwain filled in admirably in the win over the Spartans.

The battle of the backcourts will be an interesting contrast as Indiana's defense has struggled mightily in road games. If that comes up here, the likes of Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law have the ability to take control of bad defenses.

Northwestern has the size advantage at both guard spots and small forward, but that doesn't always mean everything. Blackmon and Johnson have the speed and shooting advantage, as both Lindsey and McIntosh haven't been accurate from deep this season, despite taking a lot of shots. McIntosh will likely see a lot of Josh Newkirk in this game and his main role for the Hoosiers is to run the team and play defense.

Indiana has the more potent team, but that doesn't show up every game, especially on the road. If Northwestern wants to make the tourney, it has to win games like these at home.


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