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College Basketball Pick


When CBS put the schedule together, it planned on this being a high-end matchup to watch while preparing for the Super Bowl. Instead, Indiana has fallen off the map quite suddenly since Big Ten play began. The Hoosiers had early-season wins against Kansas and North Carolina, but now don't even have a winning record in conference play. Last week, they were destroyed at Michigan, then leading scorer James Blackmon Jr. was declared out indefinitely with a lower leg injury before the loss to Northwestern.

Already having a win against this team back on Jan. 3 in Assembly Hall, Wisconsin is in a good position to remain atop the Big Ten standings. The Badgers haven't been all that convincing, needing overtime to win at Minnesota and Rutgers, but when they put it together, this team can usually shutdown limited opponents. That includes a recent 27-point win over Penn State and 14-point win at Illinois. In their last three games, the Badgers haven't allowed more than 55 points, with one of those coming in overtime.

The problems are obvious for Indiana in this game, already with OG Anunoby out and Blackmon likely to miss this game. At Northwestern last weekend, Thomas Bryant scored 23 points and Robert Johnson added 12, but no one else on the team scored more than six. They scored 110 points on Wednesday, but that was in three overtimes against Penn State in Bloomington. This is a completely different situation. When these teams met in early January, it was a classic Wisconsin win 75-68. But the problems for the Hoosiers will be expanded as Anunoby and Blackmon combined for 19 points in that game. But it's not just the scoring that will be missed. Anunoby played 32 minutes in that game and was the main defender on Nigel Hayes, who finished 4-of-11 from the field.

Now, the duo of Juwan Morgan and Zach McRoberts get to deal with Hayes, while Thomas Bryant and De'Ron Davis get Ethan Happ, one of the best players in the conference. And against the most efficient defense in the conference, the Hoosiers will need to find more ways to score. In bigger roles at Northwestern, Bryant found some success, but Johnson rushed a lot of his shots and didn't even make a shot inside the arc. That was different against the Nittany Lions, but again, this is a much different situation. Bryant really struggled in that first game against Happ, playing just 21 minutes and scoring six points so that'll be an issue. And if Johnson can't take over as the team's go-to guard, where will the scoring come from?

Josh Newkirk is a facilitator that averages 7.1 points per game with Juwan Morgan and Davis below those totals. Newkirk had a season-high 27 points against Penn State, but it's hard to see that happening again. Then there's still the issue of stopping Bronson Koenig and Vitto Brown, in addition to Hayes and Happ. If Blackmon doesn't return for this game, it has all the makings of another double-digit win for the Badgers in Madison. Indiana will struggle to reach 60 points and while Wisconsin's offense is by no means elite, the Hoosiers are lacking the skill and depth to deal with whatever the home team throws at them.

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