At a point, this was looking like one of the bigger matchups in the conference. Ohio State started 12-1 and Indiana was at 12-2, but it’s been ugly ever since. The Buckeyes went on to lose six of their next seven Games while the Hoosiers are still losing, having dropped eight of their last nine. If these teams want to make the NCAA Tournament, they need to get wins against other mediocre teams in the Big Ten.
The bad news for Indiana is that its Schedule only gets worse and a win here is almost a must. It’s not the same for Ohio State, which has won its last two and has a couple upcoming home Games against Illinois and Northwestern. Neither one of these teams does anything particularly well and that’s why they’ve both struggled. Indiana’s best chance to win may be to force turnovers because OSU loses it on more than 20 percent of possessions in Conference play and just turned it over 18 times against Penn State. For Ohio State, it can pretty much capitalize in any category from forcing turnovers to limiting easy looks.
Starting with the Hoosiers, it’s been a miserable stretch of trying to score. Romeo LAngford (17.6 ppg) could be an excellent player in the NBA some day, but he’s had issues finding his shot and rarely goes off for a huge outing. It’s the same situation for Juwan Morgan (15.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg), who is now dealing with a bum shoulder. Those guys will combine for up to 40 points, but usually nothing more and that’s when the rest of the team becomes a problem. No one else averages more than nine points per Game with Aljami Durham maybe being the only other consistent threat offensively. Justin Smith, Rob Phinisee and the recently returned Devonte Green can have good Games, but never at the same time. The one player that could make a difference is big man De’Ron Davis, who is coming off an ankle injury. He has 16 points, 11 boards and 11 assists in 47 minutes in the last two Games and while he’s not the greatest defensively, he gives the Hoosiers a big body to work with in the paint and someone to put alongside Morgan.
Davis could come in huge against the Bucks because Kaleb Wesson (14.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg) likes to throw his weight around and getting him to work on both ends would be important. If Indiana uses its two bigs, that would force Andre Wesson into more defensive action against Morgan, which could be a problem. The recent bonus for OSU is that LUther Muhammad (10.2 ppg) has turned into a threat with at least 20 points in two of the last Four Games. He’s still inconsistent, but he adds another dimension to the backcOurt with C.J. Jackson (13.0 ppg), which wasn’t there most of the season. The question will be if the Bucks can continue to hit threes at the nearly 50 percent rate it’s been the last two Games. That’s up to Jackson and Muhammad and something that can be exploited after Indiana gave up one too many open looks to Iowa on Thursday.
The Buckeyes are playing better basketball, but they also aren’t easy to trust on road. If Muhammad can continue his hot streak, the advantage goes to Ohio State. However, he managed just three points in the last road Game and isn’t an easy guy to bet on. If the Hoosiers can get more from Davis to go with LAngford and Morgan, this is a winnable Game in almost a must-win spot.
Our Pick – Indiana Money Line