Who will WIN this matchup?
Indiana Hoosiers (17-14)
Ohio State Buckeyes (18-13)
Indiana Hoosiers: (-135)
Ohio State Buckeyes: (+115)
• The line for this game is Indiana by 2 points.
• Indiana and Ohio State finished the regular season headed in different directions, but come together Thursday for a Big Ten Tournament second-round game that likely will determine whether either team makes the NCAA Tournament field. The No. 9 seed Hoosiers and eighth-seeded Buckeyes are considered bubble teams, and ESPN bracketology had the rivals on its first-four-out list after Saint Mary’s upset of Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament final. Indiana’s season was headed for the dumpster before ending conference play on a four-game winning streak.
• Ohio State closed out its schedule with a three-game slide, but its struggles were attributed in large part to the absence of suspended Kaleb Wesson, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. Wesson will be back for the the tournament, which is good news for the Buckeyes. Without him, Ohio State found scoring to be difficult, averaging 56 points during the skid.
• The postseason push began in late February with back-to-back upsets of No. 19 Wisconsin and No. 7 Michigan State. Senior Juwan Morgan, Indiana’s leading rebounder and second-highest scorer, has picked up the pace (20 or more points in each of the past two games) with time running short now on his career, and guards Justin Smith and Rob Phinisee have made valuable contributions the past two weeks. Freshman Romeo Langford leads the Hoosiers in scoring (16.7 points per game) after recording 20 points in the regular-season finale against Rutgers on Sunday.
• The question entering the Big Ten Tournament is where will the scoring come from on this team. Coach Chris Holtmann warned Tuesday about relying too much on Wesson’s return, but Ohio State will need him to produce on the offensive and defensive ends of the court against Indiana because there’s no one else the Buckeyes can really count on as a go-to player. The one guy who could be a difference-maker is senior point guard C.J. Jackson, who’s averaging 12.1 points and coming off a 22-point, five-assist effort in Ohio State’s 73-67 overtime loss to Wisconsin on Sunday.
• Ohio State and Indiana met once this season, a 55-52 victory for the Buckeyes on Feb. 10 in Bloomington when the Hoosiers were struggling.
• Langford was named to the All-Big Ten second team this week by the Associated Press, the only Indiana player to make the first or second team.
• Ohio State is making its second visit to Chicago’s United Center, the site of the Big Ten Tournament, having beaten Illinois there in December at the start of conference season.