When: 12:30 PM ET, Thursday, March 14th, 2019
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
How to watch: BTN (Brian Anderson, Stephen Bardo, Mike Hall)
In what may be the biggest game of Indiana’s season, the Hoosiers will open Big Ten tournament play on Thursday afternoon when they take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in a must-win game for both team’s tournament hopes. The Buckeyes and Hoosiers both find themselves on the bubble less than a week from Selection Sunday, and neither team can afford a loss.
Ohio State won the first meeting between these two teams, a 55-52 triumph over the Hoosiers in Bloomington, prolonging the Hoosiers struggles. However, both teams have trended in different directions since that meeting. Indiana closed the season on a four-game winning streak, including two wins over top-25 opponents, while the Buckeyes found themselves dropping 6 of their last 8 contests to end the season.
Despite the Buckeyes struggles to end the season, they will receive a much-needed boost in the form of big man Kaleb Wesson, who will return after missing the last three games of the season due to a violation of team rules. Wesson led Ohio State in both scoring and rebounding on the season, and the Buckeyes offense struggled mightily in his absence, failing to surpass .92 points per possession in either of the last three games in his absence.
One big question mark in this game will be whether Indiana can take care of the basketball, an area in which they have made massive strides in recent weeks. The Hoosiers combined to turn the ball over just 13 times over their last two games, with Rob Phinisee and Devonte Green in particular doing a tremendous job of keeping the offense under control. Ohio State, on the other hand, comes into this contest as one of the top teams in the Big Ten at forcing turnovers, finishing the season with the fourth best defensive turnover percentage in the conference at 17.4 percent.
With both teams needing a win in order to secure a tournament berth, there should be no lack of motivation for either team. While both teams seem to be trending in opposite directions, the return of Wesson adds a new dynamic to this game that makes it tough to predict. The Hoosiers seem to be hitting their stride at just the right time, all that remains to be seen is whether they can keep it going.