NO. 7 INDIANA (15-2, 3-2 Big Ten) AT NO. 5 OHIO STATE (15-3, 3-2 Big Ten)
Time/TV: 4 p.m./CBS
Location: Value City Arena
RPI Ratings: Indiana 7 (No. 2 Big Ten); Ohio State 14 (No. 4 Big Ten).
Indiana Players to Watch: C Cody Zeller, 6-11 Fr. (14.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 64.5% FG); G Jordan Hulls, 6-0 Jr. (12.4 ppg, 3.4 apg, 55.6% 3s); G Victor Oladipo, 6-5 So. (11.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.8 spg). Zeller leads the Hoosiers in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and blocked shots during the first half of his freshman year. He’s also second on the team with 1.7 steals per contest.
Ohio State Players to Watch: F Jared Sullinger, 6-9 So. (17.4 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 60.5% FG); G William Buford, 6-6 Sr. (15.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.4 apg); F Deshaun Thomas, 6-7 So. (15.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 55.3% FG). Thomas has improved his shot selection and his basketball IQ and his productivity has shown it. He has scored in double-figures in 16 of his last 17 games, including a 23-point performance in the Buckeyes’ loss to Illinois on Tueday.
Storylines: Both teams are 3-2 and need a win to stay in the Big Ten hunt. Each suffered a tough loss in their last outing; Indiana its first home loss, 77-74 to Minnesota, and Ohio State at Illinois, 79-74. Indiana defeated Ohio State at home, 74-70 just 15 days earlier.
What You Should Know: Ohio State’s usually-solid defense surrendered 43 points – a career-high – to Illinois guard Brandon Paul. Aaron Craft, who was considered the pre-season Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner, spent much of the time guarding Paul. That could open the door for Hulls and/or Oladipo to have a big game. Meantime, opposing offenses are starting to attack Hulls, who is a great floor leader and shooter but struggles immensely on defense. Sullinger and Zeller have been the Big Ten’s two best big men. Indiana held Sullinger to five field goal attempts in the first meeting, while Zeller finished with 14 points. Expect Sullinger to remember that on Sunday. He’s been criticized for his lack of intensity, and that could be bad news for the Hoosiers. Indiana has struggled to guard the 3-point line and that could mean a big day for Buford – one of the Big Ten’s all-time best 3-point threats. Christian Watford has been consistent for Indiana all year, but went 3-for-17 in the loss to Minnesota. Don’t expect him to have back-to-back poor outings.
The Bottom Line: Ohio State is the better and more experienced team. The Buckeyes will win. Indiana may keep it close for a while, but this is likely to be a one-sided outcome.
The Pick: Ohio State 82, Indiana 67.