Know Thy Opponent: Ohio State
Last time around, Indiana caught Ohio State during its first losing streak of the season, one that continued as the Buckeyes beat the Hoosiers 85-67 on New Year’s Eve.
This time around, it’s more of the same — as the Hoosiers haven’t emerged victorious since Feb. 2 against Minnesota.
And it’s going to be yet another tall task for Indiana to pull out a victory. The Buckeyes sports the second-best offense in the Big Ten (1.15 points per possession) behind Wisconsin. They own the second-best defense (1.02 points per possession) behind Purdue.
Nationally, it’s much of the same. Ken Pomeroy ranks their offense (adjusted offensive efficiency) second in the nation — with the Badgers again besting them for the top spot. By Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, the Buckeyes are 10th nationally.
So yes: This team is quite good. But we already knew that.
Back on New Year’s Eve in the first IU-OSU tilt, freshman stud (and likely NBA lottery pick) Jared Sullinger often attracted the defense, which led to open looks for his teammates all night. Ohio State shot 68.4 percent (13-0f-19) from three and 60.5 percent (23-of-38) from the floor. That’s efficiency.
If Indiana again chooses to load up against Sullinger on defense, it could be another case of guys like Jon Diebler — a very capable shooter from beyond the arc — raining on the Hoosiers due to easy, open looks from three. We’ve seen that song and dance on several occasions this season.
And if they choose to go one-on-one on Sullinger, he could have a field day.
As coach Tom Crean noted, this team can beat you in a variety of ways. Beyond Sullinger and Diebler, William Buford’s and David Lighty’s athleticism needs to be accounted for all over the half court. And freshman Aaron Craft has given the Buckeyes another capable ballhandler, when the question heading into this season was if anyone was going to be able to step up and assume that role.
Add it all up, and things are trending towards a sixth straight loss tomorrow afternoon. But if, as Crean said, the Hoosiers play mistake-free basketball and are accountable for each other on defense, they may at least be within striking distance when crunchtime hits.
Filed to: Ohio State Buckeyes