Indiana will close out the regular season on Saturday afternoon in Bloomington against Wisconsin. The Badgers, winners of seven straight, could clinch at least a share of the Big Ten regular season with a win. The Hoosiers are 19-11 overall and 9-10 in conference and would likely secure an at-large NCAA tournament bid with a victory.
The regular season home finale also marks Senior Day for Devonte Green and De’Ron Davis, who will be honored postgame and give speeches to the Assembly Hall faithful.
Saturday’s game will tip at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN with Jason Benetti and Mark Adams on the call:
With only two weeks until the NCAA tournament gets into full swing, we’ve entered the home stretch of the college basketball season.
The Big Ten title race, however, is not over. Four teams – Maryland, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Illinois – all still have a path to a share of the conference title. (That number could shrink to three if Illinois doesn’t win tonight at Ohio State.)
Indiana’s opponent on Saturday, Wisconsin, can win its first Big Ten title since 2015 with a victory in Bloomington. The Hoosiers could play spoiler and in addition, wrap up a bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016 with a win on Branch McCracken Court.
As hot as Wisconsin is entering Saturday’s game, the Badgers are 5-6 in true road games and 5-9 overall in games played away from the Kohl Center.
THE FIRST MEETING
The first matchup between Indiana and Wisconsin happened nearly three months ago in Madison. The Badgers administered an 84-64 beatdown in IU’s first game away from Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Wisconsin led by 31 points with 11:40 remaining in the second half and scored 84 points in 62 possessions.
A lot has changed – for both teams – since the first contest.
Indiana didn’t have Rob Phinisee, who battled a myriad of injuries earlier in the season, available in Madison. The Hoosiers also played sophomore wing Damezi Anderson – who has been out of the rotation for nearly two months – 20 minutes at the Kohl Center.
The bigger changes, however, have come on the Wisconsin roster. Kobe King, who lit up Indiana for 24 points in Madison, left the team in late January during a tumultuous time for the program. Ohio State transfer Micah Potter was not eligible for the first game at Wisconsin and is averaging nine points and 6.6 rebounds in 17 minutes per game.
Entering Saturday’s game, Wisconsin is rolling with a tight rotation that features guards Brevin Pritzl, Brad Davison, D’Mitrik Trice, Aleem Ford and Nate Reuvers in the starting lineup. Potter, Trevor Anderson and Tyler Wahl all come off the bench.
Reuvers had one of his best games of the season against the Hoosiers in Madison with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field. The addition of Potter has taken some pressure off Reuvers, but Indiana has to plan for much more production out of the Badger backcourt. Davison (2 points) and Trice (8 points) both shot poorly at the Kohl Center, but have been red hot in recent weeks. Davison has made 17 3s over Wisconsin’s last six games and Trice has made 16.
The Badgers are the Big Ten’s second best perimeter shooting team with a 35.9 percent mark from distance through 19 league games. Six different players on the roster have made 22 or more 3s this season. When coupled with a disciplined offensive style that is built around using as much of the shot clock as possible and not turning it over, it can be frustrating to defend.
For Indiana, the ball pressure in the first matchup was nowhere near the level it needed to be. As a result, Wisconsin got confident early and rolled to an easy win. Having Phinisee back in the lineup should help, but all of Indiana’s guards have to be much better defensively.
Offensively, Indiana appears to have two clear advantages over Wisconsin. The Hoosiers are the superior offensive rebounding team and there should be opportunities for second chance points as the Badgers rank just eighth in the league in defensive rebounding percentage.
Indiana must also make it a point of emphasis to get the ball into the paint and not settle for perimeter shots. Archie Miller said after the Minnesota win that IU must get Trayce Jackson-Davis “more engaged,” and the talented freshman is going to need to be prepared for whatever defensive wrinkle Greg Gard throws his way. The Hoosiers rank first in the conference in free throw rate (FTA/FGA), but that advantage has been negated by an opponent free throw rate that ranks last in the conference.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO
The KenPom projection is Indiana by two with a 56 percent chance of a Hoosier victory. The Sagarin ratings like the Hoosiers by just under a point.
While Saturday’s game may not have an impact on Indiana’s seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament, a win would put the Hoosiers safely into the NCAA tournament as it would secure 20 wins and a .500 record in the nation’s top conference. Wisconsin is already a lock for the NCAA tournament, but can win the league title and also continue to move up the S-Curve with a victory in Bloomington.
“I think we’re continuing to trend in the right way,” Archie Miller said after Wednesday’s win over Minnesota.
Saturday’s performance against a surefire NCAA tournament team with plenty on the line will test Miller’s sentiment and could give us a better indicator if Indiana is ready to surge at the most important time of the year.
Filed to: Wisconsin Badgers