Up next for IU: Today vs. Ohio State
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Assembly Hall
On the air: CBS
Records: IU (16-12, 6-9 Big Ten), Ohio State (22-7, 9-7)
Expected starters for the Hoosiers: Will Sheehey – 6-7 senior forward, Noah Vonleh – 6-10 freshman forward, Yogi Ferrell -- 6-foot sophomore guard, Austin Etherington -- 6-6 sophomore forward, Stanford Robinson --.6-4 freshman guard
Update: Twice before IU has followed upset wins over ranked teams with losses. It can't affort to do that again if it wants to make the NCAA tourney. In other words, beating No. 20 Iowa on Thursday was a beginning and not an ending. The Hoosiers need to do something big to impress the Selecton Committee. Winning their final four regular season games, three against ranked teams, would impress. That means beating No. 22 Ohio State today and Nebraska on Wednesday (both at Assembly Hall), then winning at beating No. 16 Michigan next Saturday. That would give IU a 19-12 record, 9-9 in the Big Ten, with wins over five ranked teams, including a sweep of likely conference champ Michigan.
But that's the big picture. The immediate focus is Ohio State, which is still smarting from its loss at Penn State, when it melted against the Nittany Lions defense. Indiana has to play smart and efficient in its half-court offense while continuing its steady defensive improvement. If Will Sheehey can continue playing like one of the Big Ten's best players, if Noah Vonleh can get 12 to 15 shots (he only had two shots in the Iowa win), if the Hoosiers can keep the turnovers to around 12, Ohio State will be in trouble. Point guard Yogi Ferrell will have to deal with the 1-2 defensive punch of Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott, who rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the Big Ten in steals. Ferrell, and all the guards, must be strong with the ball and avoid dribbling inside into disaster.
Indiana's bench produced 42 points against Iowa. While a repeat is unlikely, it showcases the potential if the Hoosiers buy into coach Tom Crean's play-on-demand approach. They are thin inside, but have difference-making talent if they can play smart.
There is zero chance that Ohio State will try to turn the game into a track meet. First, that's not its style. Second, it's not going to do IU a favor by playing to the Hoosiers' running strength. Anyway, the Buckeyes have perhaps the Big Ten's best defensive backcourt in Craft and Scott. They are a big reason why Ohio State leads the Big Ten in points allowed (58.4). Craft has 73 steals this season. He has 321 career steals and needs four more to set the conference career steals record.
Finally, weather could be a factor. There's a strong potential for significant snow and ice. J.D. Campbell, IU's senior assistant athletic director, said the Big Ten precedent is for games to go on as scheduled as long as both teams, the referees, and the game management crew are at the facility. Ohio State arrived in Bloomington Saturday night.
Coach Tom Crean: “Ohio State is tremendous defensively. They attack the dribble. They do a great job of getting into the elbows. They come off their man. They cover a lot of ground. They are very experienced. They use that experience to create havoc. If you're not tough and strong with the dribble, if you over penetrate, if you don't make simple plays and simple passes, they can really hurt you.
“We have to be very strong and very smart with the ball. The big thing is to keep the ball moving and bodies moving. Use the entire court. I can't stress this enough -- be very strong with the ball. Don't drive into a crowd and allow them to be at their best.
“As far as Craft, the leadership is clear. The intelligence is clear. The toughness is clear, but what separates him is the ground he covers every possession. He does multiple things, multiple times in almost every possession. That's hard to do. I told our young guys, you have no idea what you're getting ready to see when it comes to hand speed and hand quickness. Not only from him, but from the other guards. He's a guy who has always understood his impact on winning.”