The Indiana Hoosiers (23-3, 11-2 Big Ten) have five games remaining in the regular season. At stake for IU is a conference championship (which would be their first since 2002) and NCAA tournament seeding.
With games against Michigan State, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan, this final stretch is full of quality opponents. The following slideshow will predict the outcome of each of these contests.
The Michigan State Spartans (22-4, 11-2 Big Ten) haven't lost since Indiana defeated them in Bloomington back on January 27. They are currently riding a five game win streak, with one of those wins being a thrashing of rival Michigan.
Logic says that the hot team, playing at home should win this game. The Hoosiers though, have showed they can play well in a hostile environment, with wins at Purdue and Ohio State. Indiana's star guard, Victor Oladipo, is expected to play, despite an ankle injury he suffered last weekend against Purdue.
With him, IU's chances of winning improve drastically.
This game puts the top two teams in the Big Ten against each other. The result should go a long way in determining who becomes conference champion.
Indiana recognizes the chance they have to win a conference title and won't disappoint. IU won't be intimidated by the crowd or confidence of No. 4 Michigan State and squeaks by with a narrow victory.
Final Score: Indiana 68 Michigan State 65
When Indiana travels to Williams Arena to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-8, 6-7 Big Ten), they will be facing a team hungry for a signature win.
Beating the Hoosiers would surely cement Minnesota's place in the NCAA tournament. Once again though, I'd like IU to win on the road.
Minnesota has a 13-2 home record this season, with losses to Michigan and Illinois. Indiana plays a similar style to Michigan, so the Hoosiers should be able to execute their game plan.
In the first match-up between these two teams, IU's Cody Zeller dominated down low. He finished the game with 18 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Indiana won 88-81 while controlling the action for most of the contest.
I don't see Minnesota having an answer for Zeller. When they try and double-team him, Indiana's guards will drain three-pointers to make the Golden Gophers pay.
Final Score: Indiana 84 Minnesota 73
The Iowa Hawkeyes (17-9, 6-7 Big Ten) is another team looking for a win to boost their NCAA tournament resume. Getting that win on Indiana's home court is something I don't see happening.
Other than the loss to Wisconsin, the Hoosiers have been unstoppable when they play in Assembly Hall. The raucous crowd has helped them to a 16-1 home record. Iowa is not going to fair well having to battle IU's superior talent and rabid fans.
This game won't be close. The Hoosiers have too many weapons.
Final Score: Indiana 88 Iowa 67
The Ohio State Buckeyes (18-7, 8-5 Big Ten) will prove to be quite a test for Indiana when they visit in early March.
When Ohio State played at Michigan, they showed they could play well on the road against a high quality opponent.
Deshaun Thomas is the Big Ten's leading scorer, averaging 20.1 points per game. He scored 26 points against the Hoosiers in their first meeting. He single-handedly kept that game close and should be able to do the same again.
One person alone, however, cannot beat the Hoosiers. The Buckeyes struggle to find scoring from players other than Thomas. Lenzelle Smith, Jr. is the only other Ohio State player averaging over 10 points per game (he averages 10.1).
Ohio State only scores an average 70.7 points per game, while Indiana averages much higher, at 82.9 points. The Hoosiers will take advantage of the Buckeyes' scoring struggles.
Final Score: Indiana 78 Ohio State 70
When Indiana faces the Michigan Wolverines (22-4, 11-2 Big Ten), they will be playing a mirror image of themselves.
The home court advantage Michigan will have will be the difference in this game. Michigan is a perfect 16-0 at home this season.
They are too good of a team for IU to beat on the road, let alone twice in the same season.
Final Score: Michigan 79 Indiana 69