Indiana and Wisconsin will meet for the second time this season with a trip to the Big Ten tournament final on the line, and each team will be focusing on a few key matchups.
In the only game between these two teams during the regular season, the Badgers marched into Bloomington and upset the Hoosiers. Indiana was the No. 2 team in the country at the time, and Wisconsin was unranked.
That loss will be fresh in the minds of Tom Crean’s team, and Wisconsin will not be intimidated in this contest.
Tip-off is set for Saturday at 1:40 p.m. ET, and the full Big Ten tournament and bracket can be found here. Now, here are the matchups that will decide the contest.
Bo Ryan vs. Tom Crean
Who is the better coach?
Indiana is having a better season than Wisconsin, but since Tom Crean took over the Hoosiers before the 2008-09 season, Bo Ryan has owned him.
In the nine meetings between Wisconsin and Indiana over the past five seasons, the Badgers are 9-0. Ryan may have had more talented teams during the first couple years of the matchups between these two coaches, but the core of this current Hoosiers team still has never beat Wisconsin.
Ryan’s emphasis on a slow pace, tough defense and efficient three-point shooting limits the impact of Indiana’s explosive offense. As of now, Crean has been unable to force the Badgers out of their game plan.
Crean will need to get creative with his strategy in this contest, as nothing he has tried has worked thus far.
Wisconsin Big Men vs. Indiana Perimeter Defense
Ryan does an incredible job recruiting players that fit his system, and the Badgers always have multiple big men who can step outside and shoot.
During the regular season meeting between these two teams, Wisconsin hit seven three pointers, and six of them came from forwards Mike Bruesewitz, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker.
The smooth-shooting big men force the Indiana defense into uncomfortable positions, and once this happens, ball movement often leads to open shots. Wisconsin shot 45.1 percent from the field, and Indiana only made 37 percent of its shots in the meeting earlier this year.
If the Badgers can continue to stretch the floor and get their forwards open shots on the perimeter, it will once again be more efficient on offense than the Hoosiers.
Battle of the Benches
Even though Wisconsin was able to slow the game down and control the tempo during the regular-season meeting, Indiana still had an excellent shot to win the game.
The Hoosiers only lost by five points, and the Wisconsin bench outscored Indiana’s reserves 16-2.
Four Indiana reserves saw the court and played for a combined 42 minutes; these players went 1-for-8 from the floor, with Jeremy Hollowell contributing the only bucket.
Cody Zeller delivered a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds in this contest, and both Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo managed to score in double figures.
The starters did not have a stellar performance, but their showing was perfectly adequate. For Indiana to finally beat Wisconsin, the bench will need to step up.