The Indiana Hoosiers have an important conference matchup on tap as the No. 3-ranked Wisconsin Badgers pay a visit to Assembly Hall. Undefeated Wisconsin will be a tough test for the young Hoosiers, who are trying to keep pace in the race for the Big Ten title.
But, there is more meaning in this game for the Hoosiers than just the conference standings. Indiana is trying to get the Wisconsin monkey off its back. The Badgers have won 12 straight against the Hoosiers.
What better time for Indiana to end the losing streak than now, as a win versus a highly-ranked team would strengthen the Hoosiers' NCAA tournament resume.
Wisconsin poses a challenge, but seeing as the game is on IU's home floor, it has a shot to pull off the upset. Here's what the Hoosiers must do in order to hand the Badgers their first loss of the season.
The Hoosiers lose the ball against Michigan State.
Turnovers have plagued the Hoosiers all season, and if they want to have any chance against Wisconsin, they must take better care of the basketball. The Hoosiers average 16.1 turnovers per game, one of the worst marks in all of college basketball (337th out of 345 teams).
Good things happen to the Hoosiers when they get shots instead of making mistakes. Indiana only gave the ball away 13 times versus Penn State and was victorious, although barely. Those extra chances to put up points matter, even greater so against one of the country's top teams in Wisconsin.
It's also important for the Hoosiers to value every possession because that's exactly what the Badgers do. They turn it over less than any team in the nation (8.2 times per game). They will not give Indiana many extra possessions, so IU must follow suit.
The Hoosiers need a great performance from senior Will Sheehey.
Plain and simple, the Hoosiers need a big game from senior Will Sheehey. Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh have carried the team to this point, but in order for the Hoosiers to make the next step, they need a third threat to emerge. This was supposed to be Sheehey all along, he just hasn't done his part.
Sheehey needs to give a marquee performance and Wisconsin represents the perfect opportunity. Also, he's due for one.
In IU's first three Big Ten games, Sheehey's averaging 10.3 points, but he's shooting just 42.3 percent. IU can beat Wisconsin if he scores like he we know he can.
But, he must do more than score. He needs to make hustle plays, grab rebounds and overall, play with an edge. Over the course of the last three seasons, Sheehey became known for this type of passionate, energetic play. He was IU's spark plug—its heartbeat.
That Sheehey has yet to show his face this season, and now with his team needing a signature win, he had better.
Stanford Robinson is playing well as of late, and the Hoosiers will need that production against the Badgers.
In the Hoosiers' last game, against Penn State, the bench demonstrated it could impact the outcome and keep them afloat if the starters stumble. Led by nine points from Stanford Robinson, IU's reserves put up 17 and helped push Indiana to its first conference win of the season.
Outside of Robinson, Austin Etherington (5 PTS, 2 REB) and Jeff Howard (4 PTS, 3 REB) showed flashes of brilliance, and head coach Tom Crean may have found a legitimate rotation.
More of the same will be needed against the Badgers.
In the end, Robinson will have to key the bench like he has the last two games (11 PTS, 4 REB, 26 MIN vs. Michigan State). He is fearlessly attacking the basket and playing solid defense—exactly what IU needs.
Indiana's bench play is key because the Badgers will try to take advantage when IU's starters take a quick breather. It will be up to the reserves to make plays that keep the Hoosiers in the game. If there is a major drop-off in production when Robinson and company take the floor, Indiana's chances of winning will be greatly diminished.
Indiana looked much improved in its road win against Penn State. It was able to get the ball to Vonleh, Ferrell continued to hit big shots, and the bench finally played well.
The win versus the Nittany Lions was definitely a confidence builder and I think the Hoosiers, especially its role players, are starting to believe in themselves. Combine that with a raucous home crowd and you have the perfect recipe for an upset.
Yes, Wisconsin is playing some of the best basketball in the country. Yes, the Badgers have owned the Hoosiers as of late. But, all winning streaks must come to an end.
Sheehey finally gets his swagger back, delivers the performance we've been waiting for all season and leads the Hoosiers to a huge conference win. Indiana won't dominate the game by any means, but it will make just enough plays to squeak by and earn its first win against the Badgers in 13 tries.
Final Score: Wisconsin-63 Indiana-66