Indiana-Northwestern: Rubber Match Sees Hoosiers and Wildcats in Big Ten Matchup

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2010

Seven days ago, with the Hoosiers mired in an 11-game losing streak, tied for the longest ever such streak (last season was the other time), fans were depressed, and it seemed that mother nature felt the same way, with temperatures hanging just above the freezing point.

But today, after an 88-80 overtime victory over the hot-shooting Northwestern Wildcats last Saturday, things are seeming to look up, and mother nature, the consummate Hoosier fan, has temperatures up to 68 degrees and sunny.

And with this boost of momentum (and great weather to boot), the Hoosiers and Wildcats will face off once more, this time from Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament.

Both teams are out of the running for receiving an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, but it will still be an intriguing matchup.

The Wildcats, who finished the regular season at 19-12 (7-11), again have a chance to win a school record 20 games against the Hoosiers.

Bill Carmody, the successor to the famed "Princeton Offense" creator Pete Carril, has spent his nine years at Northwestern installing and improving the "Princeton Offense" in the Big Ten, and in that span has become Northwestern's winningest coach of all time, winning 139 games. 

Northwestern uses quick passing and alot of movement to find the open man, and they also are a team that takes an enormous amount of three point shots per game.

They led the Big Ten this season in three points attempted (463) and made, scoring 170 threes in the process.

They also led the league in assists (16.2 per game), scoring offense (68.7), and assist to turnover ratio (1.6).

Northwestern is led by guard Michael "Juice" Thompson and forward John Shurna.

Both have excellent range, and can also dribble in the lane and hit the mid range jumper.

Shurna, the 6'8" sophomore out of Glen Elyn, Ill, is a nightmare to guard, and in the last game against the Hoosiers he scored 31 points, a career high, with a mix of shots inside the arc and out.

Indiana (10-20, 4-14) has not had the season many had hoped they would have, but their win on Saturday gave fans a reason to believe that the future is bright.

Jordan Hull's shots were finally going through the net.

Christian Watford was finally playing physical and becoming an imposing presence around the rim.

The team made crucial free throws at the end of the game, and finished 81 percent from the line.

In facing Northwestern again, Indiana must play their zone defense effectively, and force Northwestern to take three point shots, or other low percentage shots.

And on offense, they must do what they did this past weekend, by mixing outside shots with some inside play, to open up shooting and dribbling lanes to everyone.

For Northwestern, they must be patient on offense to find the open man before taking a shot, and on defense, they must force the Hoosiers into turning the ball over.

After taking a 78-61 beating from the Wildcats the first time out, the Hoosiers dished some back with the 88-80 OT victory.

Only mother nature knows how this third and final matchup between these two squads will finish, but it will be a high scoring and fast paced game from the first minute to the last.

On to Indianapolis!