Preview: #14 Ohio State at #2 Indiana

By Kyle Rowland on March 5, 2013 at 1:30p
The mayor of Bloomington.
Ohio State Buckeyes #14 Ohio State 21-7, 11-5 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 9:00 PM ET - ESPN —— Assembly Hall Bloomington, IN Indiana Hoosiers #2 Indiana 25-4, 13-3 Big Ten Roster | Schedule

As recently as one week ago, this game had little bearing on the outcome of the Big Ten championship. But the penultimate week of the conference schedule provided a major shake up.

Suddenly, Ohio State could win a fourth straight Big Ten title. An Ohio State win combined with an Indiana loss on Sunday at Michigan – not a long shot by any calculation – gives Thad Matta and his Buckeyes more hardware. 

For Indiana, it only needs to win Tuesday to own the conference outright. But the Big Ten has been the most competitive and entertaining conference all season, so trying to predict winners at this point would be foolish.

Road games against ranked opponents have not been Ohio State’s strong suit this season. Wisconsin’s win at Indiana earlier in the year gives the Buckeyes hope, however. Not to mention, Ohio State is playing with the most confidence it’s had all season. 

“They’re not the only ones playing for something,” Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft said.

Put in a similar position one year ago, the Buckeyes did the unthinkable, winning two road games the final week of the regular season to earn a share of the Big Ten title. The second of those happened when Ohio State overcame a double-digit deficit at Michigan State.

That experience has given the Buckeyes reason to believe it can pull off a similar heist this season.

“We feel like we can do it again,” said forward Deshaun Thomas.

The odds are much longer this season. For one, Ohio State doesn’t control its own destiny. Secondly, the competition is better and the Buckeyes aren’t the Final Four team they were a year ago.

But that means little at this juncture. Ohio State has proven it can play with and beat elite teams. And Matta has been in the Big Ten long enough to know the unlikeliest of outcomes happen at the most improbable times.

“This is my ninth year,” he said, referencing his time at Ohio State. “We’ve won the Big Ten five times and it’s always come down to the last week. I had a pretty good sense it would come down to something like this.”


Four years ago, Indiana finished 1-17 in the Big Ten. Seniors Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, Derek Elston and redshirt junior Maurice Creek were just finishing up their high school careers at the time and were offered college scholarships.

It’s a dream for any recruit, especially when Indiana is the one beating down your door. But this wasn’t Bob Knight’s Indiana – the program that evolved into one of college basketball’s blue bloods. This was still the post-Kelvin Sampson program that was riddled with NCAA sanctions.

That mattered little to the quartet with immense skills. They were going to Bloomington, and Tom Crean had his worst big-time recruiting class. Four years later, the cliché “Those Who Stay Will Be Champions” has rung true. Indiana already has a share of the Big Ten championship, its first since 2002. A victory over the Buckeyes would mean the Hoosiers first outright conference title in 20 years.

The resurrection job by Crean in such a short amount of time has been nothing short of remarkable.

“The culture left the program a little bit, but the fans, the support, the former players – that didn't leave,” he said. “If that would have gone, we would have been in real trouble.”

During Crean’s five-year tenure, there have been many ups and downs that have led Indiana to where it is now. The two-man recruiting class of Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey was roundly criticized, while Cody Zeller’s commitment marked a return to prominence. The Hoosiers are 52-14 overall and 24-10 in the conference since Zeller made the trek to Bloomington.

It is somewhat appropriate that Indiana is playing Ohio State with a opportunity to reach the Big Ten’s mountaintop, because over the past 20 years, the Buckeyes have supplanted the Hoosiers as one the conference’s premier programs. In that span, Ohio State has six Big Ten championships to Indiana’s one.

Just how far did Indiana fall? Well, despite the success the past two seasons, Crean’s overall record is still just one game above .500 – 79-78 – and in the Big Ten he is 32-56. Prior to last season, Crean was a robust 8-46 in Big Ten play.

“I think the most important thing is that all of our fans and everyone keep understanding how hard a road it’s been to get back, and enjoy it,” he said. “But at the same time, never take it for granted.

“You never take winning for granted, because when you lose it, it’s so hard to get it back.”

Much like any of the sports blue bloods, it was inevitable that Indiana would eventually return to its old winning ways. Now Crean has the Hoosiers in place to add another title to the Harbaugh family’s trophy case.

Buckeye Breakdown

Basketball is a game that’s all about matchups. Some highly ranked teams – Michigan, for example – are excellent matchups for Ohio State. Indiana is not one of those teams.

The Hoosiers are tall, athletic and long on the perimeter. They stretch the defense with Oladipo and Watford, creating havoc both inside and outside. It’s a game Ohio State has trouble playing with this season’s team. Indiana is one of the nation’s highest scoring and best shooting teams in the country. The last thing Ohio State wants to do is get in an up-tempo slugfest.

“We weren’t ever able to get control on defense and take away what they were trying to do and make them go to a second option or a third option,” Matta said of the 81-68 loss to Indiana in February.

In the first game between the two, Oladipo, Zeller and Watford combined for 70 points – 86 percent of Indiana’s output and more than Ohio State scored as a team. It was in the midst of the Buckeyes’ three losses in four games streak that they’ve since turned into second place in the Big Ten.

“A couple of weeks ago we got down and kind of took a step back," Craft said. “We hadn’t really been in that position since I’ve been in college. We’ve kind of always controlled our own destiny. But as a team we did a good job of really picking ourselves up and understanding there’s still a lot to play for.”

It begins in Assembly Hall, one of the toughest environments in all of college basketball. Indiana has only lost one home game all season, and the night will begin with senior festivities for Watford, Hulls and Elston. Zeller and Oladipo also are likely to be playing for the final time in front of the hometown fans.

Get Smart

  • Thad Matta is 45-12 in March as Ohio State's head coach.
  • OSU has won 7 of 9 against IU, including 2 of 3 in Bloomington.
  • Mike Tirico, Dan Dakich and Sam Ponder have the call.

“The crowd gets into it and it’s hard to hear,” said Thomas, who said only Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse is louder than Assembly Hall. “It kind of throws off your focus a little bit.”

Thomas is certain to get more negativity hurled his way considering he spurned Indiana, leaving Fort Wayne for Columbus.

“When I was getting recruited, they were down a little bit,” he said. “They weren’t a great team with a lot of stars like they are now.”

Thomas scored 26 points on 8-of-20 shooting the first time Ohio State played Indiana this season. Oladipo, a candidate to take away Craft’s Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award, did a good job at shadowing the conference’s leading scorer. Containing Thomas’ inside and outside all-around game will be at the top of the Hoosiers game plan again.

So where does this put Ohio State? As the decided underdog.

“I’d prefer to be on the other side, to be honest,” Craft said. “But I can't think of a better way to play a basketball game to get us ready for the Big Ten Tournament and, hopefully, later on down the road, the NCAA Tournament. This is what we need.”

The No. 1 thing they need is a win.

Starting Lineups
4 A. Craft JR 6-2/190 9.4 3.6 4.4 G 11 Y. Ferrell FR 6-0/178 7.8 2.7 4.4
32 L. Smith Jr. JR 6-4/205 10.3 5.0 1.6 G 1 J. Hulls SR 6-0/182 10.7 2.5 3.1
12 S. Thompson SO 6-7/190 7.0 3.3 1.1 F 4 V. Oladipo JR 6-5/214 14.0 6.0 2.1
1 D. Thomas JR 6-7/225 19.8 6.1 1.3 F 2 C. Watford SR 6-9/232 12.7 6.4 0.9
23 A. Williams SO 6-11/250 4.2 4.1 0.1 C 40 C. Zeller SO 7-0/240 16.5 8.1 1.2



Comments Show All Comments

toad1204's picture

Dan Dakich calling an IU game sounds painful...

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

thatlillefty's picture

can't stand that dude

Dr. House's picture

try listening to his radio show its much much worse 

BuckeyeMike2002's picture

Games like this represent what I love about college basketball.
There is no way in Hell that the Buckeyes should go into Assembly Hall and hammer the Hoosiers. Like you say Kyle, the matchups are bad, Assembly Hall is one of the toughest home courts in the nation and the Hoosiers are really good.
Yet it could happen.  If you play great defense you will always have a chance to win. I don't know how this week will go. I don't know how tonight will go but I know we have a chance.
I didn't think we'd be this close a week ago. Going into the last week of the season with this team and the flaws that go with them. I'm pretty excited to be playing for something. Go Bucks!

Q: What is the difference between the Michigan Football Team and a bag of crap. A: The Bag.

tennbuckeye19's picture

Looking forward to tonight's game. I have my doubts about OSU pulling off the upset, but I sure as heck will be cheering for it! Go Bucks!
Sidenote: Looking at Crean's picture above, it just screams "I am one humongous douche-nozzle."

kr66osu's picture

Pissconsin already destroyed my dreams of a 5-way tie, don't ruin my dreams of a 4-way tie Buckeyes!
Being realistic though, if they can at least keep it close unlike the game in Columbus I'll be happy.

slippy's picture

If Josh Hulls guards Sam Thompson again he better get the ball every possession.  I was amazed last game that they tried this and we took absolutely no advantage of it.  Sam has 6 inches on Hulls standing still.  Airborne I bet he's got 18.

Smanpoint10's picture

I kept thinking that when we played the first time to.  There is no reason he doesn't post up turn around and jump over him to shoot a 5 foot shot every time

bhartman13's picture

Tough team, tough matchup, and a tough place to play means the odds are stacked against the Buckeyes.  I think IU is the real deal but with the way the B1G has gone anything can happen this year, so I would not be shocked at all to see tOSU go into Assembly and win.  I'm not counting on a Buckeye victory tonight, but I feel a good shooting night out of the guards can lead to beating anyone in the country. I am truly hoping it is a very competitive game down to the wire!  
The pressure has to be on IU, right?  They are the team playing their last home game of the season and can clinch the regular season B1G crown.  They have much more to lose and the Buckeyes can possibly spoil a conference title if IU loses last two or potentially spoil a overall #1 seed.  Should be fun!

Enzo's picture

The Bucks have a snowball's chance in between Melissa McCarthy's thighs...

RedStorm45's picture

"An Ohio State win combined with an Indiana loss on Sunday at Michigan – not a long shot by any calculation – gives Thad Matta and his Buckeyes more hardware." uh, and an OSU win against Illinois.
Hopefully Amir doesn't pick up two quick fouls in the first 3 minutes, forcing Trey McDonald to play extended minutes against Zeller.
Likely to see Oladipo on D.T. again, which means there will be a mismatch with Watford somewhere.

slippy's picture

It's at the entire starting 5 will have 2 fouls in the first half.

RedStorm45's picture

True, I'm thinking the homer calls O/U line should be the first half.

jthiel09's picture

Backs against a wall, something to prove against one of the best teams in the country, a tough home loss for OSU last time they played ... the Buckeyes have enough fodder to inspire themselves tonight to play past their potential but we'll see.


TheShookster's picture

Going into this game with the same unrealistic optimism as always. That being said, let's hope that the OSU defense can force Indiana into having several "senior moments"

He ain't even stretch doe!!

German Buckeye's picture

I think I don't like Tom Crean because he's a grown man who parts his hair down the middle...just bothers me for some reason.

toad1204's picture

This guy thinks its cool.

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

Buckeye06's picture

I like the Indiana b-ball fans; they are extremely passionate. If OSU can't win the tourney this year, I'd like to see them win it all.
Having said that, I hope we destroy them tonight at their house so they can wear their striped pants home crying

Dr. House's picture

living in Indiana I would much rather IU not win it all. I want them to be bounced in the first weekend, BADLY. Their fanbase is the most arrogant self entitled assclowns I have ever encountered. I don't think i could handle listening to Dan freaking Dakich and the IU "fans" who also happen to be domer fans during work. If I see or hear one more IU fan say Ho HO hoosier or banners on the wall I am going to scream. SCREW IU, TOM CREAN. GO BUCKEYES

GoBucks713's picture

As soon as the page loaded, I punched my screen in the face. Tom Crean is about as awesome as gangrene.

-The Aristocrats!

Brutus's picture

Hilarious.  How did this not get up votes.

Jonnferrell's picture

It's always fun to beat IU in Assembly Hall. I wonder what dirty tricks Crean has in his fake a foul repertoire tonight?  He will probably claim he got fouled when Aaron Craft steals the game from him.

"I miss Brady Hoke."

GABuckeye's picture

Anyone know the spread?

GABuckeye's picture

Thanks - all sites are blocked at work where I can get that information.  I was originally thinking IU by double digits, but I feel like tOSU has a lot to prove in this game and will get after it defensively.  Having said that, who knows which offensive team shows up.

ih8rolltyde's picture

tOSU +7.5/ 140 o/u

****igan smells like old water that hot dogs were boiled in.  FACT

Smanpoint10's picture

lets hope under!

ih8rolltyde's picture

Seems someone w/ my #s has been on the good guys.

****igan smells like old water that hot dogs were boiled in.  FACT