The starting backcourts at Ohio State and Indiana are spitting images of one another. They're cut from the same cloth, really.
Each features a crafty, talented veteran at point guard and a dynamic, playmaking freshman at shooting guard. One is a team leader and the other is the team's most explosive scorer.
And each starting duo will go a long way in determining how far both the Buckeyes and Hoosiers can go this season.
For Ohio State, it's senior point guard Shannon Scott and freshman shooting guard D'Angelo Russell. For Indiana, junior Yogi Ferrell runs the show, while freshman James Blackmon Jr. lead's one of the Big Ten's best offenses.
It should make for a dynamic matchup Sunday at the Schottenstein Center. Let's dive a little deeper into two of the best backcourts in the Big Ten.
Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon
Ferrell has been the Hoosiers point guard for what seems like forever. He, like Scott for the Buckeyes, has been around the block in the Big Ten. This season, Ferrell's scoring is down from over 17 points per game to right around 15. But, both his assist and rebounding numbers are up and he's shooting a better percentage from the floor and from 3-point range.
“All five guys have to know where everybody is because those two guys can have tremendous nights.”– Thad Matta
Blackmon, a freshman who hails from Marion, Ind., came to Bloomington with high expectations as a McDonald's All-American and he's lived up to that hype in his first season with the Hoosiers.
He leads the team in scoring (16.9 points per game) and is Indiana's second-leading rebounder (5.6 per game). He also shoots it well from the outside at better than 42 percent.
Ferrell and Blackmon are the Big Ten's highest-scoring backcourt and a huge reason why the Hoosiers currently sit in a tie atop the league standings (5-1) and are one of the surprise teams early on in the conference season.
“It’s a big key. You just look statistically at the amount of shots those two are taking, the percentages that they’re shooting and the points that they’re scoring," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said of the IU backcourt prior to the team's first meeting, a 69-66 win for the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall. "It’s going to be from our perspective, all five guys have to know where everybody is because those two guys can have tremendous nights.”
Shannon Scott and D'Angelo Russell
Scott isn't the scorer Ferrell is; he's more of the pure distributing point guard. His 6.9 assists per game top the Big Ten by a wide margin and put him sixth nationally. But an even scarier thought is Scott isn't Ohio State's best passer — that nod goes to Russell.
Russell's 4.9 assists per game rank fifth in the Big Ten, but it's passes like the one below which make him a special player. His vision is on another level.
Russell's 19.3 points per game also rank second in the Big Ten behind Penn State's D.J. Newbill. That mark is tops in the country among freshmen.
The two also get it done on the defensive end. Scott is already a two-time member of the Big Ten's all-defensive team. Both average nearly two steals per game for the Buckeyes.
Sunday won't mark the first time these two backcourts have squared off. In the Hoosiers' win back on Jan. 10, Russell and Ferrell each struggled for their respective teams, while Scott and Blackmon each played solid games.
Russell was just 3 for 15 from the field and finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. Ohio State as a team struggled shooting the ball as it shot just 34 percent and was only 3 for 21 from 3-point range. Scott, however, played one of his better games with 16 points, five rebounds, two steals and two assists.
Blackmon led the Hoosiers with a game-high 18 points, and he also pulled down seven rebounds. Ferrell, though, was only 1 for 8 from the floor and finished with 10 points.
“Yogi is one of the toughest players to guard in the country, just the way he plays," Scott said. "And their freshmen, they don't play like freshmen."
Sunday is an opportunity for the Buckeyes to earn their first quality win of the season. It's a chance to put themselves on the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble.
Ohio State will need to heavily rely on its duo of Russell and Scott to make that happen. But it also needs the two to contain Ferrell and Blackmon.
"It’s a whole team defense that we’re going to have to worry about stopping guys like them,” Scott said.