After recording a 17-14 regular season record and an 8-12 mark in Big Ten Conference games, IU starts postseason play this week.
The Hoosiers will head into the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament at the United Center in Chicago with momentum after ending the season on a four-game winning streak.
As a result, IU claimed the No. 9 seed for the tournament, setting up a second-round matchup with No. 8 seed Ohio State to begin tournament play for both teams on Thursday.
Here are three things to know before the game.
1. There’s a good chance Thursday’s game determines which of the two team makes the NCAA Tournament.
Once thought to be safely within the NCAA Tournament field, Ohio State has fallen apart in recent weeks. The Buckeyes have lost six of their last eight games dating back to Feb. 14.
The losing streak caused Ohio State to plummet down seed lines in the projections of bracketologists around the country, and that combined with IU’s return to winning ways, means there is likely only room for one of Ohio State and IU in the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio State also suspended star sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson for the final three games of the season.
During the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Coaches Teleconference on Monday morning, Ohio State Coach Chris Holtmann said Wesson will play Thursday against IU.
“He’s a big body that creates angles and flips his hips,” IU Coach Archie MIller said of Wesson. “He’s a true low post player with really good technique and feet, and he has great touch around the basket.”
In Ohio State’s 55-52 win at IU in early February, Wesson scored 10 points and gathered four rebounds, although Thursday’s game will likely supplant that earlier meeting in terms of deciding which school is placed in the 68-team NCAA Tournament field.
2. IU will still be keeping an eye on the rest of the teams on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
The Hoosiers have the ability to control their own destiny in terms of reaching the NCAA Tournament in a variety of ways. Defeating Ohio State, earning a third victory this season against tournament No. 1 seed Michigan State or winning the Big Ten Tournament outright and securing an auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament are all ways IU can take care of its own business in Chicago.
But at the same time, the Hoosiers want all the expected results to fall into place at other conference tournaments around the country. If any surprise results were to happen, as was the case Tuesday night when Saint Mary’s College of California defeated Gonzaga University in the West Coast Conference Tournament title game, then there is one less spot on the bubble for a team like IU because the NCAA Tournament committee would give an at-large berth to a team like Gonzaga.
The cases for some at-large teams are stronger than others, but IU will be hoping for no surprises to come anywhere else during championship week.
3. IU has never won the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament.
There have been 21 Big Ten Tournaments played since the first one in 1998, and none of them have ended with IU cutting down the nets as champions. IU’s best showing in the conference tournament came in 2001, when IU lost the title game by two points to Iowa.
Overall, IU has a 12-21 record in the event, which is the second-lowest winning percentage among schools which have played more than 10 games in the conference tournament.
Miller is still looking for his first Big Ten Tournament win as IU's coach, after IU was upset in the second round last year by Rutgers.
The Hoosiers have won just two conference tournament games in the last five years.
“Everything else that happened in the past is kind of off the table,” sophomore forward Justin Smith. “We’re looking forward to starting it off with a bang and doing what we know we can do.”
IU and Ohio State will play at 12:30 p.m. EST on Thursday. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
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