Indiana men’s basketball will open its Big Ten Tournament appearance with a rematch against Michigan at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. It’s the start of a new season for Indiana, one that could propel the team into its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2016 or be the final straw to send it to the National Invitation Tournament.
After a 9-11 finish in conference play, Indiana will enter the tournament as the No. 9 seed. On Jan. 23, it suffered its worst loss of the season at the hands of its first opponent in the tournament, No. 8-seed Michigan.
Nothing is going to come easy for the Hoosiers, but their confidence isn’t wavering.
“We know what we have to do in order to get where we want to go, which is to the NCAA Tournament,” senior forward Race Thompson said. “Again, we're going to Indy to win the Big Ten Tournament, and we all believe we can do that. We've just got to figure out a way to finish these games.”
Jan. 23: Michigan wins 80-62
In a season full of highs and lows for Indiana, its first matchup with Michigan might be the lowest. Indiana’s 18-point loss was its biggest of the season, but more importantly it squandered the opportunity to build on the momentum it gained after beating then-No. 4 Purdue.
The Wolverines torched the Hoosiers from 3-point range at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, shooting the deep ball at an 11-17 clip. It was an uncharacteristic performance for the Hoosiers’ defense, who finished second in the Big Ten in opponent’s 3-point percentage at 32.1%.
Michigan sophomore center Hunter Dickinson finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists against Indiana, and freshman forward Caleb Houstan added 19 points. The duo of Dickinson and Houstan shot 3-4 and 5-7 from 3-point range, respectively.
“We did nothing right in that game,” Indiana head coach Mike Woodson said. “On both ends of the floor, our defensive coverages were awful. It was one of those games where I just thought we didn't show up to play. They took advantage of it on both ends of the floor.”
The winner of Thursday’s game will move on to face No. 1 seed Illinois at 11:30 a.m. Friday.
Hoosiers, Wolverines both on the bubble
After suffering two losses to end its regular-season, Indiana finished 9-11 in the Big Ten and is the first team out of the NCAA Tournament, according to ESPN’s latest bracketology. Michigan, on the other hand, went 6-4 across its final 10 games of the season. Five of its wins came against top-seven teams in the conference.
Michigan remained on the bubble following its regular season, but it is now a part of the first four byes and would be solidly in the tournament field if the tournament started today. For Indiana, there is no cut and dry method to getting into the tournament, but based on where it currently sits, it will need a win Thursday to even be considered for the big dance.
“Everyone in our locker room knows how much we need this game, and they're willing to do anything to win,” junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “We know where we stand, and we know that we have to go get this one.”
Hoosiers take home Big Ten honors
Ahead of the conference tournament, the Big Ten announced its regular-season honors on Tuesday, which included three Indiana players. Jackson-Davis earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from coaches, media and AP voting, and a spot on the All-Defensive team after finishing second in the conference with 2.4 blocks per game.
Jackson-Davis averaged 17.4 points and 8.2 rebounds in the regular season, which was down from his first-team All-Big Ten performance last season where he put up 19 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. He finished seventh in the Big Ten in scoring and fifth in rebounding.
Jackson-Davis said he was honored to be on the list, but his focus is helping the team win.
“My biggest goal this year wasn't to win accolades,” Jackson-Davis said. “It was to help our team get into the tournament. I was on the first-team last year, so it is what it is.”
In addition to Jackson-Davis, Thompson and senior guard Xavier Johnson received honorable mentions by the media voting panel. Thompson, who also received sportsmanship honors from the Big Ten, averaged 11.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in the regular season. Johnson averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 assists per game.
Follow reporters Kamil Gut (@GutKamil) and Tristan Jackson (@Trist_Jackson), and columnist Da’Qwan Dockery (@ddockery35) for updates throughout the game and the rest of the Indiana men’s basketball season.
Location: Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: IU Radio Network