To say this season has already exceeded expectations for the Indiana Hoosiers would be an understatement. Just a year after going 3-15 in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers are ranked 8th in the country (though likely to drop out of the Top 10 Monday after their loss to Minnesota), and already own wins over the #1 and #2 teams in the country. The #2 on that list; the very same Ohio State Buckeyes who will have their sights set on revenge for the Hoosiers visit to Columbus.
If Vegas is any indication, it seems as though revenge is the likely outcome, with the Buckeyes huge 12 point favorites. But is that line a little too steep? Let’s take a look inside the matchup numbers for today’s free pick.
Both Indiana and Ohio State are among the most efficient offensive teams in the country, with IU shooting 50.1% from the floor and Ohio St. a nearly as impressive 49.4%. However, it is their proficiency from beyond the three-point arc that makes Indiana elite. Their 45.4% shooting from behind the arc is easily the best in the Big Ten and among the best in the nation. Interestingly enough, IU was outshot in both categories in the first contest, yet still beat Ohio State 74-70.
The key differentiator in the first matchup? Ohio State’s uncharacteristic 17 turnovers, lowlighted by the usually steady Aaron Craft’s six giveaways. You can expect both he and his Buckeye teammates to be much surer with the basketball in the Value City Arena in front of the home faithful.
Both teams will enter the game focused, each coming off disappointing conference losses during the middle of the week; Ohio State to Illinois and Brandon Paul’s 43-point explosion, and Indiana to Tubby Smith’s Minnesota Gophers. However, Ohio State has a little something extra to prove after their surprising loss on New Year’s Eve.
Indiana is just 1-4-1 against the spread since beginning conference play. The main reason? Their cupcake-loaded start combined with the nationally-televised dramatic upset of #1 Kentucky made for some significant overrating of the Hoosiers. In Big Ten play they have yet to win by more than 6 points, even against subpar competition like Penn State and Minnesota (loss). Ohio State, on the other hand, has won big. They laid a 29-point drubbing on Iowa (who has now beaten Michigan and won at Wisconsin) and own 30+ point wins over Nebraska and Northwestern.
Ohio State has looked shaky in their few losses, but in two of the three, it has been games where they just flat didn’t bring the big-game effort needed (the third loss was at Kansas without Sullinger). I am betting they bring their focus and hammer Indiana in a revenge matchup.
Free Pick: Ohio State Buckeyes -12 @ www.5dimes.com