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Hoosiers on cusp of making tournament ahead of Wisconsin rematch

Only one game remains for Indiana men’s basketball’s regular season as the Hoosiers host Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon for their senior day.

It’ll be a day of honor for De’Ron Davis and Devonte Green as well as walk-on Adrian Chapman and potentially the last home game for them at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Major implications

Justin Smith directs the offense against Minnesota. (Kurt Spitler/HN)

With a 19-11 overall record, and being 9-10 in conference, Indiana is currently in good position in the NCAA Tournament picture, but it is by no means guaranteed. A win or loss against Wisconsin could have big implications for Indiana’s chances of a bid.

A win over the Badgers likely moves Indiana’s chances close to a lock. A loss keeps the situation in jeopardy.

While it will be the last regular season game, Indiana is guaranteed at least one more opportunity in the Big Ten Tournament. As it currently stands, Indiana is in the No. 11 spot in the conference standings which would mean playing on the opening Wednesday with no bye or extra days of rest.

Regardless of hopes of improving their Big Ten standing or NCAA Tournament chances, the Hoosiers will look for a bounce-back game against Wisconsin and turn in a better performance than the first time these teams met this season.

Indiana traveled to Wisconsin on Dec. 7 for the team’s first Big Ten game of the season and got manhandled, losing by 20, 84-64.

Badgers surging

Wisconsin is a much different team than it was back in December. Going into the first matchup, Wisconsin was 4-4 with some rough losses. The Badgers are now 20-10 and have been solid in conference with a 13-6 Big Ten record.

The Big Ten’s third-ranked team is also riding a seven-game winning streak. Wisconsin’s success can be attributed to its usual identity of stellar defense with a slower-paced, lower-scoring offense.

The Badgers are only scoring about 67 points per game and giving up nearly 62 points per game. They shoot the ball decently from the field, at about 43 percent but are a great 3-point shooting team with an average of 35 percent from 3-point range as a team.

While Wisconsin’s stout defense messed up Indiana in the first matchup, holding them to at the time their lowest-scoring output of the season, Indiana can seek advantage on the boards. Wisconsin is currently being outrebounded by opponents on average while Indiana typically outrebounds teams by about six.

A multi-faceted attack

Offensively, Wisconsin has plenty of balance to its attack. Six Badgers average between eight to 13 points per game, giving any one of those guys the ability to have a big game on any given night.

Wisconsin junior forward Nate Reuvers is the team’s most reliable option, scoring about 13 points per game but only gets 4.4 rebounds for a 6-foot-11 post player. Reuvers went off on Indiana the first time, scoring 20 points.

Reuvers has the ability to space the floor with being a decent 3-point shooter. He went 2-for-3 against Indiana earlier this season, and watching what Indiana does on defense with Reuvers will be key. Joey Brunk guarded Reuvers for the majority of the first contest but he struggled defending out on the perimeter.

Along with Reuvers, fellow junior D’mitrik Trice is their only other scorer averaging double-digits with 10 points per game while also being the team’s best 3-point shooter (38 percent) and the team’s facilitator with 126 assists on the year.

Brad Davison, Aleem Ford, Brevin Pritzl and Micah Potter round out the usual contributors for the Badgers with each of them averaging either eight or nine points per game.

With the Badgers’ multi-faceted offense, the Hoosiers will need to bring a stout defensive effort with extensive on-ball defense to limit good shot opportunities, especially from the 3-point line.

This is something that that the Hoosiers have been particularly good at as of late and have lowered their opponent’s season average 3-point percentage to just 32 percent.

In summary, this game is huge, just like the win over Minnesota over Wednesday. Indiana is in good position for the NCAA Tournament, but the Hoosiers are in no position of security.

The Wisconsin game and the Big Ten Tournament could spiral Indiana’s season into a number of different directions.

One more win though, especially one over a team that is ranked No. 3 in the Big Ten and has won seven in a row, and Indiana will be feeling a whole lot better when it enters the conference tournament in the following week.

It could be one step closer, or back, from reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016 for Indiana, depending on how Saturday plays out.

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