Indiana Women’s Basketball, who received the #7 seed in the 2018 Big Ten tournament, faces #10 Michigan State tonight at 6:30 inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Here’s what everyone should be keeping an eye on as the Hoosiers look to make a postseason run.
Third Time’s The Charm?
The Hoosiers and Spartans have already faced off twice this year, splitting the season series at a game apiece. MSU easily handled Indiana in Bloomington at the beginning of the conference season. Then, Indiana went into East Lansing and played perhaps its best first half of basketball all year and held on late to beat Sparty. However, this third tiebreaker meeting will be different.
Indiana should expect an even tougher test with Michigan State’s roster back at full strength tonight. The Hoosiers had the benefit of not having to deal with Shay Colley in East Lansing and Taryn McCutcheon was also sidelined for the second half of that game.
“She’s great off the bounce, really good off the dribble,” IU head coach Teri Moren said when referring to Colley. "It’s a different team completely when you have Colley and McCutcheon in the mix. It gives them more balance.”
Colley has led the way for Michigan State averaging 11 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Containing her added presence will be essential to an IU victory in Indy tonight.
Tyra Buss vs. Taryn McCutcheon
A storyline all will be following carefully tonight is that regarding Buss's ability to matchup with the potent play of sophomore McCutcheon.
While it wasn’t something Buss and the Hoosiers had to worry about during their win in East Lansing, Indiana will undoubtedly have to be ready for the task. Buss and the rest of Indiana’s defense will need to lock on to McCutcheon, as the homegrown guard presents a threat even from beyond the arc.
“She’s a little smaller and kind of reminds me of myself,” Buss said. “I just have to make sure that she doesn’t get going because once she does, the rest of the team has that confidence.”
Indiana Playing with Additional Urgency
The Big Ten tournament hasn’t been kind to the Hoosiers in their two previous appearances, having been upset by #12 Northwestern in 2016 and then getting stung by rival Purdue in a 66-60 comeback win just a year ago.
In both instances, IU received a double bye and was forced to await an opponent. This time around, the Hoosiers will have been certain of their opponent all week long. Indiana will have to remain focused and maintain energy in this unique environment. If there’s anyone who understands what’s on the line this weekend in Indy, it’s Teri Moren’s group.
“We control our energy and our effort,” Moren said. “We’re too far into this thing to come up with an excuse for why we can’t win games.”
Moreover, the Hoosiers will likely need to win not just one but multiple games this week to be considered for an NCAA tournament berth later this month. For Indiana, it’s something they’re well aware of, but it won’t take away the focus of the present objective: first beating Michigan State tonight.
“If we want to do what we had set out to accomplish this year, then we have to go to Indianapolis and win ball games,” Moren said. “The winning will take care of itself.”
And if that’s not enough on the line, it’s the last postseason run for the two who have led this team all year long and for the past four seasons. Indiana’s time left with Buss and Amanda Cahill is short, and IU should wish to capitalize on an opportunity to make a run this weekend and potentially in the NCAA tournament.
This year’s Big Ten tournament in Indy is perhaps more open and unpredictable than ever before. An opportunity unlike any other for this program should make for an exciting evening and an exciting weekend of basketball at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.