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What Do the Indiana Hoosiers Need To Do To Have A Chance Against the Iowa Hawkeyes?

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This should be a battle between 10-1 teams, but thanks to Penn State, Thursday night has become an almost must-win for the Hoosiers.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, the Indiana Hoosiers have reached the point in their schedule where we learn not only where this team fits in the Big Ten picture, but the convoluted national one as well. The Hoosiers have been given second and third billing behind the Iowa Hawkeyes and Maryland Terrapins due to the Hoosiers' favorable first half of the conference schedule.

The praise given towards Iowa is certainly warranted, as the Hawkeyes are 4-1 against ranked Big Ten opponents, with the lone loss being a 6-point game on the road against Maryland. A win at Assembly Hall on Thursday night would give Iowa a full-game lead in the conference and create even further distance from the likes of the Purdue Boilermakers and Michigan Wolverines.

One thing the Hoosiers have going for them is that the first of two meetings between these two comes at the friendly confines of Assembly Hall. Indiana basketball has not lost in Bloomington, IN this season. That's not just the men's team either, combined with the women's team Indiana is a collective 24-0 at home this season, (13-0 for the men). Additionally the Hoosiers have made a habit of taking down top-ranked teams on Branch McCracken Court over the past five years.

For the Hoosiers to have a legitimate shot at the upset bid on Thursday night, guards Yogi Ferrell and Robert Johnson must have a 180-degree turnaround offensively from Saturday night. Their 2-for-10 shooting from outside simply won't cut it. The games against Penn State was Indiana's second lowest scoring output of the season, but arguably the worst offensive game of the year.

The pace for the Hoosiers has slowed down slight from the break-neck speed they played during the non-conference season, due in part to James Blackmon Jr.'s injury. But expect Indiana to try and push to create more possessions on Thursday to combat Iowa's size advantage.

The lack of size down low has not been much of a story line up to this point for IU, but as the Hoosiers enter into contests with the ranked opponents of the conference the pressure will be on freshmen Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby to step up and perform. Also, expect a short leash on Collin Hartman or even a possible change to the starting lineup and Tom Crean deciding to go with Max Bielfeldt or the aforementioned Anunoby instead.

Speaking of Crean, is anyone else excited for a match-up between the two most meme-able coaches in the conference? Hell instead of a basketball game I would almost rather watch Crean and Fran McCaffery meet at half court, then have McCaffery proceed to try and turn Super Saiyan while Crean would respond with a snide comment along the lines of, "I don't believe in hypotheticals like all-powerful sentient beings walking amongst us."

(Where else but here do you get Dragon Ball Z references but here, folks. Also, "I don't believe in hypotheticals," is an actual sentence that I have actually heard Crean tell the press during a post-game conference.)

Anyway, if Indiana can get off to a fast start and knock down outside jumpers early and often it can keep the crowd, which is sure to be energized, in the game. Staying out of foul trouble will be a key for the Hoosiers down low, while trying to slow down Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury.

Whatever the result, at least we finally will have answers to how good Indiana truly is.

Indiana and Iowa will tip-off on ESPN at 9:00PM ET on Thursday night.