Big Ten basketball fans were spoiled yesterday. After only two games involving Big Ten teams took place on Thursday, fans were treated to a whopping five contests yesterday. Today, it's back to reality. Only one game involving a Big Ten team takes place, with Indiana taking on Kentucky in the second round. It should be a very good game, with the winner advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. The Hoosiers last reached that round in 2013. Here's a quick look at the game.
(4) Kentucky Wildcats vs. (5) Indiana Hoosiers (5:15 p.m. ET | CBS)
This game doesn't really feel like a second round matchup, partly because both schools have legendary programs, but also because both teams played well enough down the stretch this season to make a run in March seem like a strong possibility. But because of how the bracket shook out, only one of them will be moving on.
Entering the tournament, it was hard to predict what kind of start Indiana would get off to, as the Hoosiers won the Big Ten regular season title but lost to Michigan in its first conference tournament game. But Tom Crean's crew responded by blowing out Chattanooga, 99-74, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
But now the competition is about to get a lot harder. Kentucky is coming off an SEC Tournament title and a first round blowout win (85-57) against Stony Brook on Thursday. After some early season struggles, the Wildcats turned it on down the stretch and have now won six straight games. While they may not be quite the juggernaut they were last season, John Calipari and company cannot be taken lightly.
Kentucky's greatest strength is clearly its backcourt, with sophomore Tyler Ulis and freshman Jamal Murray both among the best players in the country. The 6'5" Murray is the team's top scorer at 20.1 points per game, a very good 3-point shooter who can also get to the basket. But Ulis is probably the most important player on the team, an unselfish, pass-first point guard who is also a very effective scorer. The sophomore is averaging 17.0 points, 7.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds this season. After them, freshman wing Isaiah Briscoe (9.7 points, 5.4 rebounds) and senior forward Alex Poythress (10.4 points, 6.0 rebounds) are players to watch.
It's very likely this game could come down to the point guard matchup. Ulis is terrific, but Yogi Ferrell is also one of the best in the country and has been playing some of his best basketball of the season the past month. It will be very exciting to see both players square off.
Outside of that matchup, it will be interesting to see how Indiana attempts to slow down Murray. There's a good chance the Hoosiers will use a few different defenses and have different players (Robert Johnson, OG Anunoby) try to guard him. In the frontcourt, the Hoosiers might have the advantage is both Thomas Bryant and Troy Williams bring their A-game.
This could be an epic game, and while its a shame it isn't happening later in the tournament, it will definitely be worth watching.