Last night Indiana performed like the team that many expected it would be back in December. The Hoosiers decimated Iowa 95-73 in the second round to earn an opportunity to notch a quality win over Wisconsin.
The Indiana offense was in perfect harmony last night, as four players scored double digits and three others had at least eight points. James Blackmon Jr. led the way with 23 points and shot 4-for-5 from three-point distance.
Wisconsin comes into this contest with a chip on its shoulders. A regular season that failed to produce a moment that signified their status as an elite program in the nation leaves the Badgers left with one last chance to prove their worth and try to avoid dangerous seeding territory in the NCAA tournament.
The Badgers reminded everyone just how good they can be Sunday with a statement 66-49 win over a Minnesota team that waltzed into the Kohl Center riding an eight game win streak. Bronson Koening poured in 17 points while Nigel Hayes and Zak Showalter each added 12.
Let’s take a look at the game.
1. Can Wisconsin find its distance shooting stroke?
Over the years, Wisconsin has never really been known for its ability to slash into the paint and generate offense off the dribble. Rather, the Badgers have a reputation of being potent three-point shooters, as the team typically has four guys on the court at any given time that can make a long ball.
This season, however, Wisconsin has struggled from distance. Hayes’ ability to shoot a three-pointer has all but vanished, Vitto Brown’s percentage has declined over 10 percent and Bronson Koening’s shot is silky smooth, but he can be streaky.
The three-pointer will be imperative for the Badgers, who will see their fair share of looks with Ethan Happ likely set to draw a double team in the post.
2. Who will win the battle in the front court?
This will be one to keep an eye on: Thomas Bryant versus Ethan Happ. While Happ has displayed his craftiness in the paint all season, Bryant has a definite advantage in size and physicality.
In two regular season meetings, Happ has thrived against Bryant and Indiana. On January 3rd Happ had a 19 point outburst in Bloomington and followed it up with 20 in a rematch on February 5th.
3. Does Indiana make the tournament with a win?
Probably not. Indiana has been nowhere to be found on any “bubble watches” by any major media platform and it would likely need to beat the Badgers and win it’s next game to garner discussion on a potential bid.
The committee has previously shown its lack of respect for Wisconsin by excluding the then-No. 7 team from their top-16. I mean, Indiana has dropped 11 conference games and narrowly avoided playing in the tournament’s opening round Wednesday.
On the other hand, it is unfair to forget about Hoosier victories over Kansas and North Carolina in the opening month of the season. However, as it stands, Indiana likely will need to advance to the tournament’s championship round to have a legitimate spot on the bracket’s bubble.