The 2022 NCAA Tournament opens up on Tuesday and fans will get to see four teams battle it out for a spot in the Round of 64. The Big Ten will also be participating in opening night with Indiana and Wyoming facing off against each other in the late matchup.
Let’s take a look at the slate.
Game of the Day:
-No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers vs. No. 12 Wyoming Cowboys
- Time/TV: 9:10 PM ET (truTV)
- KenPom Spread: Indiana by 1
It’s been quite a run for the Hoosiers this season. The team started well, faded in Big Ten play, and then bounced back (just enough) in the Big Ten Tournament to earn itself an NCAA Tournament bid. It’s the program’s first appearance since 2016, when Tom Crean led the Hoosiers to a Big Ten title and a 27-8 overall record.
Unfortunately, Indiana’s performance was only good enough for a First Four bid and the team now finds itself facing off against a pesky Wyoming team that’s more than capable of pulling off the upset. The Cowboys are led by a dynamic duo in Hunter Maldonado in the backcourt and Graham Ike upfront. They completely dominate the team’s offensive production, both finishing the regular season in the top 50 in usage numbers. Each does a great job of converting in the lane and getting to the free throw line.
From a stylistic perspective, Wyoming plays a slower style of basketball premised on few turnovers and a reliable interior game. For example, the Cowboys are one of the most efficient teams in the country in the paint, but an underwhelming 218th nationally in three-point percentage. The team also relies heavily on its starting lineup, ranking 342nd in bench minutes this season with Maldonado and Ike leading the way.
This matchup is almost certainly going to come down to how Indiana defends Maldonado and Ike. Expect the Hoosiers to bring varying pressures and double teams on the two, hoping to force the ball out of their hands. However, that approach is easier said than done. After all, it’s not like these two dominating the team’s production is anything new and Wyoming has still knocked off a variety of quality opponents this season. Hoosier fans will be hoping the team’s stellar defense can pressure Maldonado in transition and Trayce Jackson-Davis can hold his own against Ike down low. It’s certainly possible.
Indiana could also have an opportunity at the other end of the court. While Indiana’s offense has underwhelmed this season, Wyoming’s defensive numbers aren’t particularly impressive, especially in raw turnover and block rates. It’s an opportunity for Xavier Johnson and Parker Stewart to show out. And given how well Johnson played in the Big Ten Tournament, it’s not a crazy thought to think he could continue that here against a defense that statistically doesn’t pressure the ball well or block shots at the rim.
All told, this projects as a really fun game that’s going to hinge on how Indiana defends Wyoming’s dynamic duo. If the Hoosiers hold up there, it’s not hard to see the team escaping with a win, maybe even one that comes by significantly more than the one-point spread. However, it won’t be an easy task. And players like Johnson will need to make noise at the offensive end as well. We’ll have to wait and see if they can pull it off.
- Pick: Indiana