Brian Spurlock / USA TODAY

Indiana looks to win Big Ten regular season title outright at Iowa

A win at Iowa Tuesday night would give Indiana its second outright Big Ten regular season title in four years and secure the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. But the Hawkeyes won't make it easy.

In clinching a share of the Big Ten regular season title, No. 12 Indiana didn't have to do much. 

With four days to prepare for Tuesday's nationally-televised 9 p.m. matchup vs No. 16 Iowa, the Hoosiers watched as a Maryland loss at Purdue and Hawkeye loss at Ohio State paved the way for them to clinch a share of the Big Ten regular season title. 

Winning it ouright won't be as easy, though. Indiana can do just that with a victory on Iowa's senior night in Iowa City Tuesday night. 

“We are excited," Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. "The trick is, everybody knows what is at stake and nobody is really talking about it. There is no difference in our level of work, it is as high as it has been."

Much more is at stake than just the outright ownership of the conference regular season title. 

Because of the current situation with the conference standings, Indiana has the potential of finishing in a five-way tie should it lose its final two games and finish 11-5 in conference play. The four other teams which could work their way into sharing the conference title with Indiana are Michigan State, Wisconsin, Maryland and Iowa. 

Of course, none of the preceding information matters if the Hoosiers take care of business against the Hawkeyes. 

There's plenty of elements working in Indiana's favor in that regard. Iowa has lost three consecutive games to unranked opponents entering Tuesday's game. Overall, it's lost four out of its last five. 

The late-season collapse traces back to unproductive reserve players. During the 3-game losing streak, opponents' bench players outscored Iowa's bench 70-24. 

As a result, players like senior forward Jarrod Uthoff, a National Player of the Year and All-Conference candidate, have been forced to play heavy minutes during the most critical stretch of the season. Uthoff and fellow starter Peter Jok have carried the scoring load for the Hawkeyes this season, averaging 18.5 and 16.3 points per game respectively. 

Despite struggling to find a third consistent scoring threat beyond those two, Iowa still has the 16th-most efficient offense in the country according to KenPom. The Hawkeyes' also like to play at a quicker tempo with an average possesion length of 16.2 seconds, the 62nd-fastest offensive tempo out of 351 Division I teams. 

“They like to play fast so our transition defense will have to be at its best," IU senior guard Yogi Ferrell said. "They have a lot of different weapons that can hurt you very quickly.  We know how tough they are and respect them a lot.”

Indiana may be without one of its own offensive weapons in sophomore guard Robert Johnson, who did not play against Illinois last week after sustaining a sprained ankle at the end of the Hoosiers' game against Purdue on Feb. 20. Crean nor any players were made available to the media before the team departed for Iowa, and he didn't provide any update on Johnson's status during his weekly radio show beyond saying "we'll see how that all plays out." 

"We have a great group of guys," IU junior forward Collin Hartman said. "I think a culture is being built that anyone can make the big play or have a breakout game and it doesn’t have to be the same guy every night.”

In 2013, Indiana won the Big Ten regular season title outright with a thrilling 72-71 road victory at Michigan. 

Tuesday night in Iowa City, it has the chance to repeat history.

"Our sense of urgency has been really high," Crean said. "I would be more concerned if we were really turned up right now or if we were a little flatlined. We are neither. We are on pace. Now, what will that bring us? Let’s go find out."


Peegs.com Top Stories