The NCAA tourney is a distant dream for both Indiana and Ohio State but both teams have one thing to play in an early noon tip Saturday in Columbus -- the chance to avoid a Wednesday game at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. That's where the Big Ten tournament will open play with the bottom four seeds of the league having to begin play Wednesday, bringing on the Herculean task of having to win five games in five days to grab the automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
SEE RELATED: Hoosier Game Day
The Buckeyes sit alone in 10th at 7-10 but will fall lose the No. 10 seed with a loss this afternoon. Indiana can earn that No. 10 seed and a later Big Ten tourney start with a win couple with a Nebraska home loss on Sunday to Michigan.
This Ohio State team is coming in with some momentum. Thad Matta's squad followed up a 10 point home win over Nebraska with a road win at Penn State this past week.
“Ohio State has been playing really good basketball and obviously they will play with great energy and passion in their last home game of the season," IU coach Tom Crean said. "Our job is to go in and set the tempo, defend the penetration and 3-point line the best that we can and work hard to be in the mix on the free throw game.”
Junior forward Jae'Sean Tate leads OSU in scoring, averaging 14.0 points. He's also the only Power 5 Conference player 6-4 or shorter averaging more than six rebounds per game. The last time Indiana traveled to Value City Arena, Tate tore up the Hoosiers, making 9-of-10 shots to finish with a game high 20 points.
Another forward that will be a priority today for Indiana will be 6-foot-8 Marc Loving. He's the team's only senior and should be primed to go out on a good note. Loving hasn't quite blossomed this year as expected but is second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.5 points.
Running point with be Evansville, Indiana native JaQuan Lyle. The 6-foot-5 sophomore had 29 points in last year's only meeting in Bloomington and is among the league leaders in assists, dishing out 4.8 per game.
Another Indiana native is among the league's top rebounders. Six-foot-11 Trevor Thompson is grabbing 9.0 boards per game and has improved as a scorer in the post, averaging 10.4 point this winter, his junior season.He played high school at Ben Davis in Indianapolis.
As a team Ohio State sits in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten in almost every team stat. Like Indiana, the Buckeyes do struggle some with turnovers as this team lacks reliable ball handlers.
This is a noon tip-off with Dave Flemming and Dan Dakich on the call for ESPN.
Additional quotes from the Indiana staff and players:
Head coach Tom Crean:
“I have a lot of respect for Thad Matta and staff. He is a pure winner everywhere he has been and understands this business as well as anyone. What he has done over the test of time is admired by many and especially me.”
“As much as turnovers and fouls have hurt us during the course of games, our lack of shot making has as well. We need to continue to find ways to get better looks and open shots and knock them down. All which will be hard to come by with Ohio States’ length and intensity.”
James Blackmon, Jr.
“Ohio State is playing really well and its their senior day. They have won a couple of games and that has helped their confidence. We have to make sure we follow the game plan the coaches give us and not have any let downs. We have to lock in on defense and take good shots and be smart on offense.”
“Every day we have an opportunity to improve. That’s what our focus has been. It’s always tough to play on the road in the league. We have to be aggressive and leave everything out there on the floor. Our coaches do a great job of getting us ready and we have to follow what they teach us. Every play is important and every game becomes important. When our defense gets us going, the offense gets better.”