Hoosiers open up Big 10 Play

The Indiana Hoosiers started their season with a disappointing 5-6 record, but the preseason is over, and the time has come for the big games to start, the Big Ten games that is. The Hoosiers will open their season in Evanston, IL against the Northwestern Wildcats at 7pm on Wednesday. Indiana will look to kick their Big Ten season off right with a quality win on the road, but they face a challenging task in the Wildcats.

Northwestern enters the game at 7-5 on the year, and has been playing a game of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The Wildcats are very good at home, but struggle on the road. The Cats have only won a single game on the road, but have only lost a single game while in the confines of Welsh-Ryan Arena. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, they will be making the trip to Evanston.

Northwestern lost their best player last year as Jitim Young graduated, however they do return several key players, and have added some bulk through transfers. The other four starters however do return, and former McDonald's All-American Mike Thompson. Thompson transferred midyear from Duke, and has been eligible to play since December 14th. He has added a needed inside presence for the Wildcats, which is something that Indiana forward DJ White will have to deal with.

Aiding Thompson on the interior is junior forward Vedran Vukusic. Vukusic is leading Northwestern in scoring this season, averaging 16.6 points per game. Vukusic is also a fairly good rebounder, and he will pull down his share and help his team get some put back points. Vukusic is also not afraid to step out to the perimeter and knock down a three point shot. Nearly half of his field goal attempts have been from behind the arc, and he holds a 36.6% mark from three point land. His 6'8" stature makes him difficult to guard from the outside, and Indiana will have to find a way to deal with this.

Northwestern likes to pass the ball around in their spread out, truly slow offense. Five Northwestern players average over 2 assists per game, led by TJ Parker at the point. Parker is a versatile player who can pass, score, and defend effectively. Part of that defense is the very stingy zone defense that Northwestern runs. The Hoosiers have not faired well so far this year against the zone, and will have to concentrate and be patient against the zone to get their points.

This will be a different game for Indiana, as Northwestern will do everything possible to keep the pace slow, similar to Notre Dame. The Wildcats are only averaging 58 points on the year, with their opponents averaging slightly fewer than 58. The Hoosiers must limit their mistakes and turnovers to stay in the game. However, the most important thing for the Hoosiers will be keeping their big men out of foul trouble.

Northwestern features 3 players of 6'8" of higher who play more than half the game. The only good thing for the Hoosiers if they do get into foul trouble is that the Wildcats struggle from the free throw line, with only a .595 team average.

Northwestern is one of the teams on the rise in the Big Ten, mainly thanks to head coach Bill Carmody. Carmody makes sure that his team plays a very tight game, and forces the opposition to play Northwestern's style of game. Last years 8-8 Big Ten record was their best in 35 years, and they will look to improve upon those numbers this year. The problem for Northwestern is clearly not how well the team can play, because they show how well they play at home. However the problem has been how well they play on the road. The Wildcats will have to improve their road record in order to gain their first NCAA tournament appearance.

This is will the first of two times the Indiana faces the Wildcats this year, as they open and close the Big Ten with Northwestern. The final game will be on March 5th in Bloomington. Gametime for Wednesday's game is set for 7pm, and will be broadcast on the ESPN+ regional stations. Don Fischer will as always be broadcasting the game on the IU Radio network.

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