BLOOMINGTON -- Entering today's matchup at Assembly Hall, neither Ohio State nor Indiana is playing particularly well.
After a blistering 11-1 start, the Buckeyes have lost three in a row and their offense is struggling mightily, averaging just 57 points per game in those three defeats. Once ranked as high as No. 2 in the country, Ohio State is searching for a get-well victory in a tough road environment.
Indiana's recent struggles are well-chronicled. The Hoosiers are not shooting well -- they're making just 23.8% from beyond the 3-point line in the last seven games -- and those shooting woes have exacerbated issues that lurked under the surface earlier in the season, namely the lack of defined roles for a large chunk of the team's 11-man rotation.
Archie Miller talked about his team's depth often before the season and seemed excited about being able to mix and match different lineups depending on the situation. Recently, however, bench players have looked a little lost when they get on the court, not knowing exactly what is expected of them.
To fix that problem, Miller has discussed shortening the rotation, and we could see a seven- or eight-man group getting the vast majority of the playing time for the Hoosiers today.
Miller wants his team to play more as a unit and he also talked about giving certain players a "jolt" with more time on the bench. It's not a good sign when the coach has to send messages at the midway point of the season, but that's where the Hoosiers find themselves.
Even with the Buckeyes struggling, Indiana has a tough road to pulling off the upset win today.
Ohio State is one of the best defensive teams in the country, holding opponents to just 36.3% from the field, the fourth-best mark in the country. Their opponents' 39.8% shooting from 2-point range is third nationally and the Hoosiers will find the going difficult in the lane.
OSU is not quite as good at defending 3-pointers, but Indiana has yet to prove it can take advantage of outside shooting opportunities against good teams. The Buckeyes are giving up only 58.9 points per game and have blown some talented teams (Villanova and North Carolina) off the court this season.
Indiana will have to be at its best offensively, moving the ball crisply and cutting much better than it has in recent games, if it wants to have a shot at sending Ohio State to a fourth straight defeat.
On defense, Indiana will have to deal with Buckeyes junior big man Kaleb Wesson, one of the premier post players in the country who possesses an array of herky-jerky moves that help him get shots around the rim. Wesson leads OSU with 14.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game (fifth in the Big Ten). Trayce Jackson-Davis and Joey Brunk will have to be disciplined and stay on their feet in order to contain him.
The Buckeyes have also been one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the country this season, hitting 38% from deep (four players, including Wesson, hit at least 40%) but have been off lately, knocking down only 26.7% in their last three games. If Ohio State finds its shooting stroke again today, Indiana will be in real trouble.
By the end of today's game, one of these struggling teams will likely be leaving with a confidence-building victory. By all accounts, Indiana has had a couple of good days of practice since the near-defeat against Northwestern and is focused on ensuring the Buckeyes don't get back on track at the Hoosiers' expense. Despite the problems uncovered in recent weeks, Indiana is still 12-3 and can get above .500 in Big Ten play with a win today. The season remains young.