Indiana needs at least one victory in the Big Ten tournament to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive, but Thursday night runs into Northwestern, recently a nasty nemesis. The Hoosiers are favored by a couple of buckets, but can they even win this game outright?
Hoosiers-Wildcats Betting Odds
As of early Thursday morning most of the NCAA Basketball odds were listing Indiana at -4 over Northwestern, with a total of 141.
Indiana has lost three games in a row, and eight of its last 12, after falling at home to Michigan State last Saturday 74-72. Just before that the Hoosiers lost at home to Iowa 77-63, and just before that they lost at Northwestern 72-65.
Indiana started 5-1 in conference play this season; it ended up at 9-9. The Hoosiers are also just 4-8 ATS over their last dozen games.
At 19-12 overall Indiana has recently played itself from the NCAA Tournament field onto the bubble. And a loss Thursday would probably be fatal to those Big Dance hopes.
Northwestern lost 10 games in a row into February, then awoke and won five out of six, before ending the regular season with a 69-52 loss at Iowa last Saturday. And even during that long losing streak the 'Cats were giving some decent efforts, falling four times by five points or less, losing another in overtime. Northwestern actually went 11-7 ATS in conference play.
At 15-16 overall and 6-12 in the Big Ten Northwestern remains a work in progress, but one with some hope for the future, under young head coach Chris Collins.
The winner of this game plays second-seeded Maryland in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals Friday.
Northwestern took the only meeting this season between these teams, beating Indiana in Evanston two weeks ago 72-65, winning that game outright as a three-point home dog. In fact, the Wildcats have taken eight of the last 12 meetings with the Hoosiers SU, going 10-2 ATS.
These teams played to a 40-40 halftime tie two weeks ago, but Northwestern held IU scoreless for a 10-minute span in the second half, taking a 14-point lead, and hung on from there. The 'Cats shot 51 percent from the floor that night, while Indiana shot just 37 percent.
That game sneaked OVER its total of 133 thanks to a bunch of points scored late, as Indiana tried to crawl back into the game.
By the Numbers
Northwestern is shooting just under 44 percent from the floor this season, 36 percent on 3-pointers and 74 percent from the FT, which is pretty good for a college team. The Wildcats are also holding opponents to less than 42 percent FG shooting.
Indiana is shooting 47 percent from the floor, and 41 percent from 3-point range, which ranks third-best in the country, but is allowing opponents to shoot almost 46 percent from the floor.
Northwestern is 15-10 toward the OVERS this season, even though Wildcats games have only averaged 128 points. Obviously, Northwestern has been playing against some low totals.
Indiana is skewing toward the OVERS by a 21-8 margin, as Hoosiers games have averaged 150 points.
Indiana is cold, slumping through the last six weeks of the season, and unpredictable. If they're hot the Hoosiers might win by 20; then again, they might not. Northwestern, on the other hand, has been a pretty good bet in Big 10 play, and already owns a victory over Indiana this season. So we like the Wildcats in this one, and we don't need the points for our NCAA Basketball picks.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Northwestern +170 on the moneyline at 5Dimes