After their big upset win over top-ranked Purdue, the Northwestern Wildcats will host the Indiana Hoosiers. We’ll preview this pivotal Big-10 game before going over which side I’ll be backing.
After two straight big wins over Purdue and Rutgers, the Hoosiers went on the road Saturday night and walked away with a big 62-61 victory over the Michigan Wolverines. Thanks to their now three-game win streak, the Hoosiers are tied for second place in the conference with their opponent tonight.
A big reason for their success this season, but especially of late, has been their defense. Indiana is currently ranked 37th in the country in defensive efficiency rating, according to KenPom, and ever since their loss to Penn State on January 11th, the Hoosiers have only had two opponents score 70 or more points.
Entering tonight, Indiana now ranks 39th in the country in opponent shooting percentage, and despite their recent upset win, this could cause issues for the Northwestern offense. The Wildcats have also needed to rely on their defense to win games this season, as their offensive rating ranks 97th in the country while their defensive rating ranks 26th, according to KenPom.
The Wildcats are 3-1 in February and are in the midst of a three-game win streak; however, they have not scored 70 or more points since January 31st. Outside of Boo Buie and Chase Audige, the Wildcats have struggled to find additional scoring, leading to the team being ranked 325th in the country in shooting percentage this season.
If it weren’t for the Wildcats being ranked 16th in points allowed per game, this game would likely not mean as much for the conference standings as it currently does. Not many teams can shoot 23% from the three-point line and still beat Purdue, but Northwestern managed to do by holding the Boilermakers to a 36% field goal percentage in the game.
The Indiana Hoosiers are currently listed as -2.5 point road favorites, and I’ll be backing them as my best play. After picking up one of the bigger wins for the program in recent memory, this game could be a big letdown spot for the Wildcats, and based on the line movement, I’m not alone in this thinking. The line for this game opened with the Wildcats favored by -.5, but it has since moved fully toward Indiana, showing the money coming in favors the Hoosiers.
Both sides are defensive-minded at their core, but the Hoosiers possess a stronger scoring ability that I don’t think the Wildcats can keep up with in a close game. Indiana is now 5th in the country in shooting percentage and 17th in three-point shooting percentage, and even though Northwestern is a solid defensive team, they have struggled at times to run shooters off the line.
The last time these teams met earlier in the season, Northwestern walked away with an 84-83 victory; however, not long after, the Hoosiers flipped a switch on the defensive end and now look like an entirely different team. Northwestern has not shown they can consistently score as they did in the last match-up, so I think the Hoosiers can walk away with a big road win and cover tonight.
Indiana Hoosiers (-2.5)