Predicting Ohio State-Indiana, Plus Three Other Friday CBB Matchups

Predicting Ohio State-Indiana, Plus Three Other Friday CBB Matchups article feature image

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Today, I’ll take a detailed look at the following games:

  • Ohio State at Indiana +1.5 (8 p.m. ET)
  • Harvard at Princeton +1 (7 p.m. ET)
  • Brown at Columbia -5.5 (7 p.m. ET)
  • Northern Kentucky at UIC +3.5 (8 p.m. ET)

Follow me on twitter @jorcubsdan for in game analysis, injury updates, and second half predictions. All lines used are pulled from Pinnacle at the time of writing.

Ohio State @ Indiana (+1.5)

8 p.m. ET

Ohio State heads to Bloomington ostensibly playing for a share of the Big Ten regular season title still, but the Buckeyes would need some unlikely help from Wisconsin in that regard.  The Hoosiers, meanwhile, will be celebrating Senior Night for Robert Johnson (a complicated fan favorite), Collin Hartman (a fan favorite celebrating his second straight Senior Night), Josh Newkirk (decidedly not a fan favorite), Freddie McSwain (an IU media favorite) and Tim Priller (everyone’s favorite mop-up guy). Full disclosure, as an IU fan, I’m still smarting from 2013 when Ohio State ruined Christian Watford and Jordy Hulls’ Senior Night.

Ohio State won the first meeting with ease, and probably caught the Hoosiers a little flat footed, as IU was on a quick turnaround from a massive effort at home against rival Purdue. Regardless, this isn’t a particularly good matchup for the Hoosiers. Offensively, IU is extremely reliant on getting the ball to rim, preferably to undersized but versatile post Juwan Morgan. Per, only six teams in the country take a higher percentage of their shots at the rim than the Hoosiers. Ohio State plays excellent post defense, grading out in the 86th percentile nationally in points per post possession, per Synergy. Keita Bates-Diop (pictured above) was extremely effective in face-guarding Morgan when he was away from the rim. There’s a reason why Ohio State has the second best 2-point percentage defense in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes play compact defensive and effectively wall-off driving lanes with excellent help defense.

Teams that have had success offensively against the Bucks have done at least one of two things: 1) Bombed them from deep. Ohio State’s opponents have shot 44.8% from 3 in their seven losses, and that number includes a 6-of-31 effort from Butler. 2) Beat them in transition. OSU’s transition defense grades out in just the fifth percentile nationally, allowing 1.12 points per transition possession. Can IU accomplish either of those? Johnson is IU’s only 3-point “threat.” He’s been known to go on 3-point benders (see his 9-of-12 effort at Iowa), and he is playing with the energy of Senior Night. Overall, the Hoosiers shoot just 32.2% from 3 as a team, so IU is more likely able to exploit OSU in transition. The Hoosiers don’t necessarily play fast, but Archie Miller runs a secondary fast-break offense similar to what Roy Williams is well known for at UNC. The primary objective of IU’s offense is to get a high-percentage look quick in the shot clock. This was a hallmark of Miller’s Dayton teams, and it has slowly but surely been taking root in Bloomington, especially with Devonte Green taking over at the point. Green had a phenomenal game off the bench in Columbus, and was installed as the starting PG shortly thereafter.

Defensively, IU can, in theory, give OSU some issues. Like his brother in Arizona, Miller runs a pack-line-principled defense. The perimeter rotations and contests on the perimeter have been a problem for IU all year, but the Bucks aren’t a particularly strong 3-point shooting team, preferring to take advantage of their length and physicality at the 3 and 4 positions. Simply put, the tetrad of Zach McRoberts, Justin Smith, Collin Hartman and Freddie McSwain can’t match up with Jae’Sean Tate and Bates-Diop. It’s a glaring mismatch that breaks down the pack-line defense. OSU shot 24-of-35 on two point attempts in Columbus, and while some of that efficiency can be attributed to IU’s tired legs, most of it falls on the fact that the Hoosiers are severely lacking in athleticism on the wings.

Although it’s a down year for Indiana and the Big Ten as a whole, the Hoosiers sit at a respectable 9-8 in league play. However, they have just one win over a team above them in the standings, and that was against a shorthanded Penn State team. They have however more than competed against league powerhouses Michigan State and Purdue at home, as Assembly Hall can still provide one of the best home-court advantages in the country. PICK: Under 138.5

Harvard at Princeton (-1.5)

7 p.m. ET

Princeton’s season has gone completely off the tracks. There was certainly going to be some regression from an undefeated Ivy season last year, but plummeting to 3-7 with six-straight losses isn’t something I envisioned happening, especially with the Big 3 of Myles Stephens, Amir Bell and Devin Cannady still in place. The offense, while still functioning at a high level, has fallen off, but the defense has been the primary source of the Tigers’ issues this year. Princeton’s ball-screen defense, to put in bluntly, is miserable. Per Synergy, only five teams in the country are less efficient in this area, and that’s particularly troublesome against Harvard, as Tommy Amaker’s offense is heavily reliant on “on-balls.”

Amaker continued to initiate his offense in the first meeting with a simple high ball screen, even though Bryce Aiken continued to sit with a knee injury. Sadly, Princeton still couldn’t stop Christian Juzang, who scored 20 points and didn’t miss a shot from 2. Aiken is expected back for the second meeting, but his effectiveness remains to be seen. Conversely, Harvard was phenomenal defending Mitch Henderson’s offense, and the Crimson have been winning Ivy games all year with an oppressive defense that’s allowing just .92 points per possession in league play. However, Harvard’s defense has been decidedly less efficient in their past three road games, allowing 1.11 points per possession in that span. Princeton has been much better at Jadwin, with only Penn being able to beat them soundly at home. PICK: Over 129.5

Brown at Columbia (-5.5)

7 p.m. ET

This is actually a de facto playoff game, as the loser will really be behind the 8-ball in terms of qualifying for the four-team Ivy playoff at the Palestra. The first meeting was an OT thriller that saw Brown pull out a 91-88 win. That game saw two of the league’s best young players going toe to toe, as Brown’s star freshman Desmond Cambridge finished with 23 points and Columbia’s waterbug sophomore guard Mike Smith finished with 22. Both teams had major issues defending the opposing offense’s primary offensive action. Brown’s Mike Martin runs a spread pick-and-roll NBA offense. The Lions are Princeton-esque in their ability to defend pick and roll, both at the point of attack and versus the roller. Columbia runs a lot of ball screens and dribble hand-offs for Smith, with Lukas Meisner playing a vital role in pick-and-pop action. Brown doesn’t have the mobile height to defend Meisner, and Martin was reluctant to put his only solid ball-screen defender in Cambridge on Smith, preferring to keep his legs (and potential fouls) fresh for the offensive end. It should be noted that Cambridge and Tamenang Choh were allowed unfettered access to the rim, as Columbia was without rim protector Patrick Tape in the first meeting, and he’ll be available tonight at Levien. PICK: Over 159

Northern Kentucky at UIC +3.5

8 p.m. ET

Steve McClain has UIC rolling, as the Flames have won 10 of their past 12 Horizon games after an 0-2 conference start and a disappointing out-of-conference season. The Flames have been spurred by Dikembe Dixson’s revival and the return of Tarkus Ferguson at the point. McClain is known for his drag-screen transition offense, but UIC has really been getting by thanks to its defense. Ferguson is an elite defender on the perimeter, and Tai Odiase owns the Horizon League’s highest block rate, helping the Flames play the best 2-point percentage defense in the country. Ferguson didn’t play in the first meeting with the defending champs at Northern Kentucky, and the Norse rolled to an 86-51 victory. Ferguson returned the next game, and McClain sites that blowout as a turning point in the Flames’ season.

Offensively, NKU runs an efficient ball-screen motion with an outstanding point guard in Lavone Holland and a deceptively mobile big man in Drew McDonald. Ferguson’s ability to defend Holland in ball screens can’t be overstated. Dixson, meanwhile, had his worst offensive game of the Horizon season in Highland Heights, and he’s been on a tear of late, stringing together four of his most efficient games of the season in UIC’s past five outings.

Both teams are still playing for seeding in the Horizon League tournament, with the most likely result seeing the winner grab the 2 seed, but neither can fall out of the top four, which ensures an automatic bye. PICK: UIC +3.5

Photo via Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports