Kansas and Indiana face off in a highly anticipated battle of blue bloods with plenty of implications on the line for both sides, including an Indiana team in search of a needed top-25 victory. Will the Hoosiers be able to pull off the upset?
TV schedule: Saturday, December 16th, 12:30 pm ET, CBS
Arena: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana
Indiana is set to host one of their toughest opponents of the season with, the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks coming to town and looking to add another big win to their already impressive resume ahead of Big 12 play. Last season's matchup between the two schools saw no. 4 Kansas defeat no. 21 Indiana in dominant fashion, with a final score of 84-62.
However, the Hoosiers will have home court advantage this time around and are hungry for a signature early season win win over a top-5 team in the country. Although Indiana sits at 7-2 (2-0 Big Ten) overall, they still lack a "big" win, with their best win so far being a road victory over Michigan. Additionally, their most recent outing was an uninspiring one, with the Hoosiers falling to Auburn 104-76, despite having led 22-10 early on.
Defense has been a bit of an issue for Indiana this year, as opponents have averaged 73.1 points per game against Indiana, which is the third highest mark in the Big Ten. Furthermore, opponents have averaged 8.7 made three pointers versus the Hoosiers this year, is the worst in the Big Ten and is ranked 312th in the country.
On top of defensive struggles, injuries have also plagued Indiana early on this year, with several players, including Xavier Johnson, having dealt with various injuries early this year. Johnson missed several of the team's most recent games, including their game against Auburn, and his absence could be felt on both ends of the floor. Having Johnson healthy and ready to play Saturday will be extremely crucial to Indiana and their chances of earning a huge early season victory.
As for the Jayhawks, who started the season as no. 1 in the AP poll, they've largely lived up to the pre-season hype with their sole loss being a 73-59 defeat to Marquette in Maui. On the flip side, Kansas has several impressive wins over Tennessee, Kentucky, and more recently UConn. The Jayhawks have been led by big man Hunter Dickinson and guard Kevin McCullar Jr this year, with both players averaging 19 ppg and being crucial pieces to Kansas' success this year.
Hunter Dickinson has been dominant on both sides of the ball this year and just edges out McCullar in total scoring with 19.4 ppg. Dickinson also leads the team in rebounding (12.6 rpg) and is shooting an impressive 63% from the field. Kevin McCullar Jr has been filling the stat sheet in many different areas, and along with 19 ppg, McCullar has also averaged 7.1 rpg, 5 apg, and a team-high 1.4 steals per game.
Kansas can beat teams in many ways, and with such a deep roster, it can be tough for most teams to keep up with the Jayhawks. As a team, Kansas is shooting 52.7% overall from the field, which is the second-best mark in the entire country. Additionally, the Jayhawks are shooting 38.2% from beyond the arc, which is the second best mark in the Big 12.
Considering the Jayhawks' strengths and the Hoosiers weaknesses in the early parts of this season, Kansas would have appear to have the edge over Indiana in this matchup. However, Assembly Hall is a very tough building to play in, and it will also be Kansas' first true road game of the year. The Hoosiers will also be extra motivated following their blowout loss to Auburn, and potentially having a healthier rotation that once again includes Xavier Johnson will be crucial for Indiana. If Johnson is unable to play, the Hoosiers will need to their bench to step up to the challenge should they want to a chance at knocking off Kansas.
In the last couple of years, Indiana has pulled off some big-time upset wins in Assembly Hall, including a win last season over no. 1 Purdue. It will certainly be loud in Assembly Hall on Saturday and the Hoosiers will most certainly feel the home court advantages. It will also be one of the toughest environments Kansas will have to play in all year, and given that it is their first true road test of the season, it remains to be seen how they will respond in such an environment.
However, Kansas is already extremely battle tested this year, and has already played three AP top ten teams, winning two of those games. While a road test at a place like Assembly Hall will certainly be challenging, the Jayhawks have already proven they are up for the toughest of challenges.
The Indiana faithful will do their part and will help keep the Hoosiers in the game, but I still believe that Kansas will ultimately prevail in what will be an exciting matchup.
Prediction: Kansas 80, Indiana 73