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A win over Indiana on Sunday will go a long way

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The teams are ready to match up for the only time this season.

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Minnesota David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

The Illinois Fighting Illini (19-9, 11-6 Big Ten) welcome the Indiana Hoosiers (18-10, 8-9 Big Ten) to State Farm Center at 1 p.m. Sunday. Both teams appear to be NCAA Tournament-bound, but every win the rest of the way provides an additional resume boost. Let’s take a closer look at the Hoosiers.

How They’ve Done

Indiana has been very hard to figure out. You never know which team is gonna show up. IU has defeated five ranked teams this season — Florida State, Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State. However...each of those wins came in Bloomington. The Hoosiers have been dreadful on the road, including a dud Thursday night at Purdue. Archie Miller’s club has just two “true” road wins all season, and those games were against Nebraska and Minnesota. Not exactly Murderer’s Row.

Indiana is a subpar three-point shooting team (31.8%) and 259th nationally in free throw percentage (68.2%), which may explain some of the Hoosiers’ woes.

NCAA Tournament projection: In

Players To Watch

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Indiana
Indiana freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis is trying to lead the Hoosiers back to the NCAA tournament.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive season, Indiana’s marquee player is a rookie. The son of 16-year NBA vet Dale Davis, freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis leads IU in scoring (13.8 ppg) and shooting (57.4%). The athletic 6-foot-9 forward is also a terrific rebounder and shot blocker. Any other season, he’d be a shoe-in for Big Ten Freshman of the Year — but Kofi Cockburn has that award on lock. Limiting Jackson-Davis will surely be a stiff challenge, and I’d be shocked if he wasn’t the main focus of Brad Underwood’s defensive gameplan. The Hoosiers also boast a talented backcourt, featuring junior Al Durham and sophomore Rob Phinisee.

Prediction

Ayo Dosunmu has been otherworldly since coming back from his knee scare, averaging 21 points on 58% shooting the past three games. Alan Griffin exploded for a career-best 24 points last time out, and Kofi has registered a double-double in three of his past four games. There’s a valid concern that the Illini, while very good, haven’t been able to separate themselves from lesser opponents. That said, they did what they needed to do against Nebraska & Northwestern: stack Ws and move on. Indiana is definitely a bump up in competition and the Hoosiers are desperate for a win following a poor performance versus Purdue. Beating the Illini is probably enough to firmly get them into field of 68. As I mentioned earlier, though, IU has been pitiful outside of their Assembly Hall. I’m thinking — wishfully — that the trend continues.

Final: Illinois 65, Indiana 56