Chattanooga, winners of the Southern Conference, is no stranger to the Big Ten this season. The Mocs took down Illinois in late November, so their upcoming matchup with Big Ten regular season champion Indiana will be their second game against the conference this year. There is no question that the Hoosiers are better competition than the Illini. So can Chattanooga best another Big Ten foe?
No. 12 Chattanooga Mocs (29-5) vs. No. 5 Indiana Hoosiers (25-7)
When: 7:10 p.m. ET (Thursday)
Where: Wells Fargo Arena (Des Moines)
Line: Indiana -12
Keys for Chattanooga
This Chattanooga squad is not afraid of anyone, including a basketball powerhouse like that of Indiana. Matt McCall, a Donovan disciple at Florida, and the Mocs’ squad have already taken down several quality non-conference opponents, including Georgia, Illinois and Dayton. The Mocs are an extremely balanced team with nine players averaging more than six points a game. In order to be successful against the Hoosiers, Chattanooga must utilize its depth and lean on its high-octane defense that is holding the opposition to only 66.6 points per game. Limiting transition baskets and forcing Indiana into its half-court offense are keys for the Mocs if they hope to pull off the upset.
Keys for Indiana
Important rotation players Robert Johnson, Collin Hartman and Juwan Morgan are banged up, and there are significant questions if Johnson will be able to suit up for this contest. Indiana is certainly the superior team, but at less than 100% the No. 11-ranked scoring offense may be lacking the key ingredient that lead to a midseason turn around - defensive grit. Tom Crean was able to get everything out of this squad this season, with plenty of help from team leader and senior stud guard Yogi Ferrell. Ferrell must be extremely effective on offense to make up for the lost production.
Indiana’s elite offense was only able to muster 69 points in a defeat to Michigan its last time out on the floor in the Big Ten Tournament. The absence of Johnson was noticeable, and the Hoosiers must make adjustments to prevail against Chattanooga. I believe Ferrell will be the difference, and he will simply refuse to lose in the first round of the Big Dance in his fourth and final season in Bloomington.
Prediction: Indiana 76, Chattanooga 68
Update: Robert Johnson, Collin Hartman and Juwan Morgan were all seen at Wednesday's open practice. All are expected to be available for tomorrow's game against Chattanooga.