FORT WAYNE – Indiana will try to clinch its first outright Big Ten title since 1993 when the No. 2 Hoosiers (25-4, 13-3) play host to No. 14 Ohio State (21-7, 11-5) at 9 tonight.
The Hoosiers are already guaranteed a share of the title for the first time since 2002, when they reached the NCAA tournament finals, thanks to No. 22 Wisconsin’s loss to Purdue and No. 7 Michigan’s win over No. 12 Michigan State on Sunday.
Indiana, which lost at Minnesota before defeating Iowa last week, isn’t on top in everything. The Hoosiers slipped one spot in the Associated Press Top 25 as Gonzaga (29-2) became the fifth team to claim the No. 1 ranking this season. Indiana was the preseason No. 1 and on top for nine other weeks.
Hoosiers coach Tom Crean isn’t looking at the polls or focusing on winning the program’s first outright Big Ten title in 20 years as his team prepares for its final home game.
I think it shows that it’s a hard league, and all we can focus on is what we have here in the seasons that we’ve been here, Crean said during Monday’s coaches’ teleconference. When you think about ’93, and you think about all the things that have transpired in the league, I think it just goes to show how great this league has been over a period of time.
IU will honor three seniors who helped them return to the top of the Big Ten as guard Jordan Hulls and forwards Christian Watford and Derek Elston play their final game at Assembly Hall tonight.
The thing about all three of them is I think they truly epitomize what has happened here, Crean said. They stayed with the plan, even when they didn’t always understand what the plan was, even when it needed to be tweaked and adjusted. They stayed with it and have shown what happens when you do that.
Tonight’s game will also feature three players in the running for the Oscar Robertson national player of the year trophy. Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo along with Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas, a Bishop Luers graduate, were among the 14 finalists announced Monday. Zeller averages 16.5 points and 8.1 rebounds, and Oladipo averages 14 points and 2.3 steals. Thomas leads the Big Ten in scoring with 19.8 points per game and averages 6.1 rebounds.
Deshaun is a guy who has earned his stripes through hard work and commitment to this program, said Ohio State coach Thad Matta, whose team lost to IU 81-68 at home Feb. 10.