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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 7:00 AM

The second-ranked Indiana Hoosiers clinched a share of the Big 10 championship this past Sunday without even playing a game. Michigan and Wisconsin both lost, helping pave the way for an outright Indiana title if they can beat #14 Ohio State in Bloomington Tuesday Night.

This is the same Ohio State team that Indiana dominated on the ROAD a few weeks ago.

The Hoosiers have come a long way in a short amount of time under head coach Tom Crean. A top notch recruiter can turn a doormat into a national title threat in short order in this sport. Does Crean have the in-game X’s and O’s chops to win thrillers in the Dance? The jury is still out on that. He has his critics…and his critics have made fair points! But, what’s undisputable now is:

*Indiana is the best team in the nation’s best conference

*Indiana is the clearest favorite (in a somewhat muddled field) to win the NCAA Championship

*Indiana has the most dynamic scoring lineup of the nation’s top contenders

Will that lead to an easy home win Tuesday and a celebration that makes this weekend’s regular season finale against Michigan moot? Or, will the youngsters on the team take too much for granted, losing their focus at the worst possible time?

Let’s run Tuesday’s top TV game through our gauntlet of key indicators to get a sense of hot tonight might play out, and how each of these two powers are poised for the challenges ahead in March.

WON-LOST RECORDS

Ohio State: 21-7 (11-5 in the Big 10)

Indiana: 25-4 (13-3 in the Big 10)

Very strong performances in context. Maybe some at Ohio State are disappointed with the seven losses. But, five of those were in league play and one was against Kansas. Indiana was preseason #1, and has tended to play at that level until they get to #1…when they lose focus and stub their toe! Gonzaga’s the new #1…which should put a chip right back on the Hoosiers’ shoulders.

COMPUTER RANKINGS

Ohio State: #8 with Sagarin, #12 with Pomeroy

Indiana: #1 with Sagarin, #1 with Pomeroy

Indiana is still a consensus #1 in the computers, regardless of what AP voters are thinking. Ohio State is better in the computers than in the polls. Both Jeff Sagarin of USA today and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy have the Buckeyes in the top dozen…which would mean seeded as a #3 in the Big Dance. The committee may eventually find that they can’t get every Big 10 and Big East team up where they should be in the computers. Ohio State’s a power. Indiana’s a superpower.

COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS

Ohio State: #22 with Sagarin, #17 with Pomeroy

Indiana: #34 with Sagarin, #36 with Pomeroy

These ranges should be fine for Dance preparation. Enough big games for the players to become battle tested…but not so brutal that everyone’s too exhausted to compete. We’ll see how the Big 10 tournament plays out in that sense. Might be better for the Dance to lose early next weekend and save your energy for the games that really matter!

WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN’S TOP 50

Ohio State: 5-7

Indiana: 9-3

This is where the separation really becomes clear. Versus quality, Ohio State is on the wrong side of break even while Indiana has won 75% heading into a clear favorite spot tonight. The fact that Indiana beat the Buckeyes on the road is consistent with what you see above. If you throw all the powers into a steel cage and make them battle it out…Ohio State belongs but doesn’t shine. Indiana shines.

JOE LUNARDI’S BRACKETOLOGY

Ohio State: projected #5 seed

Indiana: projected #1 seed

Indiana would really have to fall apart QUICKLY to lose a #1 seed. Ohio State still has some convincing to do. The computers like them higher than this. Heck, the polls like them higher than this. But, Lunardi of ESPN may be penciling in losses Tuesday and in the Big 10 tourney in a realistic manner. Ohio State could easily drop to a #5 by Selection Sunday. There are going to be a lot of good teams seeded sixth or better this year. The Buckeyes are hoping they can run into an overrated mid-major in a 4-5 game in the Round of 32.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS

Ohio State: #15

Indiana: #1

Moving to the chess match…Indiana has the best offense in the nation once you adjust for tempo and caliber of opposition according to Pomeroy’s methodology. Few who have seen them play would argue with that. Their only problem would be if foul trouble takes out a weapon or two. If the starters are on the court, this is the best offense in the country (particularly at home!). Ohio State is better than many had been thinking. You get into grinders in the Big 10 and people don’t realize that you’re scoring well on a per-possession basis. Indiana will have the edge Tuesday. Ohio State will have a more dangerous offense in the Dance than some are expecting.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS

Ohio State: #17

Indiana: #16

Virtually identical given the margin for error on a scale this big. These rankings could mean trouble in the Dance once the brackets are down to the best defenses. Having a top 16 defense is usually a big plus. It becomes a minus if you’re matched up against a top 10 defense.

POMEROY’S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS

Ohio State: #215

Indiana: #80

As we talked about with Louisville yesterday, Indiana’s in the sweet spot for going deep in the Dance. Recent years have seen aggressive teams who force the action make their own success stories…while slower teams who hope to grind out wins find themselves in too many coin flips to run the table. In terms of Tuesday…the home team usually forces tempo…which takes Ohio State out of its comfort zone. And, they couldn’t even win in Columbus!

BEST EXPECTATION

The indicators don’t paint a very positive picture for Ohio State’s prospects of winning the game straight up. They’re outmatched, they’re on the road, and they’re facing a team with tons of motivation to play well in this particular game. Ohio State does have revenge on its side. Indiana just gave up its #1 ranking and is in position to clinch an outright championship.

Handicappers and sports bettors will have to determine if the market has overcompensated for Indiana’s perceived edges…or if it’s going to be blowout city in Bloomington.

JIM HURLEY has studied this game very closely. He may have a big play here. But, he’s also looking at Big East games like Marquette/Rutgers, St. John’s/Notre Dame, as well as the opening night of tournament action in the Horizon League.

You can purchase the final word for Tuesday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. The first tournament action stars TONIGHT, which means MARCH MADNESS IS HERE! Get your ducks in a row now so you don’t miss a single BIG, JUICY WINNER

Back with you tomorrow to run the numbers in Georgetown/Villanova, as the Hoyas try to hang onto first place in the Big East. We’ll have big game previews all through the final week of regular season action here in the NOTEBOOK!

You’re going to be parked in front of your TV sets for the next month. WATCH WHILE YOU WIN with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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