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Indiana Hoosiers guard Xavier Johnson (0) lays the ball in against Iowa Hawkeyes guard Connor McCaffery (30) on March 12, 2022 during the Big Ten Tournament. (Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire)
March 15th, 2022
A meeting with fifth-seeded Saint Mary's is on the line when the Indiana Hoosiers and Wyoming Cowboys clash in Tuesday night's First Four play-in game, set for tipoff at 9:10 p.m. ET in Dayton, Ohio.
In Mike Woodson's first year as Indiana's head coach, the former Hoosier has his team riding a ton of momentum ahead of its First Four matchup, which will mark the first NCAA Tournament appearance for the school since 2016.
Indiana (20-13) bounced back after a five-game skid in February, which included an overtime loss to Ohio State, and knocked off Michigan and No. 16 Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament to earn a spot in the Big Dance.
A long, game-winning 3 by Big Ten conference champion Iowa in the semifinal of the Big Ten tournament sent Indiana packing, but that narrow loss showed how serious of a threat Indiana can be.
Jordan Bohannan Hits the GAME WINNING 3 with 0.8 seconds left for #24 Iowa to fend off Indiana and advance to the Big Ten Tournament Final with the 80-77 win (Video via @MrMatthewCFB) https://t.co/E9yWOIErJ1— NCAA Buzzer Beaters & Game Winners (@NCAABuzzerBters) March 12, 2022
Jordan Bohannan Hits the GAME WINNING 3 with 0.8 seconds left for #24 Iowa to fend off Indiana and advance to the Big Ten Tournament Final with the 80-77 win (Video via @MrMatthewCFB) https://t.co/E9yWOIErJ1
While the Hoosiers struggle from the 3-point line (33.9% per game) and ranked last in free-throw percentage (69.9%) in the Big Ten, they are a solid rebounding team, defend the rim well, and rank 14th in the nation in opponent shooting percentage (39.1%).
The Cowboys are trending in the opposite direction at the moment. Wyoming (25-8) lost five of its last nine games, including a 68-61 defeat to Boise State in the Mountain West Conference semifinal, and has not defeated a team playing in the 2022 NCAA Tournament since a win against Boise State on Feb. 3.
Where Wyoming and Indiana are similar is in their reliance on big men. Sophomore forward Graham Ike has been a star for the Cowboys and averages a team-leading 19.6 points per game and 9.6 rebounds.
He will match up against Indiana's sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who led his team with 18.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in the regular season. In his most recent outing, Jackson-Davis scored 31 against Iowa, and shot 15-of-21 from the field, while also grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out three assists.
His matchup with Ike will be a primary factor in determining whether Indiana or Wyoming move on to the first round in the East Region.
The Hoosiers have proven their mettle down the closing stretch of the season and can win their First Four contest if they keep up the intensity on defense.
One key to a win will be defending the deep ball against a Wyoming team that's 11-0 when it hits 39% or better from behind the arc.
Drake Jeffries. Nails.Wyoming with a massive win over Colorado State. pic.twitter.com/ybDslW26FY— Heat Check CBB (@HeatCheckCBB) February 1, 2022
Drake Jeffries. Nails.Wyoming with a massive win over Colorado State. pic.twitter.com/ybDslW26FY
IU has let five teams shoot better than 40% from the 3-point line and went 0-5 in those games, including the heartbreaking loss to Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Cowboys average nearly 23 3-point attempts per game, but hit just 33%. If Indiana can stave off the 3s from Wyoming and force Ike into a quiet night, the Hoosiers should come away with a win in a low-scoring victory and head off to Portland to face Saint Mary's on Thursday.
Score prediction: Indiana 68, Wyoming 62
Our predictive engine is calling for Indiana to win outright and cover the spread.
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