Indiana (22-11, 12-8/Big Ten)- Led by big man Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana was the Big Ten preseason favorite. And although the Hoosiers did not capture a Big Ten championship, they appear to be peaking at the right time and will be a dangerous team in the Midwest region.
Jackson-Davis has been once again, spectacular (20.8 ppg, 57% FG) and is capable of taking over any game. Meanwhile, Indiana has developed a legit sidekick in 6-foot-6 freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino (13.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.7 apg) who has excellent shot-making abilities and could be a lottery pick if he leaves for the NBA after this season.
However, the Hoosiers (77th in defensive rating) have been vulnerable defensively this season at times and have also been victim to a few true clunkers, with a 22-point home loss to Iowa and 19-point road defeat at Penn State the most egregious.
Indiana hasn’t been to a Sweet 16 since 2016, a sting on a proud program. Mike Woodson has done well to get his team back in the mix, but they will need Jackson-Davis and Hood-Schifino to be dominant, and will need to be careful not to let Kent State get going if they are going to avoid an early exit.
Kent State (28-6, 15-3/MAC)- The Golden Flashes have a Sincere chance to win a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament. That is, senior guard Sincere Carry, their leading scorer at 17.6 ppg and 4.9 apg, gives them their best chance to win. Carry went off for 35 points in the MAC title game to carry Kent State (sorry, just too many pun opportunities to pass up here) to the Big Dance for the first time since 2017.
The Flashes have a pretty good backcourt with Carry and senior Malique Jacobs (13 ppg, 3.6 apg), even if it is small (Carry is 6-1 and Jacobs 6-3). They’re tough defensively, giving up just 65.7 points per game. MAC teams have been fairly competitive in the NCAA Tournament, going 33-78 all time, and Ohio earned a first-round upset over Virginia in 2021.
Source:: The Mercury News