We have a scouting report on IU's upcoming foe through the eyes of its radio announcer. Inside Indiana spoke with Paul Keels, the “Voice of the Buckeyes.”
No. 10 Ohio State has won four of its last five games and enters the IU game with a 17-5 overall record, 7-3 in the Big Ten.
However, the Buckeyes are coming off a disheartening 76-74 overtime loss Tuesday at Michigan.
Following Keels talks about the Buckeyes and previews their matchup with the Hoosiers Sunday afternoon in Value City Arena.
Inside Indiana: How big is this game against IU for the Buckeyes, who are a game back of the Hoosiers and Michigan State in the Big Ten standings? Keels: "It's big for a lot of reasons. It's the No. 1 team in the country, because it's important in the conference standings, because it's a home game and because Ohio State is coming off the loss it had, a loss in which they learned some things according to Thad Matta. There were some good things that happened despite the fact that they couldn't win the game.
"It's very big for this team to have a shot at trying to keep themselves in the Big Ten race."
Inside Indiana: Considering Ohio State lost Jared Sullinger and William Buford from last year's team, are you surprised at all that the Buckeyes have been this much of a factor this season? Keels: "When they were preseason No. 4 I think a lot of us who watched them last year thought that was a little too high given with what they lost in Sullinger and Buford and the questions they had. I think it's taken them a while to try and get some answers to those questions.
"Who would be the people that would help Deshaun Thomas on the offensive end? The last three games we've started to see a little more contribution with that.
"Who was going to take care of the center position? That's a question that's still out there even though Amir Williams has played better on the offensive end here lately.
"It was a team that really had an awful lot of questions and we've started to see the answers to some of those, but not all of them."
Inside Indiana: What a year Thomas is having as he's leading the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 19.9 points per game. Tell us about his game. Keels: "Everybody who plays Ohio State knows he's the first threat they have to try and stop.
"The thing that's really been amazing with what he's done is he's not really forcing an awful lot of shots. He's done it in the context within the offense. We've seen him become a better defender and a good rebounder. Lately he's been very good with moving the ball around to other people.
"He's a guy who has really let the game come to him, but has continued to be the scorer that Ohio State needs him to be."
Inside Indiana: Is there a lot of talk about him jumping to the NBA after this year? Keels: "Not yet. There was after last year. People were pleasantly surprised (that he returned).
"I've heard some people say there's an anticipation that the draft might not be a strong draft so that might have a lot to do with it.
"It's been more about what can his team do and how can he help this team get to a high level."
Inside Indiana: Aaron Craft continues to be one of the best defenders in the nation. How is his game different than what we saw from him his first two years at Ohio State? Keels: "The defense part isn't different. We've seen that he's continued to change the game on the defensive end.
"He's been asked to try and do more offensively and that's something he hasn't had to do the last couple years. You've seen that he's not a great outside shooting threat. Where he can give you offense is driving the ball to the basket and making things happen that way.
"There have been times where his outside shot has hurt him and hurt the team, but there have been more times when his defensive plays and his plays driving to the basket have really been big plusses to this team."
Inside Indiana: What a year Lenzelle Smith Jr. is enjoying? Keels: "It has been very inconsistent, but he's had moments where he's played very well. The last three or four games he's been a bigger contributor offensively. He's really done a good job rebounding the basketball.
"While you can see that the numbers look good, there was the anticipation of maybe a little more on the offensive end based on what he did in the NCAA Tournament.
"He's a guy that can be an X factor because of his defense and rebounding ability.
"He has the possibility of giving you an outside shooting threat and that is something this team doesn't have on a consistent basis."
Inside Indiana: What worries you most about the Buckeyes? Do they have a glaring weakness? Keels: "All along the question has been where will the offense come from other than Deshaun Thomas?
"Prior to the last couple games, you would say the weakness is getting some kind of quality play out of the center position.
"The lack of a consistent outside shooting threat has been a concern for this basketball team.
"When they played Kansas, they really struggled with Jeff Withey.
"If somebody throws a zone at them and they're not hitting from the outside, than that becomes a concern.
"But given their weaknesses at times they find ways to overcome those in other areas."
Inside Indiana: Is getting after it defensively what this team does best? Keels: "Without question. You asked about Aaron Craft, but the guy who has helped an awful lot there (on the defensive end) too has been Shannon Scott.
"At times when Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft have been on the floor together, it really makes it difficult for an opposing backcourt.
"Amir Williams at times can be a shot-blocking threat.
"Sam Thompson is the guy who doesn't get talked about an awful lot. His athleticism at times has helped him become a very good defender.
"They've put in the outstanding effort on defense that has given them the opportunity to win basketball games, and given them the opportunity to get out in transition, which at times may be their best offensive plan."
Inside Indiana: If you did the scouting report for the Buckeyes on Indiana what would be at or near the top of your list? Keels: "Obviously they have to be concerned about (Cody) Zeller and the way he's been able to get second-chance points and score off of missed shots, and how well he rebounds the ball on all ends of the floor.
"The other thing that makes Indiana so dangerous is they have so many people who can hurt you on offense whether it's Zeller or (Victor) Oladipo with the things he brings or (Jordan) Hulls with his outside shooting.
"Even in a loss the other night (at Illinois), you could see the contribution and disruption that Will Sheehey causes off the bench.
"Part of what makes them such a good team is you take away one thing and there's somebody else that can really hurt you.
"That's a tough scouting report because it's like pick your poison."
Inside Indiana: How would you finish the following: Ohio State beats Indiana if it … ? Keels: "If Indiana turns the ball over combined with Ohio State shooting at a very good percentage."
Inside Indiana: Short of a prediction, what kind of game do you envision between the Buckeyes and Hoosiers? Keels: "It's one of those that could be very similar to the Michigan game the other night and very similar to Indiana's game with Illinois.
"It could be an up-and-down game where both teams try to get into transition.
"It could be a game that brings about an awful lot of points.
"Both of these teams have the ability to play very good defense at times, too.
"It's probably one of those games where an awful lot of athleticism will be on display."