Each weekday, our college hoops experts discuss the biggest issues, trends and themes in college basketball.
1. Which matchup(s) will determine the outcome of Iowa-Indiana?
Eamonn Brennan: As we've discussed in previous Daily Words, the Hoosiers have been great defensively in Big Ten play, but their lack of size beyond freshman big man Thomas Bryant has left them vulnerable against teams with the matchups to exploit it. One of those teams, Wisconsin, did exactly that on basically every possession in the Badgers' Jan. 26 overtime win in Madison. Iowa is another. Bryant is improved as a defensive helper, but he's still learning the nuances of defending on the block, which will be music to Adam Woodbury's ears. And then there's the problem of Jarrod Uthoff. Zone defense may be the only reasonable answer.
C.L. Brown: Indiana vs. turnovers. The Hoosiers rank last in the Big Ten with a 20.8 turnover percentage, while the Hawkeyes' defense ranks second in the league at 18.7 percent, according to KenPom.com. Troy Williams specifically has to do better for the Hoosiers; he has had four or more turnovers in 10 games this season.
2. Cal was expected to compete for a Pac-12 title, but the Bears sit at .500 in league play. What has held them back?
Katz: Injuries and inconsistencies. If the Bears had their whole team from Day 1, the narrative would have been much different. If the Bears can be whole in March, they still have the potential to be dangerous.
Brennan: I'd definitely buy the idea that this team's all-around development was seriously hindered by Tyrone Wallace's injury (broken bone in hand), which came just after close losses at Oregon and Oregon State and not all that long after the Bears took Virginia to overtime in Charlottesville and won three convincing games (over Davidson, Colorado, and Utah) at home. Losing Wallace amid that crucial stretch was brutal. It's not the only cause, either. Cal's offense is the Pac-12's eighth-best at present. Freshman guard Jaylen Brown has a 32.7 percent usage rate (ranks 10th nationally) and takes 30.3 percent of its shots. (For reference's sake, Buddy Hield's usage rate is 28.4.) Needless to say, what Brown does with all of those possessions -- he's a good interior finisher who draws fouls, but shoots just 65.6 percent from the free throw line, while his turnovers outnumber his assists -- is a major reason why Cuonzo Martin's offense can get bogged down.
Brown: Cal can't win on the road. Going back to last season, the Golden Bears have lost nine straight Pac-12 road games, including 0-5 this season. Chasing the league title is probably out of the question now. With four road games remaining, Cal may need to do more than just hold serve at home to solidify an at-large NCAA tournament bid.
3. One game separates the American's top five teams. How do you expect that conference race to play out?
Katz: SMU or Temple will win with UConn a game out. Cincinnati will end up fourth.
Brennan: SMU remains the team to beat here, but don't sleep on the Huskies. Kevin Ollie's team has been guarding like crazy in American play, and it still has two cracks at the Mustangs left on the schedule.
Brown: I think Temple will emerge. The Owls may have the easiest schedule remaining among the league's contenders. Four of its seven remaining conference opponents have losing records in conference play.