GAME PREVIEW: INDIANA

By RossWB on December 4, 2017 at 3:32 pm
Archie has been making this face a lot while watching Indiana this year.

© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

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GAME INFO

WHO: Indiana Hoosiers (4-4, 0-1) | KenPom #89
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: Assembly Hall (Bloomington, IN), assuming the Hoosiers pay their electric bill
TV: BTN
ONLINE: BTN2Go
RADIO: Learfield Sports affiliates
ONLINE AUDIO: TuneIn
VEGAS: Indiana -5.5

Two of the worst teams in the Big Ten collide tonight -- feel the excitement! Iowa and Indiana are each 4-4 overall (only Wisconsin is worse, with a 3-5 overall record) and each team lost its Big Ten opener (Iowa at home against Penn State, Indiana on the road against Michigan) this weekend. Iowa (#74) and Indiana (#89) are the 10th and 11th ranked teams in the Big Ten, per KenPom; only Illinois (#96), Nebraska (#105), and Rutgers (#114) are worse.

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT INDIANA

Like Iowa, Indiana is riding a two-game losing streak into this game. The Hoosiers also lost their ACC-Big Ten Challenge game, although put up a more respectable effort than the Hawkeyes did -- they lost a 91-81 thriller to Duke that was honestly closer than that score indicates; Duke pulled away with some late buckets and free throws, but IU hung with them for most of that game. Their game with Michigan was not so close: the Wolverines jumped out to a 22-8 lead after ten minutes, led 34-21 at halftime, and generally cruised to a 69-55 win; according to KenPom, their win probability was never lower than 79.2% in the game (and that came when the game was 0-0). Indiana also lost to Seton Hall in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, 84-68, but their worst loss by far was their opener, a stunning 90-69 loss at home against Indiana State. The Sycamores are 3-4 and ranked 180th by KenPom so... not exactly a good loss there. (Iowa doesn't have a lot of stones to throw in that department, of course, but we haven't lost by 20+ at home to a team that bad -- not yet, at least.)

Indiana's four wins have all come against middling opposition -- Howard, South Florida, Arkansas State, and Eastern Michigan; EMU was the highest ranked of the bunch at #150 in KenPom -- but obviously Iowa isn't in a position to overlook anyone right now. Although Tom Crean and his bad hair and goofy face are gone from Bloomington, IU's strength remains its offense the Hoosiers are posting a 111.7 offensive efficiency rating, 47th best in the country. They have an eFG% of 54.5 (68th), but their shooting prowess is inside the arc -- they're making 56.5% of their 2s (32nd), but only 33.1% of their 3s (224th). They've also been lousy at the free throw line this year (65.2%, 288th), although they're good at getting there, with a free throw rate of 39.7%. They're generally good at avoiding turnovers (they're giving the ball away on 17.9% of their offensive possessions, 105th in the country), but when they do give the ball away it's usually via steals (teams are getting steals on 9.2% of their possessions, 224th in the country). 

Defensively, the Hoosiers haven't been so hot. They've given up at least 84 points in three of those losses and over 1.00 points per possession in all four losses, highlighted (lowlighted?) by their efforts against Indiana State (1.25 PPP) and Duke (1.32 PPP). Teams are posting an eFG% of 54.4% against them, 276th in the country. Teams are shooting pretty well on 2s (49.8%, 180th), but absolutely torching IU on 3s (40.7%, 317th). That could be good news for an Iowa offense that's struggled to find a rhythm over the last several games, especially from downtown. Iowa could really use some hot shooting nights from Bohannon, Moss, and Ellingson. Indiana is also below average at generating turnovers (18.8%, 188th) and preventing opponents from crashing the offensive glass (29.5%, 195th).

Juwan Morgan, a 6-7, 230 lb junior forward, has been Indiana's best player so far this season, leading the team in points (13.6), rebounds (5.9), and blocks (1.5), while tossing in around an assist and steal per game as well. The frontcourt in general has been Indiana's strength so far this year; De'Ron Davis, a 6-10, 249 lb sophomore big, is third on the team in points (11.0) while making a blazing 69.2% of his shots (pretty nice). He's also averaging 3.9 rpg, 1.4 apg, and around steals/blocks per game. Hack-a-Davis might be a strategy to employ, though; he's making just 48.5% (16/33) of his free throws this year. IU's other bigger threat is Robert Johnson, a 6-3 senior wing averaging 13.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, and 2.2 apg, while shooting 50% from the field and making 36.4% of his threes. In the back court, IU's main names are Aljami Durham (8.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.4 apg, 48.8 FG%, 38.9 3FG%) and Josh Newkirk (7.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 2.9 apg, 44 FG%, 40.7 3FG%). There's also Devonte Green, a sixth man averaging 7.9 ppg and a possible candidate to get hot from deep (he's only shooting 33% from long range, but he's attempted the second most 3s on the team, so he's not shy about shooting them). 

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Just play better? That sounds glib, I know, but at this point it really would be good to see 40 minutes of solid play from Iowa. We haven't seen that much -- if at all -- this year and certainly not against opponents with pulses. Iowa did some things well against Penn State on Saturday (like the fact that PSU only shot 39% on 2-point shots), but they undid all of that with the things they did poorly, like 3-point defense (Penn State was 12/23 from deep) and turnovers (Iowa coughed the ball up 18 times). 

The match-up between Tyler Cook and Morgan should be one to watch tonight -- each is the best player on his team and they should match up with one another quite a bit in this game. Both guys were decent, but not spectacular in Iowa's loss to Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament last year (Cook had eight points and seven rebounds, while Morgan had nine points and eight rebounds). Cook had 14 points and five rebounds against Indiana in Iowa's 96-90 regular season win last year, though he shot just 3/11 (he was 8/11 at the free throw line). Morgan had eight points and three rebounds in that game. 

3-point shooting also figures to be critical in the game. On paper, that should favor Iowa -- Indiana has been giving up 3s by the bushel so far this year, while Iowa is (on paper) a good 3-point shooting team (39.7%, 46th best in the country). Indiana also isn't a good 3-point shooting team themselves (again, on paper), so Iowa could have a nice advantage from beyond the arc -- but that will depend on how well Bohannon, Moss, and Ellingson are shooting. It also means Iowa needs to find ways to get them more shots -- Bohannon attempted just four 3s against Penn State, which is far too few. Light it up tonight, JBo. 

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP

PG: Jordan Bohannon
SG: Isaiah Moss
SF: Nicholas Baer
PF: Tyler Cook
C: Luka Garza

Baer replaced Wagner in the starting lineup against Penn State and I'd expect to see him retain that spot for now. 

Starting tonight Iowa has three games in seven days, with a road trip to Ames on Thursday night and a home game against Southern on Sunday. They need to pick up some wins in a hurry to keep this season from spiraling even further off track. But getting back on the winning track is going to require a better Iowa team than we've seen for the most part for the last two weeks -- we'll see if they have it in them. KenPom is projecting a 76-74 Indiana win and gives Iowa a 41% chance of winning, while ESPN's BPI is almost identical, given Iowa a 41.6% chance of winning. Those aren't terrible odds -- the only away games Iowa has better odds to win this year, per KenPom, are against Illinois (43%), Rutgers (47%), and Nebraska (45%) -- but they're still going to require one of Iowa's best performances of the year.

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