Tonight around 7:30 pm the Hoosiers will go to battle with their second set of Huskies in two days. Last night they dispatched the Washington version with relative ease, but the Connecticut redux won't be quite so simple. Indiana is actually going to be the underdogs in this one as Ken Pomeroy's numbers have them losing by two with a 40% chance of victory and Vegas agrees. Though not quite a 50-50 game I would still qualify tonight's game as a toss-up.
The Hoosiers are going to have to be on their game tonight though. UConn offers quite a resistance, especially in their front court. Shabazz Napier is on the short list for the nation's best point guard and he was really the only one yesterday in their game against Boston College that really impressed me. His line mate Ryan Boatright put up a solid fight but was just struggling all day long. In the end he made a great timed athletic block to save the game for UConn, but other than that he was pretty inconsistent.
The other play Indiana needs to watch out for is DeAndre Daniels. He dropped 23 points to go with 6 rebounds against the Eagles yesterday, but I wasn't overly inspired by his play. He spends a lot of time just lurking on the perimeter instead of fighting in the paint. Yes, while he's 6-9 and can compete on the perimeter, I would have liked to have seen him go to the post a little more.
This is where I think Indiana can really capitalize on match-ups. Vonleh can move well enough that he's capable of defending a stretch 4, but Indiana's size may allow for him to stay in and defend the paint. There are three other guys in the starting lineup with the size to compete on the perimeter against Daniels. That means if one of Sheehey, Williams or Hollowell (likely Hollowell) can battle with Daniels on the outside, Vonleh is free to watch the penetration that we'll inevitably see from Boatright and Napier. Even if Sheehey and Ferrell do their best defending of their career, those two are going to get into the lane. Having Vonleh in there to influence them when they get there can pay big dividends.
UConn does offer up a little more size on the bench and two guys measuring in at 6-10+ do get plenty of time, but they're both relatively invisible on the offensive end. Neither one gets more than 12% of possessions when they're on the floor. The targets that need to be stopped are Boatright, Napier and Daniels. If you can leave them ineffective it could be a day where Indiana cruises.
On the offensive end is where IU should be able to best exploit match-ups. UConn by high major program standards is an awful rebounding team. Like really bad. They don't make the top 190 in the nation in either defensive or offensive rebounding percentages. The Hoosiers should go to the boards and go to the boards hard. Though UConn can get out and run this is a game where Indiana should chance missing out on transition defense to crash the boards at all five positions. Offensive rebounds beget second chance attempts and second chance attempts usually result in a trip to the foul line at a minimum. Getting some of UConn's guys in foul trouble early could dictate the entirety of the game.
Again, this game looks to be another double-double candidate for several guys. We saw last night Troy Williams rebounding well for his position along with Vonleh and Hollowell. UConn is just as poor as Washington in this area. Perhaps this even turns into this team's identity this season. A bunch of long athletes who can influence shots and rebound sounds like a very fun basketball team I'd like to watch all year. I think it turns out they'll be a lot of fun to watch tonight as well. Look for a game of runs back and forth. It's going to be a close one but the homer in me thinks Indiana pulls it off and finds themselves in the Top 25 come Monday.