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Game Preview: Lamar Cardinals

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After a big early-season win over a quality opponent, the Hoosiers resume the Cupcake Parade with Pat Knight's old squad, the Lamar Cardinals.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

GAME INFO:

Who? Lamar Cardinals (1-2, #348 KenPom) at Indiana Hoosiers (3-0, #28 KenPom)

When? 8:00 PM, Big Ten Network

Vegas? INDIANA -29

Pomeroy? INDIANA by 27, 99% chance of victory

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Quick Turnaround

After a hard-fought win on Thursday night, the Hoosiers didn't get a lot of time to celebrate before having to get ready for Lamar. Thankfully, as the 348th ranked team on a list that contains 351 teams total, Indiana won't have to give anything close to their best effort to win easily. Lamar has one player over 6'6" that has played significant minutes this season and he has taken four shots in three games and turns it over at nearly a 40% clip. With Indiana getting close to full strength (only Devin Davis unavailable), it would take an otherworldly effort for Lamar just to keep this game tight. While common opponents and the transitive property isn't an incredibly sound basis of analysis, SMU did just beat these guys by nearly 40 a little over a week ago.

I was planning on taking the time to, once again, discuss the absolute absurdity that a team this poor is even coming into Assembly Hall but it's all been said and literally every single fan agrees. KenPom ranks all 351 Division I teams and the Hoosiers will play at least two of the bottom four. There is no discernible benefit in playing these teams, they effectively hurt your tournament résumé just by scheduling them. Why not play a team like IPFW (#201) who is both better and closer?

Stat-Filled Goodness

Four Factors
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Offense) 62.7% (18th) 18.0% (115th) 32.0% (157th) 45.1% (104th)
LAMAR (Defense) 60.9% (331st) 25.4% (38th) 40.8% (315th) 52.1% (293rd)
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Defense) 47.5% (172nd) 21.2% (126th) 29.6% (143rd) 25.8% (51st)
LAMAR (Offense) 40.9% (281st) 27.7% (327th) 39.3% (46th) 41.3% (134th)

This is where breaking down the factors can help you find things about the game you may not otherwise realize. Lamar is pretty horrible at most things but they do excel at turning their opponents over (somewhat buoyed by playing a Texas State team that turned it over a Hoosier-esque 23 times) while also having success on the offensive boards.

Coming into the season and after a handful of games, we know the Hoosiers must work harder to value the ball and prevent offensive rebounds. So this team could take a step forward in that regard by preventing Lamar from doing so. That shouldn't be too difficult for what is, again, a vastly under-gunned Cardinals squad, but that's the task at hand.

Rise and Fire

The Hoosiers shot the ball decently against SMU and still saw their eFG% plummet, which was bound to happen after shooting north of 70% for two games. This team is so good at shooting from distance and also excelled at getting shooters open against SMU, but the cold streaks to start each half made them look dreadful. Shooting teams will go through cold streaks, but the difference between wins and losses for the Hoosiers will likely come down to how quickly they can heat back up and how many stops they can gather when the shots aren't falling.

A friend of mine pointed out how easily last night's 12-point deficit vanished once the shots started falling, and how different that was from last season, when a 12-point deficit might as well have been the ballgame, no matter when it occurred. Even at 22-10, the offense was getting open looks that just weren't falling, but that's about the best you can hope for in a given possession: a good shooter getting an open shot. Once the water started to find its level, the offense looked a helluva lot better.

I firmly believe this team can succeed while being reliant on the three-point shot, simply because the shooting is too good to not take those shots when they're open. But, eventually, teams will work to lock down the perimeter and that is when guys like Troy Williams, Stan Robinson, and Hanner Mosquera-Perea must make them pay from inside the arc. Those are three guys that should be able to make a defense pay for staying too far away from the basket and, should they collapse inward, those guys need to be able to recognize and swing the ball back out.

The Zone

I know we all hate it, mostly because we've looked terrible in the 2-3 the past 2+ seasons, but the reality of the situation is that IU can't match-up in man defense all game along against the more talented teams on the schedule and they will need to learn to play a zone at least somewhat effectively to tread water against bigger squads. While still far from perfect, I thought the 1-3-1 looked better conceptually and in practice than the 2-3 has looked for the past couple of seasons. However, Troy Williams should not be at the top and HMP should not be at the bottom.

In my non-expert opinion, I think the 1-3-1 is maximized with Troy under the basket, HMP in the middle, Yogi at the top, and Blackmon / Johnson / whoever on the wings. I think Troy is our most instinctual rim protector with terrific effective length and Yogi has already shown a penchant for on-ball defense in his 2+ seasons as a Hoosier. Putting Perea in the middle of it all will also, hopefully, act as preventative maintenance for his foul situation. I'll be interested to see the zone looks IU employs over the rest of the Cupcake Parade, because if they can't figure it out against these teams, they'll have no business using them against conference foes.