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Game Preview: Eastern Washington Eagles

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Not quite a cupcake, not yet a quality win; the Eastern Washington Eagles are here to chew bubblegum and shoot threes. AND THEY'RE ALL OUT OF BUBBLEGUM.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

GAME INFO:

Who? Eastern Washington Eagles (3-1, #151 KenPom) at Indiana Hoosiers (4-0, #35 KenPom)

When? 7:30 PM, ESPNews

Vegas? INDIANA -12.5

Pomeroy? INDIANA by 12, 88% chance of victory

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Not Standard Cupcake Fare

Eastern Washington is a projected 20-win team on KenPom and is coming off a nine-point loss at SMU on Saturday. They shoot a lot of threes and make quite a few of them while offering legitimate size and experience in their starting lineup. Don't get me wrong, this would be an inexcusable loss for the Hoosiers, but this is not a team that Indiana is likely to rout from the beginning. If the Eagles remain as hot from distance as they've been throughout the early season, it'll be tough to shake them off. Lamar managed to hang around thanks to an excellent shooting performance from two-point range, and they weren't a team known for their shooting prowess.

It goes without saying, but Indiana must lock down the perimeter and make the Eagles earn their makes. Missed switches or over-helping on defense will leave shooters open and EW has enough of them to make the Hoosiers pay. Inside, Hanner Mosquera-Perea will have another tough assignment in Venky Jois, a 6'8" junior forward who currently possess an eFG% of 66.2 and rebounds at a high level on both ends of the floor. However, he is only hitting his free throws at a 21.4% clip and it may not be a terrible idea to use up the four fouls you're given prior to disqualification to prevent him from getting an easy bucket.

Indiana's interior defense was eaten alive against Lamar, a similar effort against Eastern Washington could spell trouble. Adding in that the majority of students have departed for Thanksgiving break and this is the Hoosiers' third game since Thursday, it may be difficult to get as mentally and emotionally checked in for this game, both for the players and the crowd. Eastern Washington is a great low-major squad who will be very excited for the opportunity to knock off a high-major on their home floor, and Indiana needs to be ready to match that intensity.

Stat-Filled Goodness

Four Factors
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Offense) 61.6% (11th) 16.9% (78th) 35.1% (104th) 44.0% (102nd)
E. WASHINGTON (Defense) 42.7% (71st) 17.5% (257th) 34.8% (255th) 33.3% (124th)
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Defense) 49.2% (196th) 20.5% (160th) 29.7% (138th) 22.5% (19th)
E. WASHINGTON (Offense) 58.9% (24th) 18.5% (124th) 36.0% (85th) 19.6% (337th)

I was surprised to see that Eastern Washington has such an impressive DeFG% despite being 231st in overall defensive efficiency. Obviously their inability to force turnovers or prevent offensive rebounds is leading to too many opportunities for their opponents to get shots up. Defending a shot well is great, but if you can't collect the rebound it's a job half-done. Indiana has, thus far, held their own when it comes to offensive rebounding (thanks mostly to hopelessly undersized competition) and despite the Eagles DeFG%, I don't envision Indiana struggling to score points tonight.

Preventing them, however, will be a whole other story. It starts, as it always does, with valuing the ball on the offensive end, something Indiana has done very well in the last two games and has lowered their TO% to a respectable 16.9%. Eastern Washington does not turn their opponents over at any amazing rate so the Hoosiers should continue to build on their success in that area.

The Eagles' horrific FT Rate is likely the result of a team that is shooting a lot more jumpers than taking the ball to the rim, which may play into Indiana's hands given their sub-par rim protection through the first few games. Venky Jois has 14 FT attempts on the season and the rest of the team has just 21 combined. For reference, James Blackmon Jr. and Hanner Mosquera-Perea have 44 FT attempts just between the two of them. So it'll be important for Indiana to stay tight on their shooters around the perimeter but avoid bailing them out with fouls on long shot attempts.

Three Things to Watch For:

  • Can Troy Williams evolve into a high-level defender? Much has been made of Troy's length and athleticism ever since he committed to the Hoosiers in high school, and it would give him the physical make-up of a high-level defender, but we haven't seen that early on in his career. I was (somewhat) surprised, towards the end of the Lamar game, that when Indiana needed to string stops together, Troy was not out on the floor and Coach Crean ran with five guards instead. Troy has a lot of basketball left to play in Bloomington and many talented players take some time to perfect their defensive techniques. He has great instincts at the rim and, as I said, the physicality to defend at an All-B1G level, it's all about refining his technique and staying engaged. His length could cause all sorts of problems for a perimeter-oriented Eagles' squad if he can dial up his intensity on the defensive end.
  • More minutes for Emmitt Holt? Holt looked good in his five short minutes on the court against Lamar and could, perhaps, be in line for more time tonight. He provides the Hoosiers with some desperately needed size and rebounding potential, so anything else he can provide would be a bonus. As perimeter-oriented as E. Washington is, though, it may not be surprising to see him played sparingly again unless the Hoosiers manage to turn the game into a blowout. However, it may be worth forcing the issue to get Emmitt more time, as Indiana might need to lean on him against bigger opponents.
  • Wherefore art though, Timothy Priller? Despite becoming a cult hero and inspiring a Brothers' Bar and Grill t-shirt giveaway that was later shut down via a cease-and-desist order from IU Athletics, Vanilla Prilla' hasn't seen the court in either of the past two games. It wasn't odd against SMU given the shortened rotation for a quality opponent, but it was strange to not see him against Lamar. I know that game was tighter than many anticipated, and perhaps that was the reason, but still strange. Does he make his triumphant return this evening? We're all on pins and needles.