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Game Preview: UNC Greensboro Spartans

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Indiana looks to move on from Monday's bad loss as the CUPCAKE PARADE returns to Assembly Hall, with a late start-time so the team can still get out to the stores and take advantage of sweet deals on stuff, or something.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

GAME INFO:

Who? UNC Greensboro Spartans (1-4, #302 KenPom) at Indiana Hoosiers (4-1, #52 KenPom)

When? 9:00 PM, Big Ten Network

Vegas? INDIANA -23

Pomeroy? INDIANA by 20, 96% chance of victory

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The Sum of All Fears

I'm sure this will spark a wholly-unimportant debate as to what teams are and are not cupcakes, but I maintain there is some grey area between the cupcakes (like UNC Greensboro) and the quality teams, where teams that aren't cupcakes but still would be absolutely inexcusable losses (Eastern Washington) live. Before my words get twisted, I'll repeat: Indiana's loss to Eastern Washington was completely inexcusable and represents the sum of all fears we possessed about this team going into the season. Basically being that any team with a semi-competent big man and enough dedication to taking the ball to the rim could eat this team alive, and not even the wealth of talent in the backcourt could keep guys from slashing to the basket.

Eastern Washington is a fringe top-100 team on KenPom and will likely ransack the Big Sky conference all season long. I didn't consider them a cupcake before the game and I certainly don't now.. They're a nice little squad that everyone talks about around tournament time as the least desirable of the double-digit seeds to have to face out of the gate. It's perfectly acceptable to give them credit and still categorize Monday night's loss as an embarrassment. It's a black eye on Indiana's résumé that will stick with them for the duration of the season and could, potentially, keep them out of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. Anyone on the bubble at the end of their conference tournament is left to sweat out their flaws, and with a non-conference SoS that is falling to pieces for Indiana, a loss like this is going to hurt like hell.

But enough about it. Everything that can be said about it has been said. We're moving on.

You can't make the loss go away, but you can soften its blow by winning games. #analysis Now, it's fair to question their ability to win a lot of games given what we saw on Monday night, but if you're gonna lose in embarrassing fashion, you might as well do it early and give yourself some time to recover. That starts tonight with what is, no doubt, a tasty little cupcake in #302 UNC Greensboro.

The Spartans offer some decent size for a small school, with only one starter under 6'5" and a couple 6'9" guys on the bench. Their height hasn't translated to a lot of success, and it sure would be nice if the Hoosiers could come out and keep that trend going. This team hasn't come close to defeating a D1 opponent, and they haven't even played one ranked higher than #141. After Monday night's debacle, it'd be nice to see a no-nonsense blowout, honestly.

Stat-Filled Goodness

Four Factors
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Offense) 60.0% (9th) 17.1% (66th) 34.8% (104th) 45.0% (75th)
UNC GREENSBORO(Defense) 56.8% (314th) 21.6% (108th) 30.1% (140th) 41.8% (236th)
eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Defense) 50.7% (237th) 20.1% (167th) 32.1% (195th) 26.8% (40th)
UNC GREENSBORO (Offense) 49.6% (122nd) 23.0% (281st) 32.9% (137th) 34.3% (213th)

Obviously still no complaints with Indiana's offense, which ranks 19th in overall efficiency, fueled largely by their bananas eFG% and an ever-improving TO%. Both marks were bad-to-horrendous last season, and it's great to see them improve so drastically early-on this year. Unfortunately, what they've repaired on offense has been lost on defense, now ranked 117th in the country and, ironically enough, fueled largely by their inability to defend shots. Teams are shooting an eFG% of over 50% against the Hoosiers this year, including an inexcusable 53.2% (288th) on twos (they're a much better 93rd defending the three).

Their lack of success in defending inside the perimeter and a horrible lack of blocked shots (254th in the country) point to deficiencies at protecting the rim, which we all figured would be an issue this year. I don't think it's an issue that can be completely fixed this year due to the lack of depth in the frontcourt, but I think it could be somewhat improved if Hanner Mosquera-Perea would just play more aggressively. We spent all offseason wondering if he could play without getting into foul trouble, and it seems he focused on being able to do that to a fault. He's far too passive at the rim and needs to remember there's no bonus for finishing the game with zero fouls. You can do it four times without being disqualified and, at this point, I'd rather him leave the game due to being overzealous in his defense of the post than pulled for long stretches due to passive ineffectiveness.

Three Things to Watch For:

  • Can Indiana force UNC Greensboro to shoot poorly? UNC Greensboro doesn't do anything very well, but they do shoot it somewhat decently. Let's see if the Hoosiers can show some decent defensive technique and force the Spartans to lay some bricks, maybe even get a block or seven. This team has the athleticism and size among their starters to play reasonably decent defense. It comes down to effort and engagement.
  • Will Troy Williams return to the starting lineup? Troy has looked pretty good since his return from suspension and it would seem his place in the starting lineup would be restored sometime soon. His only knock since his return has been his poor defense, but is it really fair to keep him out when the entire team (save Yogi Ferrell) isn't doing well on that end of the floor? It's all somewhat of a formality, as Williams didn't start against Eastern Washington but still played more minutes than anyone aside from Yogi and James Blackmon.
  • Can the Hoosiers rebound on both ends? Anyone who watched Butler-UNC on Wednesday saw a similarly-sized Bulldogs squad pull down gobs of rebounds despite being much smaller than the Tar Heels. Height is helpful but it isn't the only determining factor in who gets rebounds and who does not. If a team as adorably tiny as Butler can rebound effectively like that, there's no reason the similarly-sized Hoosiers can't.