GAME INFO / HOW TO WATCH:
When? 7:00 PM, BTN
Pomeroy? INDIANA by 13, 86% chance of Indiana victory
Creighton is an offensively-oriented squad, and good for them, because their slacking defense forces the Bluejays to put up high point totals to offset the shortcomings on the other end of the floor.
Indiana's offensive / defensive efficiency split on KenPom is 1st / 77th, the Creighton Bluejays enjoy an incredibly similar split of 50th / 125th, just a little further down the leaderboard. In many ways, Greg McDermott's squad is a slower (93rd in pace), bigger (23rd in effective height), less efficient version of the Hoosiers, but the aims are similar: score a bunch of points, because we're probably going to need as many as we can get. For those who think college basketball has a scoring problem, Thursday night will likely be a therapy session.
Not only do Indiana and Creighton share an affinity for offense, but they also distribute their points in similar ways. Indiana gets 39.5% of their points from 3PT shots, 49.5% from 2PT shots, and 11.1% from their free throws. Creighton distributes at 38.3%, 49.0%, and 12.8%, respectively. They both possess the ability to fill it up from distance (and hoist from that range a ton), while both have had a difficult time locking down the perimeter early on this year. Credit the matchmakers for the Gavitt Tipoff Games, they've paired up a match made in offensive heaven.
HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?
|INDIANA (#1 Adj. Offense)||69.8% (4th)||24.3% (288th)||49.1% (3rd)||28.9% (279th)|
|CREIGHTON (#125 Adj. Defense)||55.0% (262nd)||24.5% (31st)||23.2% (58th)||44.5% (202nd)|
|INDIANA (#77 Adj. Defense)||46.8% (132nd)||25.6% (17th)||20.6% (34th)||30.0% (61st)|
|CREIGHTON (#50 Adj. Offense)||62.9% (14tg)||14.2% (57th)||29.4% (171st)||26.5% (297th)
Indiana's defense has been the target of much hand-wringing early in the season, and it's a fair criticism given how bad the team was in this regard last season but it should be pointed out that the early season raw numbers are looking much improved over last year. Granted, these raw factors are not adjusted for their opponents and even the overall ranking of 77th (which is opponent-adjusted), while a massive improvement over last season, would still be the worst defense to cut down the nets at the end of the year since Pomeroy began tracking data in 2002 and it wouldn't be particularly close.
But if they really want to show strides, Creighton profiles as the perfect early-season test for a coming out party. The Blue Jays' offense isn't quite elite but it'll be among the best the Hoosiers face all year. Isaiah Zierden, the 6-3 junior, is the centerpiece, gobbling up 24.6% of his team's possessions and taking 30.1% of the available shots and doing it all with an offensive rating of 160.8. He's hitting 44.4% from deep and enjoying an assist rate of 27.5%, while not committing a single turnover through two games. Zierden was Creighton's Nick Zeisloft last year, taking 111 three-pointers (and hitting nearly 40% of them) but not doing much else. His role has expanded in his junior season and he looks more than capable of leading the charge for the Bluejays.
While Zierden stands to keep the backcourt's hands full, Creighton's frontcourt presents a unique challenge for Indiana's bigs to defend. Both Cole Huff (6-8) and Toby Hegner (6-10) have good size for the position but also possess the ability to step out beyond the arc and knock down shots. Huff hit 40% of his deep attempts two seasons ago at Nevada before transferring, while the sophomore Hegner knocked down 36% of his 125 3PA in his freshman campaign for Creighton. Whether it's Hartman / Bielfeldt / Bryant or even Troy Williams, Indiana's forwards will have to defend all the way out to the arc against any of Creighton's bigs that aren't Geoffrey Groselle, the fifth-year senior has yet to hoist a three-pointer in his career at Creighton.
STUFF TO WATCH FOR
- Troy Williams, turnover machine? I've seen a lot of people anoint Troy as Indiana's Patron Saint of Turnovers, and while his aggressive style will certainly lead to his fair share of mistakes, it's worth pointing out that Troy Williams is 2nd among the regulars in TO% through two games this season (trailing only Nick Zeisloft, who has yet to commit a turnover or dribble the basketball) at 14.3%. Yes, it's early, but that's a 5% improvement from the previous season, which was also a 5% improvement over his freshman campaign. Early on in the year, turnovers seem to be the only thing that can really undo this offense, but Robert Johnson (35.2%), James Blackmon Jr. (28.1%), and Max Bielfeldt (22.9%) have been far more responsible for the team's turnovers woes through two games.
- Oh, yeah, and free throws. You know how it goes in the early season, you assume anything positive about your team is clearly an indicator of the season to come and anything negative is the product of a small sample size and will be cleaned up later. And it stands to reason that Indiana's struggles at the stripe will get better as the sample gets bigger (they shot 71.9% as a team last year compared to 60.0% so far this season) because they've returned nearly everyone, and have only shot 35 free throws so far this season. The larger issue, for me, is the team's inability to get to the line consistently, which was a huge issue the previous season. With the athleticism Indiana possesses in the backcourt and on the wings, in addition to yet another renewed emphasis on "freedom of movement," you'd like to see this team at the stripe a lot more.
- Return of the three guard lineup? Creighton starts three guards, so it wouldn't be surprising to see Tom Crean counter with last season's most popular starting backcourt lineup of Yogi, Jimmy Buckets, and RoJo. To date, Robert Johnson has embraced his role coming off the bench but if Coach Crean likes his matchups with Johnson back in a starting role, he won't hesitate to insert him.