GAME INFO / HOW TO WATCH:
When? Saturday, December 19th, 2:00 PM, ESPN
Pomeroy? NOTRE DAME by 1, 49% chance of Indiana victory
Indiana has reached the date that has been circled on the calendar since the Duke loss. Saturday's game represents the Hoosiers' very last chance to secure a non-conference win worth anything to the Selection Committee. While Notre Dame has had their share of early-season struggles, KenPom still likes them to finish with 20+ wins and be a factor among the second-tier teams in the ACC (the ones that aren't Virginia and Duke). Furthermore, with all the state's eyes converging on the capital, you can't understate the intangible benefits of getting a win in this showcase. A loss on Saturday would drop Indiana to 2-3 in the event, which is hardly a good look when your competition are the biggest programs inside a state brimming with high-level prep talent.
So how do you fight the Irish?
HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?
|INDIANA (#4 Adj. Offense)||62.6% (2nd)||20.7% (284th)||39.1% (19th)||35.7% (180th)|
|NOTRE DAME (#126 Adj. Defense)||49.1% (178th)||14.4% (336th)||24.2% (25th)||20.0% (2nd)|
|INDIANA (#107 Adj. Defense)||47.1% (108th)||21.1% (60th)||32.5% (245th)||29.6% (54th)|
|NOTRE DAME (#2 Adj. Offense)||56.7% (20th)||14.5% (12th)||34.0% (78th)||33.2% (245th)|
When you look over the table, your first impression is probably something along the lines of "wow these teams are pretty similar." Both teams possess top-5 offenses and pair them with defenses outside the top-100, a recipe for an early tournament exit in most cases. Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey is no stranger to navigating a season like this, as he possesses two of the 11 teams to do this in the last ten seasons. He's also experienced nearly the entire gamut of what a team like that can accomplish, taking undefeated Kentucky down to the wire in the Elite Eight last year, and missing the tournament altogether in 2006.
This year's Notre Dame has had a wide range of results on the young season, beating #13 Iowa on a neutral court, but bookending that with losses to #80 Monmouth and #82 Alabama in the same event. Other than that, they've beaten the same caliber of cupcakes the Hoosiers have.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH FOR:
- Offensive Rebounding: Indiana has become a very good offensive rebounding unit, but a lot of Notre Dame's success is built on preventing opponents from doing just that. The Irish start a couple of fierce rebounders in 6'10" Zach Auguste (26.9% DR%) and 6'5" Bonzie Colson (23.9%), who won't make it easy on Indiana to continue their success. Granted, the Hoosiers' ability to attack the offensive glass isn't predicated on one or two guys, they truly earn it as a team, with everyone outside of Robert Johnson and Nick Zeisloft over 6.3% in the offensive rebounding department. On the other side, Notre Dame has done a very good job on the offensive glass and Indiana has shown little ability to prevent that from happening again through 11 games. Austin Torres has been the Irish's best offensive rebounder on a rate-basis, pulling them down at a 16.8% clip.
- Indiana's Perimeter Offense (7th 3P%) vs. Notre Dame's Perimeter Defense (313th d3P%): This is a matchup ripe for exploitation by an Indiana offense that has absolutely cooked from behind the arc for two straight seasons. The Irish have put up next to no resistance from distance and for an Indiana team that frequently hunts (and finds) that shot, it could quickly snowball out of control if the shots fall.
- Indiana's Turnovers (284th TO%) vs. Notre Dame's Lack of (336th dTO%): Indiana has had issues hanging onto the ball, and Notre Dame has struggled to force their opponents to cough it up. One of these is going to have to give on Saturday, and, unfortunately, due to Indiana's penchant for unforced errors, it might not take much from the Fighting Irish to have their best day in that department so far.
- Indiana's Out-Of-Control-Ferrari (35th Adj. Poss. Length) vs. Notre Dame's Giant-Tractor-On-A-State-Highway (339th Adj. Poss. Length): Both teams are among the best at scoring, but they do it in very different ways. Notre Dame is going to take their time and run the shot clock down as they wait for a breakdown whereas Indiana has already dunked twice and turned it over since I started typing this sentence. Whether Indiana can speed the Irish up, or Notre Dame slow the Hoosiers down, will likely have a massive impact on who wins the game.
- Demetrius Jackson (Indiana Kid) vs. Indiana (Oh God): Indiana Kid vs. Indiana is always a delight to watch, as one of the hyper-talented kids from the state finds a better fit at a different school and then takes the court against the Hoosiers and tries to wreck the souls of everyone in his way. Granted, a lot of these kids wreck just about everyone they face, because they're really good, but they seem to save some truly incredible performances for the school named for their home state. Demetrius Jackson does it all, and is putting together his second straight stellar campaign. He has an eFG% of 62.4% (42.9% 3P%), an assist rate of 27.3% compared to a turnover rate of 13.1%. He plays more minutes for Notre Dame than anyone else and uses more possessions than anyone outside of Zach Auguste.
- Zach Auguste (Senior Player of the Year Candidate) vs. Thomas Bryant (Freshman): Auguste comes in at 10th on KenPom's Player of the Year standings, and it's a well-deserved honor. He's a top-75 player in terms of offensive and defensive rebounding, while being nationally ranked in blocks and free throw rate. He excels at drawing fouls, but is a shaky free throw shooter (55.8%). Thomas Bryant will have his hands full, and if there was ever a game for Bryant to recapture his early season form, now would be the time
GUY I DIDN'T MENTION THAT IS PROBABLY GONNA GO OFF:
Steve Vasturia. The 6'5" junior hits 44.4% of his treys and stands to benefit from an Indiana defense that will be focused on stopping Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste. So when Vasturia drops 30, don't be stunned.
Given that the game is taking place in Indiana's premier pro basketball facility, it's only fitting that Indiana and Notre Dame will likely put up point totals that more closely resemble an NBA game than a college one. Those who have bemoaned Indiana's defensive ineptitude (which has actually significantly improved through 11 games, though still not remotely good enough) are unlikely to be happy with what happens on the court on Saturday. Notre Dame and Indiana are two of the best scoring units in the country, and they're capable of putting up gobs of points against any defense, especially ones as ... uh ... leaky as theirs.
Assuming Indiana can keep the amount of possessions relatively high, it should make for a highly entertaining brand of basketball. Not only are both teams well-oiled machines, but neither team fouls very much nor draws a lot of fouls. Assuming the officials don't try to insert themselves into the flow of the game, we could be seeing poetry in motion. Sure, some people (probably Purdue fans) will be grumbling about the lack of defense, but if a 60-50 rock fight is your idea of entertainment, you've got the Boilermakers and Bulldogs playing afterward. You know what is infinitely more fun than solid defensive rotations? Dunks. Get out of here.