GAME INFO / HOW TO WATCH:
When? Wednesday, December 30th, 1:00 PM, ESPN2
Vegas? INDIANA -12.5
Pomeroy? INDIANA by 12, 87% chance of Indiana victory
For those who read our blog somewhat frequently, you probably recall the veritable flood of Rutgers fans who crashed our comments for the football game preview, in which I had the audacity to look at some statistics and say "well, Rutgers hasn't had a very good season so far." They were ranked 103rd in S&P+ and projected to finish the season with three wins. As you know, Rutgers really showed me, mounting an improbable comeback to beat Indiana on our homecoming and used the victory to galvanize their squad, turn their season around and ...
Finish 104th in S&P+ with a 4-8 record, firing their coach along the way.
Anyway, I'm sure some fans of Rutgers will make their way into our comments, so I'll try to put out the fire ahead of time: in no way is the discussion below meant to act as a prediction of what will happen. Statistics are not results, they are a means of evaluation. You may not like the statistics we use here, which is fine! Rutgers could very well win on Wednesday, just like the football team did! It could happen! Tom Crean works in mysterious ways.
On another note: Rutgers is trash. Indiana paid better opponents to come to Assembly Hall and get their brains beaten in. If the Hoosiers drop this game to KenPom's 250tht-ranked squad (out of 351) it ruins the entire trajectory of the season. This would be the kind of loss that can't get washed off. You think a loss to Wake Forest on a neutral court one hundred time zones away was bad? Buddy, you don't know the half of it.
HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?
|INDIANA (#5 Adj. Offense)||62.5% (2nd)||20.4% (273rd)||40.1% (7th)||37.4% (147th)|
|RUTGERS (#165 Adj. Defense)||48.4% (145th)||17.1% (260th)||31.6% (221st)||33.5% (111th)|
|INDIANA (#126 Adj. Defense)||48.1% (138th)||20.7% (69th (nice))||33.1% (270th)||27.1% (31st)|
|RUTGERS (#300 Adj. Offense)||45.0% (301st)||20.0% (256th)||28.4% (220th)||38.9% (118th)|
(All stats via kenpom.com)
So, yeah, there's not a lot to going well for Rutgers through 12 games. The only non-horrible component of their offense is their ability to get to the free throw line, unfortunately they're only hitting 68.7% (185th) of their free throws. They're worlds better defensively, but that speaks more to how bad they are at scoring than how good they are at preventing scores, as their adjusted defense is 32 spots behind Indiana's much-maligned unit. Their best win of the season is over 256th-ranked Howard and have losses to St. John's (#230) and Creighton (#64), both of which Indiana has defeated this year. Rutgers also lost to Wake Forest, but only by 1 (at home) while Indiana lost to Wake Forest by 4 on a neutral court.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH FOR:
- Indiana's 3PT Offense (4th) vs. Rutgers' 3PT Defense (68th): For all Rutgers isn't, they're not inept perimeter defenders. For a team as reliant on their jumpshooting as Indiana, it's crucial for them to hit their quota from distance. Make no mistake, the Hoosiers have scorched the nets against better perimeter defenses than the Scarlet Knights, but they aren't slouches back there.
- Indiana's TO% (273rd) vs. Rutgers' dTO% (260th): The Hoosiers can't hang onto the ball and Rutgers has had issues with forcing their opponents into mistakes. One of these is going to have to give on Saturday. Indiana's inability to stay out of their own way with unforced errors is one of the many themes in the early season. Long stretches of poor handling have allowed lesser teams to close gaps and simply taking care of the basketball can go a long way in helping the Hoosiers out in all phases.
- Indiana's dOR% (270th) vs. Rutgers' OR% (220th): The Scarlet Knights struggle on the offensive glass and the Hoosiers' most glaring hole in their defense is their inability to prevent their opponents from pulling down offensive boards and generating extra possessions. Much like with turnovers, one of these is going to have to give on Wednesday. Both teams are practically even, size-wise (142nd and 143rd in effective height), so it's not as if Indiana will be at a huge disadvantage physically. It'll come down to effort and technique, which have been lacking through the season's first 13 games.
- Indiana's OR% (7th) vs. Rutgers' dOR% (260th): On the other end, Indiana has been prolific at pulling down offensive boards, which Rutgers has been dismal at preventing. If the Hoosiers can continue to dominate the offensive glass and cash in subsequent extra possessions, this could turn ugly early for the home team.
- Indiana's dSteal% (53rd) vs. Rutgers' oSteal% (326th): After being thoroughly unable to force mistakes last year, the Hoosiers have gotten a lot better at stealing the ball this season. Rutgers, meanwhile, is getting the ball stolen from them at a ridiculous rate. I would expect a lot of aggressive gambles to steal the ball, and there are likely to be plenty of rewards in doing so.
Rutgers is not very good, but unlike other cupcake opponents, this game is (1) on the road and (2) counting towards the conference standings. With Indiana's three best wins currently being Notre Dame, Creighton, and Morehead State, the Hoosiers can ill-afford to drop any conference games as ridiculously winnable as this one. Aside from the win over the Irish in "neutral" Banker's Life Fieldhouse, the Hoosiers have only managed one win away from Assembly Hall, a ten-point victory over #230 St. John's out in Maui that they seemed to mostly sleepwalk through.
They don't need their best effort to dispatch of Rutgers, but a 1 PM (side note: what the hell?) tipoff the day before New Year's Eve in what will likely be a very empty arena is the perfect setting for a trap game. If the Hoosiers somehow drop this contest, they're about as screwed as they possibly can be headed into 2016.
So don't do that.