GAME INFO / HOW TO WATCH:
When? Saturday, January 16th, 12:30 PM, BTN
Vegas? Indiana -10, over/under 152
Pomeroy? INDIANA by 10, 83% chance of Indiana victory
Indiana fans have good reason to be optimistic right now. The Hoosiers have won their first four B1G games this season, and they are one of only two undefeated teams left in conference play. In addition, they're in the midst of a nine-game win streak, and haven't lost since the dreadful Duke game a month and a half ago. Tom Crean's squad is also learning to adapt without its second-leading scorer in James Blackmon, Jr., who's likely done for the year with a knee injury. And most importantly, Indiana has done what seemed to be unthinkable in Maui and in Durham, which is play solid defense. In fact, Indiana remarkably leads the B1G in defensive efficiency in conference games so far, giving up only 93 points per every 100 possessions. The Hoosiers have moved up to 69th nationally in defensive efficiency, which is #nice, but still leaves room for improvement. However, this is a welcome change from the team that was ranked 214th by KenPom in defense at the end of last season.
That being said, the four conference opponents thus far have not exactly been worldbeaters. Rutger played IU competitively for 40 minutes despite being now ranked 278th on KenPom. Nebraska lost their best player from the previous season and lost to Samford at home during non-con play. Wisconsin is not the same team without Bo Ryan and Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, and Indiana narrowly escaped the Badgers in Bloomington. Finally, while the Hoosiers dismantled a hot Ohio State team at home, the Buckeyes had looked suspect all year before beating Kentucky, and as our counterpart blog in West Lafayette reminded us, the OSU offense has not been great this season. As a result, the Hoosiers have yet to face one of the conference's elite teams.
They won't on Saturday, either.
HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?
|INDIANA (#17 Adj. Offense)||61.3% (2nd)||21.3% (315th)||39.4% (10th)||36.3% (175th)|
|MINNESOTA (#262 Adj. Defense)||51.0% (235th)||18.2% (190th)||32.4% (267th)||33.3% (105th)|
|INDIANA (#69 Adj. Defense)||48.0% (113th)||20.8% (54th)||31.0% (206th)||28.0% (32nd)|
|MINNESOTA (#157 Adj. Offense)||47.2% (264th)||16.1% (47th)||27.2% (267th)||41.3% (77th)
Growing pains for young Pitino in year 3
While Indiana has won its last 9 games, Minnesota comes into Saturday's game having lost 9 of its last 10. The only win for the Gophers since November has been against Chicago State, who is ranked so low that I'm surprised the Hoosiers didn't schedule a nonconference game with them this year. Minnesota's last game was an 84-59 shellacking in Lincoln against Nebraska, and before that, they lost 77-52 to Northwestern. That's two straight 25-point losses for the Gophers. For the rest of the season the Gophers are only projected to win two games. Both are against Rutger.
Thus, it's been a trying season for Richard Pitino, who is in his third year in Minneapolis. When Pitino took the reins, he won an NIT title in his first year, but the team has been on the downhill ever since. Last season, the Gophers lost 5 of their last 6 regular season games, including a contest at Assembly Hall where IU set a new school record for number of threes made in a single game. Now? They're 6-11 on the year, ranked 197th in KenPom, and with an adjusted defense of 106.6 points per 100 possessions, they lack the defensive tenacity of Richard's father's team at Louisville, who held Pitt to 41 points last night. One thing that this team does well, unlike like Hoosiers, is its ability to control the ball, as its turnover percentage ranks 47th in D-1.
Considering the team's struggles on defense, including being ranked 284th nationally on three-point defense, the Hoosiers would be right to smell blood in the water on Saturday. However, this game is on the road, and in a notorious venue.
The Barn still worries me
On February 26, 2013, #1 Indiana came into Minneapolis for a weeknight tilt against the Gophers. Earlier in the season, I'd gone to Assembly Hall to watch the Hoosiers win over Minnesota (a game in which we almost choked away a 23-point haltfime lead), but I didn't think too much about the return trip. Sure enough, the Hoosiers lost 77-73 to the Gophers, beginning a season-ending sputter in which IU went 5-4 over their last nine games and of course ended with the painful loss to Syracuse. But this just shows how Williams Arena, more commonly known as The Barn, can be a tough venue for any team to play in. This is an arena that any basketball fan from the Hoosier State can appreciate - built in 1928, it has the look of an old field house and is built so that the sound amplifies around the building. In addition, the benches are actually below the elevated playing surface, which could make communication harder between Crean and his players/assistants.
Given IU's struggles on the road over the past couple seasons, a venue like The Barn, where the Hoosiers haven't won since 2012, makes for a scary road environment, especially if the place is rocking (though the likelihood of that is not great considering the 11:30am local start time). With the Gophers barely scraping above the top 200 in the country, this is not a game that the Hoosiers can take lightly, and a loss to Minnesota would be a noticeable blemish on a resume that doesn't have a lot of great wins at the moment.