Game Info / How to Watch:
Who? Indiana Hoosiers (12-6 (2-3), #26 KenPom) vs. Penn State (11-7 (3-2), #82 KenPom)
When? Wednesday, January 18th, 7:00 PM, BTN
Where? Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, Pennsylvania
Vegas? INDIANA -3.5
Pomeroy? Indiana by 4, 65% chance of Indiana victory
Indiana's storied 2012-13 team opened their conference campaign at Penn State and won by 23 points, which remains an aberration for Tom Crean and the Hoosiers recently. The year before that, they won by only 6; the year after by 3 and then famously "blew their chance at a conference title" when they lost to the Nittany Lions by 5. Perhaps the stark emptiness of the Bryce Jordan Center just messes with the Hoosiers, but outside the machine-like squad that spent a ton of the year ranked #1, Indiana has struggled there more often than not.
And this might be Pat Chambers' best squad yet. They're 82nd in KenPom, on a slow ascent after cratering at 123rd following an 8-point loss to Pittsburgh but are coming off a great stretch with back-to-back wins over Michigan State and Minnesota fueled largely by their defense, which comes in at 31st nationally and no one has been playing better defense in the Big Ten for the balance of the young conference season.
Scoring the ball remains a different story, however, as Penn State enjoys a comically large difference between their defensive and offensive efficiencies, like a better version of Indiana's last opponent, Rutgers. The Hoosiers eventually got into cruise control against the Scarlet Knights in the friendly confines of Assembly Hall, but they'll have to be sharper on offense if they want to get points on the board, because we've seen what even the worst of offenses are capable of when tasked with scoring on Indiana.
HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?
|INDIANA (#11 Adj. Offense)||57.5 (7th)||21.1 (297th)||39.8 (5th)||38.6 (101st)|
|PENN STATE (#31 Adj. Defense)||46.1 (38th)
||28.4 (123rd)||29.3 (60th)
|INDIANA (#85 Adj. Defense)||45.8 (30th)||16.4 (307th)||27.5 (88th)||31.8 (115th)|
|PENN STATE (#194 Adj. Offense)||47.3 (280th)||18.6 (147th)||27.8 (224th)||33.2 (230th)
I don't really want to get into the conversation because I know what the most frequent conclusion will be, but it's certainly frustrating to see teams like Rutgers and Penn State back-to-back being capable of playing far better defense than Indiana despite rosters with far less talent than the Hoosiers. If Indiana could play defense like Penn State, they'd have an efficiency margin of 24.3 points per 100 possessions and be 10th in the country. Perhaps it would behoove the Hoosiers to take some notes when the Nittany Lions are on defense and apply them going forward.
Penn State is lead by freshman forward Lamar Stevens, who uses more possessions and takes more shots than anyone else on the roster. Unfortunately, his eFG% of 46.3 leaves something to be desired but his decent assist rate and excellent free throw rate (including 85.0% from the charity stripe) buoy his offensive rating, and he's one of only three Nittany Lions to be above-average in that regard. Indiana, on the other hand, only has two guys with below-average offensive ratings and you'll probably never guess who they are (HINT: they're both on scholarship).
The visitors are a young team overall, ranking 335th (out of 351) in experience and they'll frequently deploy lineups with three freshmen and a sophomore to go along with Shep Garner. The junior was carrying the mantle of "that really good Penn State guard" previously held by the likes of DJ Newbill, Tim Frazier, and Talor Battle. Garner has yet to really light up the Hoosiers and he's currently in the middle of what would be the worst year of his career offensively. His shooting percentage is up, but still rather inefficient (49.2% eFG) while his assist and turnover rates are heading in the wrong directions. Worse yet: all of these numbers get worse in conference play.
Garner has been ceding possessions and the point guard role to freshman Tony Carr (who, along with Stevens, was an IU target) but Carr hasn't exactly been making the most of them. His offensive rating is lower than Garner's, with the higher assist rate being offset by a turnover rate of 21.0% and a far worse shooting percentage (40.3% eFG). He's a tremendous rebounder for his size, however, and has been a machine at getting to the line in conference play, where he's hitting 81.2% of his freebies.
But it's not the offense that has kept PSU competitive in the early conference season, it has been the defense. Their defensive profile is devoid of any real holes (except their "free throw defense", which is abysmal). They're average at the perimeter but do an excellent job of preventing attempts from distance. They'll make Indiana work for everything, and they'll do so with the confidence of a team that was victorious in this fixture just last year.
STUFF TO WATCH FOR
- Stop Getting Wrecked at the Rim: The Nittany Lions excellent shot blockers (30th), which doesn't bode well for an Indiana squad that is getting stuffed at the rim more than most Power 5 teams (286th overall). The most bizarre thing about the stat is: despite all the rejections, Indiana remains 7th in the country at hitting 2PT shots, if they weren't getting blocked 11.1% of the time, who knows where they'd be. It comes down to being stronger and more confident with the ball in that final move toward the basket, particularly for Thomas Bryant and the guys slashing to the basket (OG and JBJ excluded).
- Ignore the (lack of) Noise: I swear, something about the emptiness of the Bryce Jordan Center lulls the Hoosiers to sleep and then they find themselves in a dogfight. I don't know what kind of crowds Penn State pulls for orangeball these days but this is a much improved team from last year's squad that sprung the upset (and that was a far better Indiana team to boot), but the Hoosiers should be ready for a quiet affair, and be prepared to feed off each other. A slow start similar to the Rutger game could prove fatal against a defense this good, Indiana must come out ready to play.
- Get healthy, Juwan Morgan: Coach Crean didn't sound all that optimistic about Juwan Morgan when asked about him, and it would appear the sophomore forward is going to miss some time with a foot injury he suffered last time out. This could shape up to be a brutal loss for an Indiana team desperately trying to find their groove in conference play, as Morgan has been most of the most consistent (and underused) players on both ends of the floor. He's 10th in offensive rating and gives you flexibility on defense with his versatility. Simply put: the Hoosiers probably can't achieve much, long-term, without him.