Game Info/How to Watch
Who? Indiana Hoosiers (2-2, #91 KenPom) vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves (2-2, #212 KenPom)
When? Wednesday, November 22, 7:00pm EST, BTN
Where? Assembly Hall, Bloomington, IN
Vegas? INDIANA -12.5
Pomeroy? Indiana by 11, 84% chance of victory
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Hank is our newest writer. Everyone say “HI HANK” in the comments so he doesn’t feel like a failure. We must nurture Hank. Hank needs us. Don’t be a dick about this.)
In many ways, the 2017 iteration of these Indiana Hoosiers is a bit like Thanksgiving itself—it’s messy, it’s a little worse than you were expecting it to be, and it’s given that uncle you hate free rein to share his very poor opinions. But at 2-2, the Hoosiers have shown a bit of life over their past few games; hanging with an excellent Seton Hall team through the first half last week, then taking care of business with a fantastic second half on both ends of the floor Sunday against South Florida.
Next up, they’ll try to put it all together, as they host the Arkansas State Red Wolves for Indiana’s third match-up in the Hoosier Tip-Off Classic.
Arkansas State sits at 2-2 on the year, following a decisive win against Howard on Monday night. They enter the 2017-2018 season boasting their third coach in three years, after 2016 skipper Grant McCasland led the Red Wolves to a 20-win season in his first season… then promptly jetted for greener pastures in North Texas last March.
Personally, I find that if you’re gonna sidestep from one low-major program to another, best to get it all done in a single calendar year. #respect
Arkansas State then went out and hired longtime Rick Pitino assistant Mike Balado, who was able to get out of Louisville just before the program came under fire following the much-discussed FBI investigation over the offseason. It’s the coaching equivalent of walking slowing away from an explosion, putting on some dope sunglasses, then looking directly at the camera and whispering, “Go Red Wolves” before CBS renews you for 10 more seasons.
Once again: #respect
Hey! Look! I found some factors!
|-||eFG%||TO%||Off. Reb %||FT Rate|
|-||eFG%||TO%||Off. Reb %||FT Rate|
|INDIANA (#98 adj. offense)||51.2% (152nd)||18.3% (136th)||32.3% (86th)||36.6% (102nd)|
|PURDUE (#10 adj. defense)||44.5% (10th)||19.2% (150th)||28.2% (137th)||22.7% (4th)|
|PURDUE (#3 adj. offense)||59.8% (4th)||16.7% (47th)||29.9% (145th)||35.0% (142nd)|
|INDIANA (#110 adj. defense)||51.2% (197th)||20.1% (105th)||29.3% (196th)||31.8% (138th)|
Though on paper they’re one of the country’s more experienced teams (sophomore Connor Kern and freshman Jake Scroggins are the only underclassmen getting significant minutes for Arkansas State), the Red Wolves return just three major contributors from last season: forward Tamas Bruce, point guard Rashad Lindsey, and jack-of-all-trades Deven Simms.
That lack of cohesion has led to one of the country’s worst turnover rates, with Lindsey turning the ball over at nearly a 24% clip—not what you’d love to see out of your starting point guard (though Indiana’s hasn’t exactly been a bed of crisp-passing roses, either, so… glass houses, gang).
Their offense has gotten a spark from guard Ty Cockfield, a transfer from Stetson who’s been averaging just over 18 points per game on a 64% eFG and a 65% true shooting percentage. Cockfield just went for a career-high 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting against Howard, including 3 makes from beyond the arc. He’s sitting at 50% from 3-pt range on 8-16 shooting, and while the Red Wolves get only 25.3% of their points from 3, they’re coming off a season-high 10 makes on 23 attempts from distance against Howard. Balado will no doubt give this squad the green light against the Hoosiers—whose struggles defending the perimeter have been well-documented.
Meanwhile, considering they’re one of the country’s shortest teams (only one player on the roster is taller than 6-8), they’re rebounding on both ends of the floor at a remarkable clip. Simms, who is all of 6-4, is somehow logging a 16.4% total rebounding percentage—including a team-leading 25.8% defensive rebounding rate—so, as crazy as it is to say, the Hoosiers better get a body on the 6-4 guy charging towards the rim.
Arkansas State has played at a tempo slightly above the national average in 2017, but against a young Hoosiers squad, I would expect them to turn that pressure up significantly—especially on the offensive end. Look for them to crash boards on their own misses to take advantage of Indiana’s +30% offensive rebounding rate allowed, and to work an aggressive, shoot-first, in-and-out game to exploit an Indiana defense that’s struggled in closeout recovery from outside.
Stuff to watch for:
1. Can De’Ron Davis stay on the floor? Both Arkansas State’s Tamas Bruce and Indiana’s De’Ron Davis have struggled mightily this season when it comes to staying on the floor, committing 8.1 fouls/40 minutes and 5.8 fouls/40 minutes, respectively. And while they’ve also both been great at drawing fouls (8.2 and 5.9 fouls drawn), Bruce is converting his free throws at a much higher clip than Davis (70% vs. 38.9%), so the Hoosiers’ big man can’t be satisfied with just trading blows with Bruce down low. Plus, look for the Red Wolves to go small down low and get the ball to Simms, who’s getting 32% of the PF minutes for Arkansas State. He’s drawing nearly 7 fouls per game while giving up only 2.5, so if they force the switch from Davis, Simms could have a field day—and Davis could be out of this one with foul trouble.
2. Can the Hoosiers take care of the ball? We’ve talked already about Arkansas State’s propensity for turning the ball over, but they’re also not particularly adept at forcing turnovers, either. Still, Cockfield and Lindsey are a combined -6.3 in defensive plus/minus, and their 10.3% steals rate on defense shouldn’t be overlooked. While Indiana moved the ball well against South Florida, too often the Hoosiers have panicked and made poor decisions when passing lanes are closed this season. Rojo, Newkirk, and this Indiana backcourt have to play smart—else they give the Red Wolves a chance to stay in the ballgame.
3. Converting from the free throw line. As a team, Arkansas State is one of the worst in the country in terms of free throw rate allowed defensively, having already allowed 103 free throw attempts as a team this season (298th in the nation). But at just over 62% from the charity stripe, Indiana is one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the country, so even if they’re able to get to the line, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to convert. It’ll be interesting to see if, with more opportunities, they’re able to find a rhythm from the free throw line against the Red Wolves. Robert Johnson, in particular, should be able to attack this defense and draw fouls at a high clip from the wing, but he must improve a free-throw percentage that’s down to 54.5% from 75.5% in 2016.
Indiana has yet to put together a definitive, start-to-finish effort this season, and tomorrow night will be a great opportunity to do just that. Arkansas State is a scrappy team with plenty of weapons that will challenge the Hoosiers on both ends of the floor—but they’re also a team without the size, speed, and skillset to beat Indiana on the road.
Still, one could have said the same thing about Indiana State, Howard, and a South Florida team that kept things plenty close through the first 20 minutes, so Indiana should feel pressured to get out and put Arkansas State away early.
On paper, this is one that the Hoosiers should dominate from beginning to end… but as has been the story with Indiana this season, it comes down to which team shows up tomorrow night. Good activity on defense—and composure on offense—should make this an easy Hoosiers victory. Try to do too much, though, or panic if things don’t go way their way early… and these young Hoosiers could find themselves in a dogfight with the Red Wolves.