Who? Indiana Hoosiers (5-5, #83 KenPom) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-2, #18 KenPom)
When? Saturday, December 16 at 2:30 PM EST - FOX
Where? Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
Pomeroy? Notre Dame 75-66, 22% chance of Indiana victory
IT’S CROSSROADS CLASSIC TIME Y’ALL.
Indiana is thoroughly mediocre in this event, going 3-3 since its inception in 2011. Notre Dame owns an identical mark through six games, and is riding a 2-game losing streak after collapsing against the Hoosiers in 2015 (catalyzing an Indiana resurgence that would end in a Big Ten title) and falling to Purdue last season (giving the Boilermakers their first win in the event’s history).
For Indiana, this is their last shot at a marquee non-conference win. The Irish had a tremendous win over Wichita State in the MAUI JIM MAUI INVITATIONAL basically negated by a bizarre loss to Ball State in South Bend. Their other loss, a roadie to Michigan State, isn’t really anything to get too upset about. The Hoosiers have been steadily improving as the year has gone on, but they have zero good wins to show for their efforts and that horrendous loss to Indiana State remains shackled to their résumé without any counterweight.
A win over the Irish doesn’t make that all go away, but it at least gives the Hoosiers SOMETHING to hang their hat on from the non-conference slate. And with a Big Ten that looks increasingly wide open outside the Spartans and Boilermakers, the Hoosiers could certainly use the boost before diving headfirst into conference play.
|-||eFG%||TO%||Off. Reb %||FT Rate|
|-||eFG%||TO%||Off. Reb %||FT Rate|
|INDIANA (#65 adj. offense)||51.5% (145th)||18.6% (158rd)||35.1% (36th)||36.4% (110th)|
|PENN STATE (#16 adj. defense)||46.4% (32nd)||22.2% (35th)||26.6% (85th)||32.5% (155th)|
|PENN STATE (#82 adj. offense)||52.9% (96th)||18.8% (169th)||33.6% (60th)||33.7% (181st)|
|INDIANA (#151 adj. defense)||51.5% (206th)||19.5% (146th)||29.9% (218th)||31.1% (118th)|
As can be expected under Mike Brey, Notre Dame scores points in an extremely efficient manner. As isn’t always to be expected under Mike Brey, they’re solid on the defensive end as well. LET’S DIG IN.
The Irish excel at putting the ball in the bucket and not turning it over, which is an excellent recipe to be a top-10 unit, so even though they’re rather pedestrian in pulling down offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw line, they overcome it by shooting 42.4% from beyond the arc and 54.8% inside of it. Bizarrely enough, they don’t shoot that many threes despite being so good at it, ranking just 247th in 3PA/FGA nationally.
Only Matt Farrell (39% on 59 attempts) and TJ Gibbs (54.5% on 44 attempts) are averaging more than two 3PT attempts per game but against a team that is both miserable at defending shots from the arc (320th d3PT) and preventing the shots from going up in the first place (254th d3PA/FGA) it wouldn’t be surprising to see other members of the Irish try their luck from deep.
Perhaps the Irish are merely average at pulling down offensive rebounds because they have so few opportunities to do so. You can’t get a rebound if the shot goes in, after all.
As has been the usual for Mike Brey over the last 10 seasons, the Irish are in no hurry, ranking 324th in tempo. While the Hoosiers are a tick faster, they also register well below average in terms of possessions and each squad utilizes a tick under 18 seconds of the shot clock on an average offensive possession.
Farrell is the team’s facilitator, racking up a 26.8% assist rate and only turning it over 13.5% of the time. He shoots more threes than twos (not a bad strategy for someone who is 6-1) but mainly focuses on getting the ball to the team’s scorers.
Speaking of which—
The man gets his own subheading for this preview.
KenPom currently pegs Colson as #2 in the National Player of the Year race and he’s putting together a monster senior campaign. The 6-6 tweener forward has been lighting up the box score night-in and night-out for the Irish. The Hoosiers facilitated Colson’s coming out party in the Crossroads Classic two years ago when the then-sophomore piled up 24 points (11-16), 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. Indiana attempted a variety of tactics to slow him down, none of which worked.
Fast forward to the present and Colson is gobbling up 29.1% of the Irish’s possessions and 30.7% of their shots and returning a 54.3% eFG and a turnover rate of 12%. He’s as pure a scorer as you’ll ever see, doing most of his work inside the arc. He’s a career 35.5% 3PT shooter but has only taken 22 attempts this season, hitting 5.
He’s also been a fierce rebounder, ranking 58th nationally in defensive rebound% and also 41st in steal%. He’s a do-it-all forward for the Irish and he’s doing everything rather well. I’m guessing he sees a lot of Juwan Morgan and Collin Hartman on Saturday, and it’ll take a herculean effort from both to keep him in check.
The Irish are reasonably decent on defense, but have a couple of cracks that could be exploited by Indiana. They’re not adept at forcing turnovers (219th nationally) and that has been an area of consistent improvement for the Hoosiers, who are nearing the top-100 in turnover percentage. Furthermore, Notre Dame struggles to rebound the missed shots they’re so adept at causing, which could be great news for the Hoosiers.
It’s no secret Indiana struggles to shoot, but corralling those missed shots could lead to plenty of easy second chances that can turn otherwise empty possessions into two or more points. The Irish don’t have a ton of cracks in their armor, but their glaring inability to create extra chances for themselves and prevent extra chances for their opponents can undo a lot of the other good they do.
They’re fairly decent at defending the arc. Opponents are hitting 32.5% of their shots from out there (100th nationally) but with Indiana shooting just 32.3% this season, that’s not going to greatly disrupt what the Hoosiers attempt to do on offense. Along those same lines, Notre Dame excels at keeping guys away from the charity stripe (6th in Free Throw Rate) and while Indiana is reasonably good at getting there themselves, they’re incomprehensibly terrible at hitting free throws, shooting just 65.5% as a team from the arc, good for 298th.
- Missing: Robert Johnson, if found please return. I’m not sure what’s going on with our dear RoJo but it makes me very sad. His numbers are down across the board, with current career-lows in assist rate, 3P%, steal%, OR%, and eFG%. He’s made exactly ONE three-pointer against teams in Tier A or B on KenPom. Indiana cannot possibly hope to beat the teams you need to beat to get back into the NCAA Tournament without a functioning Robert Johnson. He completely vanished against Louisville, racking up 0 points on 0-6 shooting in 35 minutes. That is staggering for a senior who has started his entire career.
- Depth and Experience: The Irish come in as the more experienced team (roster averages 2.07 years of Division I experience, Indiana just 1.73) but rank near the bottom in bench minutes among all D1 teams. Brey plays a tight rotation and if Indiana can rack up fouls on guys early, it could force him to play more guys for more minutes than he’s comfortable doing.
- Kill the Crossroads Classic: I’m 100% in favor of playing Butler and Notre Dame, but move these games to campus sites and destroy this event immediately. Indiana will be the worst team in this event for two years running but they’re still selling all the tickets. I wrote two years ago about how the event was finally getting the marquee matchups it wanted with all four teams being great in the same year and the turnout was still predominantly cream and crimson. Purdue fans don’t travel for it (can’t blame them, given the Boilermakers performance), Notre Dame basketball fans don’t exist, and Butler fans certainly turn out for it but there’s only 25 of them at any given time. It was a fine idea, it didn’t work out. Indiana needs to swing its weight around and destroy it.