GAME INFO / HOW TO WATCH
WHO: Indiana Hoosiers (5-4, #84 KenPom) at Louisville Cardinals (5-2, #26 KenPom)
WHEN: Saturday, December 9 at 2:00 EST on ESPN
WHERE: KFC Yum! Center
POMEROY: Louisville 80-69, 84% chance of victory
The Hoosiers got to dip their toes into B1G play last week with two quick games against Michigan and Iowa—an earlier-than-usual start to the conference season that will allow Jim Delany and the B1G powers that be to cash in on- ehem... take the Big Ten tournament to Madison Square Garden in March.
After all, nothing says, “We honor and respect the tradition of the Big Ten” like up and tossing the conference’s postseason somewhere neither close nor relevant to any of the Big Ten’s original (or basketball-relevant) programs. Look out for the 2023 Big Ten Championship football game, which will be held in London’s Wembley Stadium for a gross profit of $1 billion.
But remember: there’s no money to pay players.
AND SPEAKING OF PAYING PLAYERS!
The Hoosiers will hit the road this weekend to take on the Louisville Cardinals, who enter the 2017/2018 season in the midst of an FBI investigation involving NBA agents, $100,000 wire transfers, an “investment advisor,” and Adidas (after all, #ImpossibleIsNothing).
Rick Pitino has been fired (though in a fairly on-brand move, he’s suing the school for wrongful termination), two assistant coaches have been put on paid leave, and yet—despite all of this—new head coach David Padgett has a team that looks… pretty dang good.
|-||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)|
The FBI’s investigation may have taken away Louisville’s head coach, but they haven’t taken the size, speed, and skill that makes Louisville one of the country’s best scariest teams to face in 2018.
Louisville’s length on the defensive end has given teams fits all season, especially in the interior. Teams are only making 39..4% of their shots inside the arc, and 7-foot senior Anas Mahmoud’s more than 4 blocks per game (a 16.2% block rate) are a huge reason why. Don’t worry about Mahmoud’s workload, though, the rest of the team is contributing to the cause for a 20.6% block rate as a team—good for 6th nationally.
The 31.4% they’re giving up from three-point range is impressive (77th in the country)—and even more impressive is the fact that if you watch highlights from their games you’ll notice that about 8-10% of those threes are just absurd circus shots teams are making from behind the arc. Louisville gets out quick to contest shots, and even in their two losses on the year (which were tight defeats to formidable opponents Purdue and Seton Hall), they allowed just 21.7% and 28.6% from three-point range, respectively.
Offensively, Louisville depends a great deal on their defense to give them quick baskets in the fastbreak, where they will just kill you with strong side shooters who camp out in the corner and bomb threes—going on the kind of runs that never let you count them out of a ballgame. With an average possession length of just 14.2 seconds this season and a tempo two possessions above the national average—they’re most comfortable when the pace is moving quickly.
This approach has given them an incredibly balanced attack offensively, with no player taking up more than 25% of the possessions on the floor for the Cardinals, and four major contributors have PERs over 20 (15 being the national average). They’ve gotten great contributions from freshmen like Jordan Nwora and Darius Perry, while upperclassmen like Mahmoud and Raymond Spalding have given Louisville the best production of their careers thus far.
Still, everything Louisville does centers on Deng Adel this season, who’s averaging 16 points, nearly 5 rebounds, and 3 assists for a staggering 109 points produced offensively. More on him in a minute…
This team plays fast, physical, and efficiently—so let’s give you some things to keep an eye on.
1. Who on earth guards Deng Adel? As an annual NBA League Pass subscriber, I can’t tell you how excited I am for Deng Adel to get drafted by like the Clippers, Nets, or (please, oh, please) the Pelicans—a lone beacon of two-way hope for a franchise destined for a 10th place finish... coming off the bench for a glorious 12/9/5 every night. As an Indiana fan, though, I’m duct-taping two Mikey’s 40s to my palms and hoping that the match-up answer for Adel is somewhere at the bottom of my solo game of Edward 40-hands. Adel is 6-7 with a wingspan that goes forever, has excellent handles, is firing a true shooting percentage of nearly 60%, and, while he doesn’t shoot great from behind the arc, he hits long range shots at a decent enough clip to make you respect him from out there. Indiana doesn’t have anyone that can match-up physically with what Adel will present them with, and even if they’re able to stop him he’s got an assist rate of 17.2%. And with Mahmoud and Spalding playing well, along with the Cardinals other 6-7 forward, Nwora, having an absolutely sensational freshman season (23.2 PER, 68% true shooting, 50% 3pt)… the Hoosiers defense will have to move (and move quickly) to keep Adel from breaking them down and getting into the lane.
2. Can Indiana control the pace? Plain and simple: Indiana’s best chance for success in Louisville tomorrow is to slow down Cardinals’ tempo, and play the game at a speed the Hoosiers are comfortable with. Miller’s offense has operated best this season when the team is making smart, easy passes—using the entire shot clock to get open looks for spot up shooters, or working the ball down low to Juwan Morgan or De’Ron Davis for points in the post. Either way, Archie Miller’s team can afford to lose some battles on the defensive end so long as they are patient on offense... and don’t panic if Louisville gets on a bit of a run. The Boilermakers found success against the Cardinals by limiting their mistakes (see below), taking their time, and never letting the game turn into a foot race. It would behoove the Hoosiers to do the same.
3. Will Indiana be able to take care of the ball on the road? This is really what everything feels like it will come down to tomorrow. No, Louisville isn’t forcing turnovers at an absurd clip (20.2% turnover rate defensively), and yes, Indiana’s gotten their turnover rate down to a surprisingly efficient 17.2%. But much of their progression in this department has come in the friendly confines of Assembly Hall—in their two road match-ups this season, the Hoosiers have a combined 29 turnovers for a 36.25% turnover rate that is… worrisome. If they revert back to their old ways on the road, Louisville will have a field day and won’t give the Hoosiers any shot to stay in this one. Still, tomorrow is another chance for Indiana to show growth in this department, in a game in which that very growth may prove to be the difference.
You can probably tell by my general vibe here that I don’t feel good about this game. Louisville’s length, pace, and ability to turn their defense into offense just feels like the perfect foil to everything Archie Miller is trying to instill in this squad. Louisville will get up into the Indiana backcourt, slash into passing lanes, and will deny the ball down low to Davis and Morgan—where Indiana has gone to stop opposing runs and establish some offensive consistency.
Miller may try to simplify things for the Hoosiers with some off-ball screens that flash guards out from the post to open up clear passing routes from the top of the key, to the wing, then down low for 1-1 match-ups in the post. With this type of gameplan, Indiana may be able to keep things close if they’re patient and trust the sure pass—but, in the end, I think Louisville will play their opportunistic game to perfection… and this one will end with a comfortable win for the Cardinals. Indiana 58, Louisville 75