Game Info / How to Watch:
Who? Indiana Hoosiers (15-9 (5-6), #41 KenPom) vs. #16 Purdue Boilermakers (19-5 (8-3), #12 KenPom)
When? Thursday, Feburary 9th, 7:00 PM, ESPN2
Where? Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Indiana
Vegas? PURDUE -3.5
Pomeroy? Purdue by 3, 39% chance of Indiana victory
Purdue is coming to town have won five of their last six while Indiana has been reeling since their home win over MSU, losing three of four. However, all three of Indiana's losses came on the road, and while Assembly Hall hasn't been the bastion it has been in recent years, there's no denying Indiana is a better team in that building.
Indiana has one of the stranger résumés in the country, and they have a chance to make it even weirder for their evaluators on Thursday if they pull off another win over a ranked team. Purdue may be #16 in the country but they've hovered around KenPom's top ten for most of the year. A victory would give Indiana three of the best wins in the country, and they'd pair it with two of the worst losses (and seven other not-as-notable losses).
The question is, of course: are the Hoosiers even capable of such achievements anymore? Their big wins came with a healthy OG Anunoby, James Blackmon Jr. and Juwan Morgan, all of whom will either miss this game entirely or be playing through their recovery. Morgan has been back for a few games now, but still doesn't look like himself, and Jimmy Buckets is expected back any game now.
Adjusted for personnel, it will will take Indiana's finest performance of the season. Let's dig in.
HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?
|INDIANA (#18 Adj. Offense)||56.6 (12th)||21.3 (313th)||38.0 (10th)||36.6 (142nd)|
|PURDUE (#22 Adj. Defense)||46.0 (30th)
||23.5 (6th)||23.1 (3rd)
|INDIANA (#129 Adj. Defense)||47.3 (53rd)||16.1 (313th)||28.3 (119th)||35.3 (172nd)|
|PURDUE (#12 Adj. Offense)||56.8 (10th)||18.7 (169th)||32.1 (89th)||34.4 (209th)
Purdue is, largely, the same team that took the court last year, and they were really good last year! The differences this season boil down to three things: their interior defense is worse (not a surprise after the loss of AJ Hammons), their three-point shooting is drastically better, and they're playing faster than they ever have under Matt Painter. The latter two have more than made up for the defensive backslide, and the Boilermakers are currently enjoying their best efficiency margin (difference between their offensive/defensive points per 100 possessions) in Matt Painter's time at the helm. It's setting up to be a true masterpiece of a first round exit for the Boilers.
The improvements come largely from great shot selection by great shooters. Four of Purdue's five starters are well-above 40% from beyond the arc but only one of them averages more than 4 attempts per game, and that would be Dakota Mathias, who is hitting 49.5% and should arguably be shooting a lot more even though he's leading the team in attempts.
In second is Carsen Edwards who, at 33.7% and holder of an offensive rating of 96.5, might want to be a bit more judicious. Or the freshman (and his coach) may want to consider ceding some possessions to PJ Thompson, who is 6th in the nation in offensive rating, hits 42.7% of his threes, and pretty much never turns it over, yet only Spike Albrecht uses less possessions and takes less shots than Thompson when on the floor. Purdue's point guard has been bizarrely underused this season, but he's almost always in position to hit a massive three-pointer. Also his shooting motion drives me nuts, I don't know why.
Then, of course, there's Biggie.
The National Player of the Year candidate and stone-cold lock to win Big Ten Player of the Year pretty much does it all. He's hitting 55.8% from two, 50.0% from three, and 79.6% from the line. He is the nation's best rebounder and draws tons of fouls. His role within Purdue's lethal offense presents a huge cover issue for the Hoosiers, because if the likes of Juwan Morgan, Thomas Bryant, or De'Ron Davis can't hold up one-on-one, then comes our consistently awful double-teams and Swanigan's ability to pass out of the post (17.1% assist rate) means he'll find an open shooter. Then, Indiana's inability to close out on the recovery means an open three is going up and, in all likelihood, going in.
It's not an ideal situation.
That said, the man can be had! He still struggles with turnovers, and if you get him to put the ball on the deck down low for long enough, he'll cough it up his fair share of times. The same goes for Isaac Haas, who, despite being 7'2", still struggles to really assert his physicality both on the boards and on offense. He is the offense's focal point, however, when he is in the game, gobbling up 32.4% of the team's possessions when he comes off the bench. His turnover rate of 25.1% in B1G play would lead last year's Hoosiers and slot in just behind Devonte Green and Freddie McSwain this year.
Of course, Indiana is 313th in dTO%, so pinning success on turning an opponent over is one of the most aspirational things we've done here, and we once earnestly campaigned College GameDay to come to Bloomington.
STUFF TO WATCH FOR
- Stop Vince Edwards, Save the World? Edwards is probably Purdue's most underrated player and does a host of things really well. More assists than turnovers, good shooting percentages across the board, including an eFG of 53.8% for the season. However, in the Boilermakers' losses this year, that number plummets to 34.8%. As a silky-smooth 6'8" wing, checking him is easier said than done, but it could play a huge role in Indiana's upset bid. A month ago, we'd throw OG Anunoby out there and not worry as much about it, but now the task likely falls to a committee of guys. Just the thought of having to hold up defensively against both Edwards and Swanigan while Dakotha Mathias / PJ Thompson / Ryan Cline hunt three pointers is, despite what our fight song says, rather daunting.
- James Blackmon Jr. back? If there was ever a game for Indiana's dynamic scoring machine to make a legendary return, a home date against Purdue would be it. We know that Blackmon has the ability to win games on his jumpshot alone, and combine that with some semblance of the defensive discipline the Hoosiers exhibited up in Madison over the weekend, and we could be onto something. For once, the Boilermakers will come into Bloomington wanting to speed the Hoosiers up, and Indiana is much more suited to get up and down the court with Blackmon in the fold.
- Can Josh Newkirk keep this up? The junior point is on a scoring roll the past couple of games, particularly from behind the arc where he's hit 8 of his last 14 after hitting just 14 treys all season. Whether he's finally turning the corner after major surgery and a year away from the game, or it's just a fluke, remains to be seen. But the Pitt transfer did hit 43.4% as a freshman and the closer he gets to being the guy he was in his first year, the better off Indiana will be. Still needs to cut down on the turnovers (along with Literally Everyone On The Dang Team) but the current run of shooting form is nice to see.
- Is Assembly Hall ready to roll? I voice this concern from time to time, given the front-running tendency of a non-zero portion of Indiana's fanbase. With the season likely to fall far short of expectations, is the crowd ready to rise up and make it hell for the visitors? Purdue has struggled on the road this season, squeaking through one-point wins over #35 Maryland and #60 Ohio State while losing to #96 Nebraska and #69 (nice) Iowa. Any upset bid is going to need the full throat of Indiana's fans behind it, something that hasn't happened since UNC came to town in what feels like a couple of lifetimes ago.
- Can Thomas Bryant continue to assert himself? Indiana's sophomore big man has been playing really well since JBJ went out. He's shooting a white-hot 74.4% eFG in his last four games and is getting far more active and engaged on defense. His post defense will be critical against the Boilermakers, and he can really help unlock Indiana's shooters if he can get buckets over Swanigan and Haas.