Who? Indiana Hoosiers (6-5, #74 KenPom) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (7-5, #41 KenPom)
When? Tuesday, January 9 at 6:30 PM EST - BTN
Where? Assembly Hall, Bloomington, IN
Vegas? PENN STATE -1.5
Pomeroy? Penn State 73-71, 42% chance of Indiana victory
Sometime, when you’ve got nothing else to do, try running a blog where the sole major focus is on a program in Year One of a coach’s tenure. Doing so would merely just heighten your awareness for something you already feel, or perhaps you already know. It is the zero-take zone, a content-free vacuum existing somewhere just outside the reach of earth’s gravitational field. Floating, waiting, perhaps something space rock appears from out of nowhere to drive web traffic, or one floats near enough as to find some bullshit hook and you can shoehorn something out of it.
Let’s bring that terrible lede into something applicable. There’s nothing worth saying or extrapolating from this Indiana basketball season. Despite our online goofs and gags about Crean and Archie and whatnot, Archie Miller is Indiana’s basketball coach. It’s far too early to judge or fire off takes regarding the future of the program, or where it may go, or mostly what’s occurred.
Year One is about the honeymoon, or the leash. Overachieving can buy you more later. Underachieving burns a rather small, but still non-zero part of that up. Every coach’s lifespan at a job can be best thought of as a candle wick. 20-point losses at home to directional state schools tend to burn through some of that. Losing to Penn State multiple times in your later tenure in the middle of decent seasons burns up much more. (Tom, hello.)
Why do I bring this up, now? Here’s Indiana’s chance to flip the script on 2017-2018, perhaps. Here’s the chance to make everyone quickly forget the season’s rough start, and absolve any latent angst over ugly IPFW & Indiana State. Indiana heads into a two-game winnable homestand — and the chance to pull to 4-2 in the conference before heading to East Lansing on January 19. No one’s going to likely remember those games anyway, but something close to a .500 record in conference play would make for good measure to ensure such.
Breaching double digits in conference wins? Heck, that might even let Indiana fans have the joy of occasionally checking Lunardi’s Bracketology through the cold winter months.
This is the point where Indiana & Archie Miller can make Year One matter. For the love of content, please, god, let it happen.
|-||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)|
Now seven seasons in in Happy Valley, Pat Chambers finally has something resembling a team that might be an NCAA team -- and seems mostly predicated on the defensive side of the basketball. It’s a rangy, man-to-man look that has the Nits in the KenPom’s Top 20 nationally for defense, mostly predicated by Josh Reaves & Jamari Wheeler defensively. But you can either listen to me try to extrapolate bullshit from KenPom stats and feign like I’ve watched Penn State play basketball this season or you could, you know, hear from someone that actually does that sort of thing. Let noted friend of the blog Bill DiFillipo of Uproxx Sports & Roar Lions Roar tell you things about Penn State, which seems to be Not Butt for once!
Mike Watkins is, maybe, the best big man in the Big Ten. He is averaging 19 points and 12.3 rebounds in conference play this year, and has put those numbers up against Iowa, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Northwestern. Tony Carr is a super talented point guard who has been killer from three this year, Lamar Stevens is capable of being a bull in a china shop, Josh Reaves is Good At Everything™ (his KenPom rules), Shep Garner is a marksman from three, and Jamari Wheeler is going to annoy you, he’s great. Oh, also, Penn State has basically no depth to speak of but I don’t care the team isn’t god awful this year it owns.
Hm. Talented big man, Indiana has almost no interior size presence. Hmmmm.
THREE THINGS FOR TONIGHT
Welcome to the Justin Smith era. Congrats, you’re 2016 OG Anunoby now. If Indiana has any dreams of playing their way back into NCAA Tournament contention (sure, sure, laugh if you want), they’re gonna need Justin Smith to continue the form evidenced in the Barn on Saturday afternoon. That’ll be a taller task playing against a team that isn’t as short-handed inside as Minnesota was this past weekend.
Making shots would be great, Rob. Probably lots of them. Any hope for Indiana working their way back into the picture invovles Rob Johnson also playing like he did on Saturday afternoon. Viva The Ghost of Tim Buckley — hope like hell Rojo’s got the shot back. We’re gonna need it.
Don’t turn it over as a live ball. Indiana’s best bet against a talented Penn State team? Limit live-ball turnovers. Penn State’s strong defense ranks 5th in America in steal percentage — and steals most often lead to run-outs, which lead to easy points. Limiting turnovers will be important, but limiting the type might be more important.