Game Info / How to Watch
Who? Indiana Hoosiers (8-2 (2-0), #25 KenPom) vs Butler Bulldogs (7-2 (0-0 Big East), #26 KenPom)
When? Saturday, 12/15//18 3:45 P.M., Bankers Life Fieldhouse
KenPom Projection? Indiana by 1, 72-71
The middle of December brings back everyone’s recently discovered tradition: people squabbling over whether the Crossroads Classic is the best or worst event ever to come to the state of Indiana. While I side with other writers here at CQ, and would rather see the Hoosiers use the date to either play in a more national neutral site event—hi CBS Sports Classic—that usually takes place on the same day or near the Crossroads Classic depending on the year, or to schedule a series against a bigger name opponent (such as Kentucky), the Crossroads Classic is here to stay for the near future. While the event lacks major national storylines, it has produced some fun games in the near decade that it has been around. That’s enough on that, on to the numbers.
|-||eFG%||TO%||Off. Reb %||FT Rate|
|-||eFG%||TO%||Off. Reb %||FT Rate|
|INDIANA (#37 adj. offense)||56.9 (16th)||20.7 (260th)||27.5 (213th)||38.8 (81st)|
|BUTLER (#44 adj. defense)||48.7 (114th)||21.2 (72nd)||27.7 (120th)||38.4 (268th)|
|BUTLER (#22nd adj. offense)||55.4 (33rd)||15.5 (21)||27.8 (199th)||29.9 (264th)|
|INDIANA (#21 adj. defense)||46.2 (56th)||21.4 (66th)||26.6 (93rd)||28.5 (70th)|
Along with poor free throw shooting, turnovers has been by far Indiana’s biggest issue offensively, and that’s no secret. While there was a sign of hope for IU’s ability to take care of the ball in last Saturday’s win against Louisville, a game that had ten Hoosier turnovers, that could be more credited to Louisville ranking 272nd in defensive turnover percentage than the Hoosiers limiting turnovers. IU did, however, do a better job of limiting some of their mental mistakes that have killed them frequently on the offensive end.
Indiana will have to limit turnovers against Butler, as while the Bulldogs aren’t elite at turning opponents over, they are good at it as they are in the top 75 per KenPom. But, Butler is elite at not turning it over themselves, as they are 21st in offensive turnover percentage, and opponents have just a 7.9 steal percentage against the Bulldogs. If Indiana is careless with the basketball, Butler could win the game just because they will have potentially 15 or more possessions than Indiana.
It’s been an up and down season for Butler, who were tasked with trying to replace star Kelan Martin. Hoosier fans remember Martin as the man who dropped 30 on Indiana the last time these two teams met in the Crossroads Classic. But Martin was more than just a one game wonder, as the Louisville native averaged 15 or more points per game in each of his final three seasons with the Bulldogs, including last season when he averaged 21.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. To replace Marin, Butler is relying on a trio of upperclassmen in Paul Jorgensen, Kamar Baldwin and Sean McDermott. Together the three players are scoring a combined 45.9 points per game—roughly 60 percent of Butlers points.
So far, Butler has seen mixed results. While the have a pair of top 60 wins against an okay Ole Miss and a so-far-disappointing Florida squad, they have also dropped a pair games to Atlantic 10 teams in Dayton and (a good) St. Louis team. The number that pops out the most for Butler early in the season has been 65. The Bulldogs are 6-0 when scoring over 65 points this season, but are just 1-2 when they fail to break the 65 point threshold.
Butler should be getting a boost against the Hoosiers due to the eligibility of former top 50 recruit Jordan Tucker. A former Indiana recruit, Tucker committed to Coach K and Duke to join Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter, etc. in Durham. However, after only playing a total of 14 minutes in two appearances, Tucker decided to leave Duke in search of more playing time and found his way to Lavall Jordan and Butler. Tucker is a talented 6-7 forward and can add an extra dimension for the Bulldogs on both sides of the floor and can help take Butler from a slightly above average to a very good basketball team.
Things To Watch
- Jordan Tucker: Sticking with Jordan Tucker, it will be fascinating to see how he meshes with his new Butler teammates. While Tucker has been able to practice with the team, this will be his first game at Butler, and it will be intriguing how he fits in with the rest of the Bulldogs. It will also be interesting to see if Tucker has any rust from not appearing in a competitive basketball game for the first time in close to a year.
- Free throws: Yes, we all know how atrocious Indiana has been from the charity stripe this season. While they don’t hit many free throws, Indiana has done a good job of getting to the line this year, with a respectable top-80 free throw rate despite making just 63.6 percent of their free throws. Meanwhile, Butler is ranked in the 260s in both offensive and defensive free throw rate. If Indiana can just hit a decent percentage of the free throws they get, they can have a major advantage at the charity stripe.
- How Indiana handles success: Last season, Indiana struggled to handle success. Anytime the Hoosiers looked like they had turned the corner they would drop a game or two that they should not have. The biggest example was after the Hoosiers upset Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic then lost to IPFW by double digits in their next game. After IU blasted Marquette this season, Indiana followed that up with four straight poor performances (losses to Arkansas and Duke and uninspiring wins over lowly UC Davis and UT Arlington).
Now after an impressive three game win streak with a trio of wins against quality teams, IU has had to sit back all finals week and listen to how good they’ve been lately. Can Archie Miller’s team handle success and get another big win over Butler?
This seasons Indiana team is much better than last years team (shocking news, I know). While they are young, they will handle their recent success better than they did earlier in the season, and that they will play well at Bankers Life. Also, it’s hard to believe that Jordan Tucker won’t have to go through some form of adjustment period before he starts playing to his full potential.
I’m expecting another close game, and Indiana has been great in close games lately, so I think the Hoosiers will get their fifth KenPom top 50 victory. Indiana: 69, Butler: 64.