Game Info / How to Watch
When? Saturday, 12/8//18 2:30 P.M., Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
Vegas? Indiana -7
KenPom Projection? Indiana by 6, 77-71
Raise your hand if you thought when this three-game series started that neither Tom Crean or Rick Pitino would make it to see the third game of the set?
Or even the second?
Now put your hand down, liar.
Yet here we are, in the third different coaching matchup in the trio of games (hello Archie Miller, Chris Mack and David Padgett) and maybe this time the Hoosiers can get over the hump against Louisville.
IU has not defeated UofL since a 77-62 victory in Feb. 2002, which was also the last matchup to take place in Bloomington. Since then, the Cards have won the last four meetings by a margin of victory of almost 16 point per contest and now lead the all time series over IU 8-6. Pretty much the only interesting game during that stretch was last season’s battle in Louisville, and while that game was close (it’s the only single digit game of the four) it was U-G-L-Y. Perhaps the only fun thing about it was Archie adjusting the mic postgame.
Man this is never going to get old. pic.twitter.com/EhN9Qnbiuw— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) December 10, 2017
Anyways... on to the numbers.
|-||eFG%||TO%||Off. Reb %||FT Rate|
|-||eFG%||TO%||Off. Reb %||FT Rate|
|INDIANA (#36 adj. offense)||57.2 (10th)||21.3 (276th)||29.4 (153rd)||37.6 (109th)|
|LOUISVILLE (#59 adj. defense)||47.3 (88th)||17.4 (256th)||23.2 (23rd)||32.1 (139th)|
|LOUISVILLE (#37 adj. offense)||54.2 (78h)||16.7 (63rd)||26.6 (241st)||55.9 (1st)|
|INDIANA (#21 adj. defense)||46.0 (60th)||22.2 (39th)||27.0 (104th)||29.2 (88th)|
The statistic that pops out immediately is Louisville’s free throw rate. Yes it sounds oversimplified and (frankly) boring, but the Cards are better than everyone in the country at getting to the charity stripe. Not only do they have the NCAA’s top free throw rate, Louisville makes their foul shots when they get to the line, hitting at an impressive 76.5 percent. UofL scores just over 28 percent of their points when they are at the free throw line, which is second only to Iowa. This is a huge cause of concern for Indiana. While the Hoosier defense is in the top 90 in defensive free throw rate, that stat is skewed towards the fact that for some reason opposing teams just haven’t hit free throws against IU, shooting a pathetic 59 percent from the line. Per TeamRankings.com, Indiana fouls on roughly 24 percent of its defensive possessions, which is 78th worst in the NCAA. While it is absolutely no secret that college basketball officiating sucks, and Indiana has had some tough calls go against them (as has every team) it’s unfair and wrong to place all blame on the refs for why IU fouls a lot. With a nine game sample size it is legitimate to place the majority of the issue on Indiana. If Indiana is undisciplined on the defensive end against Louisville, and if the Hoosiers stay true to their own free throw shooting woes, the Cards could win the game simply by doing what they do best: shooting free throws.
Coming into the season, Louisville was preparing for a full rebuild. The thought was pretty much “Let’s survive this season then bring in our really good recruiting class—currently 5th in 247’s rankings—and be good next year.”
The issue was, nobody told this to Chris Mack.
Mack has the Cardinals playing really well sooner than anyone could have expected. It really started over Thanksgiving week in the NIT Season Tipoff, where UofL went punch for punch with a top ten Tennessee team for 35 minutes before losing by nine. They followed that up with an overtime loss to the same Marquette team that IU blasted just a week prior. Louisville controlled that game for much of the contest, but Marquette came back to tie the game late. UofL had a chance to win in regulation, but similar to Indiana’s game at Arkansas, VJ King missed a point blank range tip in as time expired. UofL proceeded to lose in OT.
Since that game though, UofL has built up its resumé. The major piece was an overtime victory over then ninth ranked Michigan State in a game that was played in an extremely similar manner to the Marquette loss just a few days prior. This time, however, Louisville had learned its lesson and closed out the Spartans in overtime for a marquee win. UofL continued the momentum with a tough road win at Seton Hall and a blowout victory over lowly Central Arkansas.
While Louisville has overachieved, it hasn’t been in the way experts thought it would happen preseason. Coming into the year, Louisville was supposed to be led by VJ King, Jordan Nwora and UConn transfer Steven Enoch. While Enoch is a beast when he is on the floor, he is even more prone to foul trouble than IU’s De’Ron Davis is. King has been benched and has largely been a disappointment, and while Nwora is a gifted scorer, he is incredibly streaky, takes a lot of dumb shots and does not play defense (think sophomore Troy Williams). So why has UofL been so successful? They play sound, balanced, team basketball. The three graduate transfers Mack brought in—Christian Cunningham, Kwan Fore and 105 year old Akoy Agau—have all played above expectations and have brought a sense of toughness and experience to the team.
Louisville native Dwayne Sutton, who like myself is a duPont Manual High School graduate, has taken the jump that King was supposed to make. While Sutton does not possess any one great trait, he is a guy that can do anything and everything well. Sutton’s calling card is that he outworks competitors, has a high motor and has a very high basketball IQ. This has led to him breaking into double figures in three of Louisville’s last five games, and is shooting 42 percent from behind the arc. Look for Sutton to draw part of the Romeo Langford assignment for UofL against Indiana. The other big surprise has been Ryan McMahon. The Florida sharp shooter dropped 24 points (4-7 from three) against Michigan State and is no longer a total liability on defense.
Things To Watch
Foul trouble: Juwan Morgan has picked up two fouls in the first half in four of Indiana’s last six games. The Hoosiers are a completely different team when Morgan is on the bench, and against a team that is great at drawing fouls in Louisville, Indiana’s senior leader will have to play disciplined defense.
The pack line defense: While both coaches play a pack line defense, lets focus on Indiana attacking Louisville’s pack line. Indiana’s at their best on offense when they are attacking the basket either via straight line drives from Romeo Langford, Al Durham, Rob Phinisee, etc or when they play through Morgan in the post. The Hoosiers are shooting 58.3 percent from 2 point range—14th in the NCAA—and are scoring over 35 points in the paint per game. While Louisville plays the pack line it has been a big adjustment for UofL, as they are playing a complete opposite defensive style than they did under Rick Pitino/David Padgett. While they have made strides, IU should be able to attack the rim and score.
Romeo Langford: It will be extremely interesting to see how Langford reacts to playing against his de facto home town school. It will be even more interesting (to me at least) to see how Louisville fans react on twitter to seeing Romeo play against Louisville. My bet is that Langford has a big game against the Cards, and while UofL fans are in a great spot with Mack moving forward, they are going to have one last quick “what if” for what possibly could have been for them if the Brian Bowen/FBI scandal doesn’t break and Pitino remained the coach. I for one will enjoy the entertainment on twitter.
Either team could win this game. Louisville’s playing better basketball than the Hoosiers are right now, but Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall is the ultimate trump card. If it was a neutral site game or a road contest I would probably pick Louisville, but I think Langford goes off for 30+ and Indiana wins a tight one. Indiana 74, Louisville 70.