Indiana men’s basketball has won an NCAA Tournament game. That probably feels good to say again. Well, that win got the Hoosiers into the first round and a date with the No. 5-seed Saint Mary’s Gaels.
Indiana is a 3-point underdog against Saint Mary’s, per DraftKings.
Here’s three things to know before the matchup:
What that 25-7 record really means
Well, a 25-7 record can really speak for itself. This is a very good basketball team that’s earned a No. 5-seed for a reason.
But there’s some interesting tidbits if you dig a bit deeper into those wins and losses. First and foremost among these is the Gaels’ perfect 16-0 home record. Those sixteen wins include three NCAA Tournament teams. Texas Southern, a No. 16-seed and Yale, a No. 14-seed and a huge outlier in No. 1-overall seed Gonzaga.
That last one is significant. Yes, it was home, but a 10-point win over Gonzaga is nothing to scoff at.
The away and neutral records get a bit more complicated. Saint Mary’s went 6-4 in opponents’ arenas and 3-3 on neutral ground. That neutral record includes two teams that Indiana faced this season: Notre Dame and Wisconsin, both of which are NCAA Tournament teams.
Funny enough, Saint Mary’s saw similar results to Indiana, defeating Notre Dame and falling to Wisconsin. Gonzaga got its revenge over Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference Tournament Championship, an 82-69 win for the Bulldogs.
Indiana’s matchup with Saint Mary’s will come on a neutral floor in Portland, the Hoosiers no longer have the driving distance advantage of Dayton. The crowd makeup will be an interesting one.
Defense, Defense, Defense
So, Indiana’s calling card this season has been its defense. It’s kept the Hoosiers in games late and given them a chance to win, which proved crucial in their Big Ten Tournament run.
Well, Saint Mary’s can boast something similar. The Gaels have the No. 1 scoring defense in the west coast conference, limiting opponents to 60.5 points per game. That’ll get a team to a conference championship (before running into a Bulldog-shaped buzzsaw, of course.)
Indiana’s scoring defense, for comparison’s sake, is No. 2 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers limit opponents to 65.7 points per game.
Coming off of a pretty gross 66-58 game, Hoosier fans are likely in for another low-scoring affair.
Things get tricky when looking at each team’s offense. Indiana fielded the No. 9-ranked scoring offense in the Big Ten with x points per game 71.3 points per game. Meanwhile, Saint Mary’s offense was near the middle of the pack in the 10-team West Coast Conference.
The Gaels’ 69.8 points per game check in at No. 6 in the West Coast Conference. Something is gonna give, and it could come down to individual matchups.
Speaking of which...
The Gaels spread the ball around
Take a look at the top scorers in the West Coast Conference and you’ll have to scroll all the way down to 20 to find one of the Gaels. Neat!
The weird part? Three are present between 20-25 on the list. Four Gaels average over 10 points per game, none average more than 13. Three Hoosiers average at least 10 points per game, with Trayce Jackson-Davis averaging 18.4.
On top of that, Jackson-Davis has scored at least 21 points in the Hoosiers’ previous four matchups.
Much like Indiana, Saint Mary’s has a formidable frontcourt duo. Forwards Matthias Tass and Alex Ducas average 12.6 and 10.2 points per game, respectively. Expect them to work against Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson.
Tass in particular praised Jackson-Davis during media availability ahead of the game, noting his athleticism and saying that he’s looking forward to their matchup.
Two guards, Tommy Kuhse and Logan Johnson, round out Saint Mary’s double-digit scorers. Indiana will need either Miller Kopp, Parker Stewart, or another Hoosier to step up and help Xavier Johnson deal with them.