What to Expect: Notre Dame

  • 12/13/2013 11:13 am in

Indiana returns to Indianapolis for its third appearance in the Crossroads Classic on Saturday afternoon as the Hoosiers take on Notre Dame. The Hoosiers beat the Fighting Irish, 69-58, in the first Crossroads Classic back in 2011.

The game will be broadcast at 3:15 p.m. ET on ESPN and on the IU radio network:

The 2013 version of the Crossroads Classic has considerably less sizzle than the previous two years.

The first year, 2011, featured an unbeaten Indiana team that had just knocked off No. 1 Kentucky and had surged into the national rankings for the first time under Tom Crean. Last season, the Hoosiers came in ranked No. 1 for a meeting with Butler. This year, the Hoosiers arrive at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with an 8-2 record, but no win that really stands out to this point.

The reality of the event is that it’s highly dependent on Indiana to be considered a success. Each of the other three schools bring considerably fewer fans and national attention. A strong contingent of national media was present for last year’s event with the Hoosiers ranked No. 1 and that’s unlikely to be the case this year. Tomorrow’s second game, Butler vs. Purdue, wasn’t picked up by ESPN or CBS and will be on the Big Ten Network.

Indiana is locked in to the event through 2016, but the merits of participation beyond that are certainly debatable when you consider that the event gets much more out of Indiana than Indiana gets out of the event. For now, the Crossroads Classic rolls on and the Hoosiers meet Notre Dame on Saturday with a chance to get a top 100 Pomeroy win for the first time this season.


The Fighting Irish enter Bankers Life Fieldhouse just 7-3 with losses at home to Indiana State and North Dakota State and a road loss to Iowa in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. It’s been a disappointing start for a team with a strong returning nucleus that was ranked in the top 22 of both preseason polls.

The preparation for Notre Dame has a strong focus on the backcourt as Mike Brey is now starting four guards — seniors Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins, junior Pat Connaughton and freshman Demetrius Jackson.

Grant, Atkins and Connaughton are each averaging more than 33.4 minutes per game and scoring in double figures. Grant is the team’s leading scorer at 18.1 points per game and sports an effective field goal percentage of 60.1. He’s shooting slightly above 40 percent on 3s and 59.7 percent on 2s. He also has the team’s best assist rate (31.9) and steal percentage (3.5).

Atkins, a point guard, is a less efficient scorer, but has an assist-to-turnover ratio of more than 4-to-1 and can knock down the 3-pointer when left alone (37.8 percent). Connaughton takes more than half of his field goal attempts from behind the 3-point line and knocks down a healthy percentage (44.6). He’s also the team’s second leading rebounder at 7.1 per game.

And Jackson, a McDonald’s All-American and major recruiting win for Mike Brey, is beginning to come on as he gains comfort and confidence from teammates. It’s a limited sample size, but the 6-foot-1 point guard has the team’s best effective field goal percentage at 65.6.

Notre Dame’s frontcourt is thin as senior Garrick Sherman is the primary contributor with senior Tom Knight and sophomore Austin Burget backing him up. Sherman is solid on the glass on both ends and makes 53.4 percent of his 2s. Sherman has been able to avoid foul trouble for the most part, which will be a key factor on Saturday as the Hoosiers have made a living offensively by getting to the line. Knight and Burgett combine for roughly 30 minutes per game and collectively bring about eight points and six rebounds to the table off the bench.



In his comments to the media on Thursday addressing the recent loss to North Dakota State and also looking ahead to Indiana, Brey talked at length about his offense needing to get back on track. A look at the numbers suggests it’s the defense that isn’t holding up as the Fighting Irish are well outside the top 100 in Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency.

Notre Dame has defended the 3-point line poorly as opponents are shooting 38.6 percent from distance. That may not be a major issue given Indiana’s deficiencies in that area.

Where Notre Dame does excel defensively is on the glass as opponents are grabbing just 25.6 percent of their misses against the Irish. Notre Dame also avoids foul trouble as opponents have posted a free throw rate of 27.7 percent this season, which ranks ninth nationally. With Indiana’s proficiency in offensive rebounding as well as getting to the line, both factors loom large on Saturday.

For Indiana, turnovers are once again going to be pivotal as Notre Dame rarely turns it over themselves and “live ball” turnovers could quickly turn into scores on the other end. Defending the 3-point line is also critical as the Irish shoot over 40 percent from distance.


With Nicholls State and Kennesaw State the only two games remaining before Big Ten play, this figures to be Indiana’s last test in the next two-plus weeks and it also represents an opportunity to pick up a win that would be its best on the resume to-date.

The Pomeroy projection favors Indiana, 76-72, with a 63 percent chance of a win for the Hoosiers. Iowa, one of Notre Dame’s three losses, was able to grab offensive rebounds at a solid rate and also get to the line effectively, which is exactly what Indiana will need to do in order to emerge victorious.

Atkins and Jackson are both undersized guards, which means Indiana shouldn’t be hurt much defensively if it chooses to play Yogi Ferrell and Evan Gordon together frequently. The Grant-Will Sheehey battle should be interesting to watch as the IU senior is coming off an effort where he basically erased the effectiveness of Oakland’s Travis Bader. And inside, Noah Vonleh holds a decided advantage over Sherman from a talent perspective, but the Hoosiers cannot afford any cheap fouls that would send their star freshman to the bench.

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  • N71

    I’ve attended 2 ND games this season in South Bend and I’d be disappointed if we didn’t handle the Irish with ease. Their interior game is particularly bad but Burgett as a sophomore shows promise. Their guards are ok but Jackson, if they played him more, is a great one in the making. I could see him getting frustrated and transferring after this year, he seems like a stallion in a stable of mares. Coach Bray has finally ditched the half turtle neck looking like Mr. GQ which is surely good for a couple points in ND’s favor…Indiana 84, ND 71.

  • Alford Bailey

    Yea I say feed NV early and often. They cant handle him down low. Get back on D and dont let them get hot from 3. IU by 6-8.

  • CreamandCrimson

    I watched Notre Dame lose a shootout to Iowa and I’m very interested to see two things:
    1. How do we handle Notre Dame’s four-guard lineup?
    2. How does Notre Dame handle our (should be) big advantage on the interior (both post scoring and rebounds) with Noah Vonleh and hopefully, a post playing Jeremy Hollowell.

    Can we make them ditch their four-guard lineup to match our size and length or will they make us go smaller? They’ve rebounded well defensively, we’ve rebounded at an elite level…who wins that battle? They haven’t fouled much, we are getting to the line as well as anyone, who wins that battle?

    This is a major measuring stick for this team and I think IU gets it done by a score of something like 76-69. It’s a big chance to add what should be a top 50 RPI win on a neutral court to our resume. Go Hoosiers.

  • Alford Bailey

    Got tickets for Nicholls St. and Kennesaw St. for the whole family cheap through IU. Gonna make a long weekend of it. Just wondering how home attendance has been so far without any marquee games so far? Seemed to be plenty of tickets still available for these two games.
    I had a pUKe fan send me a story off one of their top sites. Seems attendance at Rupp is on a steady decline and the atmosphere has become very blah. The writer claims ticket prices, a lack of quality home opponents and fans inability to relate with new players every year as reasons for the decline. Cracks beginning to appear in the foundation down there.

  • sarge

    Stop the dribble drive, get back in transition and don’t allow ND to get open looks from distance. If we can do this then it negates the advantage of the small ball lineup. Indiana wins 83-70

  • sarge

    Unless they recruit a dominant player (IE Anthony Davis) every year, Kentucky will always have individuals struggling in a team game. Calipari was lucky to win a title at Kentucky, even with all the talent, I just don’t see it happening again.

  • kbb247

    I think that this is a fairly important game. By no means a must win, but it would be nice to have a quality win heading into conference play. Good teams win the games they are supposed to win, win the majority of the 50/50 games, and steal a couple of games you aren’t supposed to win. So far we have won all the games we were supposed to have won, and nearly won a game many didn’t think we would win. I think this is a 50/50 game, so a win here would be nice. Win tonight, and IMO the pre-conference part of the schedule would be considered a success for this young team.

  • Dagwoods

    I don’t think it was Anthony Davis as much as having some good returnees that year that made Kentucky good. They have a dominant player this year, but seem to play selfishly. I crack up at the notion that Calipari is even eyeing a 40 – 0 season at ANY time. LOL.

  • Oldfan

    Agree 100%. I like seeing players coming back as soph, junior, and seniors. A lot of these one and done players don’t seem like they’re really part of the university.

  • Kyl470

    It’s hard to call any game in December a must win game, but this is it for IU. So far they have no quality wins on the resume and this is the last chance to get one before the Big 10 season. (Let’s not kid ourselves, no selection committee is going to be impressed by IU beating mid majors at home no matter how strong a season they have in the Horizon League or whatever league they play in) Washington also looks like they will struggle to have success in the Pac 12.

  • Alford Bailey

    Agreed. Even at IU guys like Eric Gordon and Jared Jeffries are not thought of in the same light as 3-4 year players who were really good at the same time IMO.

  • VAHoosier

    Yes. Noah needs a lot of touches and at least 12-15 shots.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    I totally agree…we were ranked 26 in the AP poll, won 2 games and dropped to like 30. I know teams above/below have affects but we still should have stayed right there. This is a must win for us to continue to rise in the polls before B1G. We will be just fine if we are ranked prior to B1G season but if we continue to lose and drop, we will find ourselves having a harder time getting back into the top 25 where we COULD be. I think we are starting to gel as a team and continue to figure out each person’s role.
    That said, If we can protect our home court and steal some road games than I think we’ll see post-season play.
    And after watching Wis last night…they do impress me but there was no D being played by Milw. I think our D will kill them as long as they don’t have a 3 pt night like last night.

  • Miamihoosier

    Kentucky is going to be VERY dangerous in 2015. Marcus Lee, Derrek Willis, and Dominique Hawkins will be there as Juniors, Booker and Ullis will be back as Sophomores, and then whoever he gets at the top of the 2015 class…If even one of the top guys from next year were to return, it would be his best team since getting there. Some might say Marcus Lee will leave early, but he’s not getting good minutes this year, I think he is a 3 year guy. Of course this is all IF Cal is still there in 2015, and IF he hasn’t been caught yet by then, and IF Kentucky isn’t operating under the death penalty.

  • Miamihoosier

    Can’t wait for this game. The guys need this one for confidence. I’d like to see Jeremy and Troy in particular have good games. Those two have been more up and down than anyone this season. If they both play well at the same time, IU will be awfully tough to beat. Also, can Evan Gordon go for the Tri-Fecta, and have another strong offensive showing? You can see the pieces to make a good team….maybe very good. Saturday will show a lot.

  • Eric Sir

    We need to focus more on feeding the ball down low to Vonleh and less on running a “weave” uptop to get the offense moving. Either feed Vonleh near the free throw line or on one of the blocks, it opens up so much with baseline cutters, weak side cutters, and spot up shooters. Also can get ND into foul trouble that way. I feel like we have so many wasted possessions when Vonleh comes out to set a “slip screen” and then cuts to the basket. Crean LOVES that play, but I can’t really remember a time when it has worked with Zeller or Vonleh. Everyone knows its coming, so either change it up or have Vonleh actually set the screen for once and run some type of pick and roll or pick and pop etc. Crean explained this play on ESPN a few weeks ago, it wasn’t good then, last year, or now – but we continue to run it 5+ times a game.. Vonlehs defender doesn’t even follow him out to set the screan…ever.
    Thoughts anyone?

  • Eric Sir

    Also, Vonleh could absolutely DOMINATE the game if we gave him the ball more. Has great moves/instincts around the basket, and can pass out of the post well. He needs 12-15 shots a game, not 5-8.

  • Andrew

    Thank you Alex…your last paragraph in the intro section nails it. I’ve been saying this from the start. In the cutthroat world of college basketball, we are lending a tremendous hand to our 3 biggest in-state rivals, especially Butler. Why??? We gain absolutely nothing from this, and it isn’t half as cool as the Big Four Classic was. Can you imagine Kentucky doing this, or Kansas (K-State, Wichita…uh, who else?), or Carolina, etc? Please big-time the other 3 teams and not sign anymore contracts. Act like a blue-blood, which you still are in following and the eyes of TV. It’s scary we signed yet another extension and have at least 3 more of these after this year (which means 2 more chances for Butler to beat us, which is what they live for). I hope Freddie is smart enough to not take this thing past 2016, which is already far too long, but he is the same guy dumb enough to schedule Navy and Mizzou in football, so I won’t hold my breath.

  • Ron K

    “Old Spice Classic” at Disney would be a great replacement for the “Crossroads”. Very good competition and a great recruiting tool, like Maui.

  • LL Cool Jurkin

    I wonder how much the NBA lockout that year kept at least one of those guys from leaving early.

  • PDXHoosier

    I personally like playing the Indiana teams, although I see the advantages of not renewing the contract. This really is an off year in which none of the teams are ranked. As long as we add a high profile non conference game to replace Kensucky we should be good (Kansas or Louisville???)

  • dwdkc

    You’d almost think a home and home series with their rivals from the neighboring state would spice up UK’s program. Oh wait…..

  • PDXHoosier

    the weave is so painful to watch

  • SCHoosier

    I guess nobody is concerned that ND has been playing a lot of zone defense. Everybody tremble in unison now!

  • Gregory Spera


  • Alford Bailey

    Brey is a good coach. You know he is gonna play zone.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I’m calling it now: If the Hoosiers win this game they will be an Elite 8 team! If they lose, I’ll start to worry they’ll miss the tournament altogether!

    This Hoosier team has the talent and depth to be a special young team, but there is absolutely NOTHING on their preseason schedule to boost their confidence heading into the B1G season or impress a tournament selection committee.

    I can see a win in tomorrow’s game starting a stretch where IU wins a few in a row and with home games against Wiscy and MSU early in the B1G season, they could open up 4-1 or even 5-0! A loss to Notre Dame could lead to a lack of confidence against major conference opponents and a 2-3 or worse start in the B1G.

    I know this is sort of crazy, but I think this Notre Dame game is a key to this season. I didn’t expect a young team to beat UConn on a neutral floor or ‘Cuse in the Carrier Dome, but I do think IU should win this game with their talent. I said before the season I would be happy with 11-2 in the preconference schedule and I’m sticking to that. I still think if IU can pull that off then they stand a very good chance of finishing the conference schedule at 11-7 or 12-6 and I think that would get them a 4 seed.

    Young teams feed off of confidence and I think this game is the “confidence” game heading into the B1G season. They know they have the talent to wail on an Oakland or Evansville, but do they know they can beat another team expected to make the tournament?

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I’m really, REALLY glad to see the game against Louisville on the schedule for next year and then Maui for 2015! That’s the way it needs to be every year. It doesn’t have to be the toughest schedule in the country, but respectable at least!

  • Cilus

    The Hoosiers have something to prove now, on national tv. They could have beaten UConn. Should have beaten UConn. They just got plain “whupped” at Syracuse. Don’t think they didn’t learn from that. I agree–big win for IU.

  • TomJameson

    My opinion, but I am absolutely positive the lockout affected the draft in general, and Kentucky specifically. I think that is why they had a good returning core (like Dagwood said), which led to their championship run. Like a domino effect.

  • TomJameson

    You know, strange as it sounds, but IMO that’s the kicker that’ll keep Noah around another year. Factors: 1 – His young age and physically development for one more year under Jackson. 2 – The strong draft he would be going up against. 3 – The (IMO) very real shot at a championship next year. 4 – Some very real marquee matchups pre-season (Louisville, Maui). Combine that with the hope that Noah wants to go out on a really good season and I think that’s a lot of reason for him to stay another year.

  • Andrew

    Maui is the season after next. November 2015. Besides, no player has ever/would ever come back b/c of 3 games early in the season.

  • TomJameson

    I think Jeremy and Troy have started to steady a little. My biggest fear is that they will both revert because of the importance of this game. IMO they really need this win, for all the reasons already stated in these comments. They, and Will, just have to not try to do it all themselves. Although I think Will will be the defensive presence we need and let the offense come to him. Just like the his old self. 🙂

  • TomJameson

    You’re right about Maui, my bad. But the promise of some showcase games AS ONE FACTOR like I stated above, can throw some weight toward a decision. Alone no, combined with other things, yes.

  • b_side

    Jeffries was a Soph and led our team to one of the greatest upets/comebacks in the history of the NCAA tourney over Duke (and on to the Nat’l Championship game). I certainly put him in the same light as Fife, Cov, etc.

    My only piece of constructive criticism is that he doesn’t come back to Btown a la Gordon and DJ White.

  • b_side

    Ha well they can play zone with 4 guards all they want. Brey uses it to compensate for his team’s lack of height. Troy and Noah will own the offensive glass.

    UConn played some zone; sure it slowed us down, but didn’t turn us over like Cuse.

  • Hoosier Hall

    Agreed. I always think back on guys like Coverdale, Fife, Hulls, Watford, Guyton, etc. That is how any team wins championships. Mix a little young talent in with seasoned veteran leadership. We will get there if we keep recruiting solid guys and developing them. I don’t fault Gordon or any of those guys for leaving early with their talent level. I definitely appreciate the time they were at IU but they aren’t revered the way 3/4 year guys are.

  • Eastwood88_2

    I Don’t Understand The Down Votes. This Is A Huge Game. Goes A Long Way Way For This Teams Confidence

  • Eastwood88_2

    I Watched Them Play It Against ND St. Not Worried, Holes everywhere

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    Some people just like to down-vote because they either can’t come up with a thought of their own or want to be overly optimistic. I mean, I’m stating I believe this team could develop into a title contender, but I think they need a win like this to build confidence on. And anyone who actually thinks that 10 wins against cupcakes and 3 losses to the only good competition we played will help us with the selection committee if we barely finish .500 in the B1G is nuts!

  • N71

    I’ve gone down to my basement to hide behind the furnace and cry. Will looked pretty good but that was about it. Coaching was suspect, no bigs in for several stretches…head scratcher.