What to Expect: Butler

  • 12/18/2014 10:53 am in

After a week hiatus, Indiana returns to the floor following a week of final exams for a meeting with No. 23 Butler in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The game will tip at 2:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1:

Whether you’re a fan of the event or not, the Crossroads Classic returns for a fourth year on Saturday and will continue for the foreseeable future. Billed as a showcase of the state’s top four programs, Indiana, Butler, Purdue and Notre Dame come together each year for a day in late December in the state’s capital.

It’s an event that is heavily reliant on Indiana fans to sell tickets and the program’s long term involvement in such an arrangement raises some questions. Chief among them is the fact that Indiana’s participation in the Crossroads Classic forced the program to miss out on the CBS Sports Classic, which was formed with the goal of bringing together the four programs with the most national championships. With Indiana out, the event moved on to Ohio State and now the Buckeyes, North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA will play a national showcase on CBS this weekend while Indiana takes a backseat on Fox Sports 1.

Nonetheless, the Crossroads Classic moves on as an event that feels stale, offers very little in terms of national buzz and puts the Hoosiers in a no-win situation. Win, like the program did in year one of the event over Notre Dame, and it’s ho hum. Lose, like the program has the last two years to Butler and Notre Dame, and it’s, “what’s wrong with Indiana?”

A LOOK AT BUTLER

After a disappointing 14-17 campaign, expectations for Butler coming into this season weren’t high. Second year coach Brandon Miller took a leave of absence prior to the season and with his return unlikely, the keys to the program have been handed over to Chris Holtmann, who is off to an 8-2 start and is making a solid case to become the permanent head man after Miller’s situation is formally resolved.

The Bulldogs are battle tested through 10 games with wins over North Carolina and Georgetown and losses to Oklahoma and most recently, a loss at Tennessee, which set the program back eight spots in the latest Associated Press top 25 poll.

Butler’s eight-man rotation is led by junior guard Kellen Dunham, who averages a team-high 16.8 points per game. Dunham is hitting 45.5 percent of his 3s and is doing a very good job of getting to the foul line, where he’s converting at an 87 percent clip. After failing to eclipse 35 percent shooting from distance in his first two seasons, Dunham finally seems to have found his groove and Butler is benefiting greatly as a result.

Joining Dunham in the backcourt are junior Roosevelt Jones, who missed last season with an injury, and senior Alex Barlow, who has transformed from a walk-on to a savvy floor general. Jones, powerful at 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds, is a solid distributor (30.3 percent assist rate) and essentially tries to bully his way to the bucket for easy looks. He’s not particularly efficient from the field (41.5 percent) or the foul line (60.9 percent), but his physicality could present problems for Indiana if the Hoosiers fail to match it. As for Barlow, he’s a pesky defender (4.7 percent steal rate), but isn’t much of a threat to score and when he does shoot, 65 percent of his attempts are 3s where he’s only hitting 30.8 percent.

Freshman Kelan Martin comes off the bench and is the team’s second leading scorer (10.8 ppg) and uses 29.9 percent of the team’s possessions while on the floor. Martin is making 59.1 percent of his 2s, but is making just 33.3 percent of his 3s.

Up front, senior Kameron Woods is Butler’s tallest player at 6-foot-9 and he’s complemented in the lineup by 6-foot-7 sophomore Andrew Chrabascz. Woods averages a team-high 9.1 rebounds per game and ranks as one of the top 30 defensive rebounders in the country according to KenPom.com. His length also allows him to challenge, alter and ultimately block a fair amount of shots (5.1 block percentage). His 49.1 shooting percentage on 2s isn’t particularly good for a player of his size and he checks in as an average free throw shooter (61.1 percent). Chrabascz is fourth on the team in scoring at 8.5 points per game, but isn’t particularly efficient (49.3 eFG%). He’s shooting less than 60 percent from the foul line and just 29.4 percent on 3s.

The frontcourt backups are junior Austin Etherington and freshman Tyler Wideman. Etherington, like he did in his time in Bloomington, has struggled from the perimeter (29.4 percent on 3s) while Wideman, who is 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, can carve out space, is a solid defensive rebounder and finishes the opportunities he receives as he’s making 60 percent of his 2s.

TEMPO-FREE PREVIEW

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Indiana’s elite offense will receive a stiff test as Butler rolls out a top 20 defense nationally that has been limiting teams to just 25.6 percent shooting on 3s. The caveat on the 3-point defense is that the Bulldogs haven’t played a team ranked better than 153rd nationally in 3-point shooting and IU currently checks in at No. 11 nationally in that regard.

Turnovers will also loom large as both teams take care of the ball well, but Butler is doing a much better job of forcing turnovers than the Hoosiers. The same holds true for rebounding, where both clubs do a nice job of hitting the offensive glass, but the Bulldogs do a much better job of hitting the defensive boards.

As for where Butler is most effective offensively, here’s a scouting report from our friends at Shot Analytics:

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The right corner 3 is a strength of Dunham (67 percent), but he’s taking a much higher volume of his 3s from the right (43 percent) and left (42 percent) wings. It’ll be interesting to see how Indiana approaches this game defensively as a zone could be effective if Dunham is accounted for given that he’s the only player on the team making better than 33.3 percent from distance. That said, if Indiana can’t contain dribble penetration from guys like Dunham and Barlow, the defense deployed may not ultimately matter.

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO

The Pomeroy prediction likes Butler by two with a 43 chance of an IU win while the Sagarin rating likes Butler by close to six.

Indiana’s game against Louisville should be helpful going into this one as Butler is physical on defense, but don’t have near the size or athleticism that IU saw against the Cardinals in Madison Square Garden. And given that Indiana put up 74 points on Louisville, the nation’s top ranked defense, limiting Butler on the glass and taking care of the ball will likely determine the outcome.

With just three games remaining prior to Big Ten play, this is a game that would help solidify Indiana’s chances at 10 non-conference wins and put the Hoosiers in the conversation as a potential NCAA tournament team. A loss would amp up the pressure for a win over Georgetown on Dec. 27 at Madison Square Garden and also mark the program’s third defeat in four tries at the Crossroads Classic.

Filed to:

  • IUMIKE1

    IU also offered a compromise with being willing to do a neutral court for two games and doing a home and home series in the same agreement. As usual pUKe felt like they should get exactly what they wanted because of who they “think” they are. While I would love to see the rivalry resumed I don’t want the reason that it was resumed to be because we gave in and done everything the way that they wanted it done down to the last little detail. We offered a more than fair compromise, and because it wasn’t exactly what “they” wanted, Criminalapari used it as an excuse to not take it. I have always said screw them when it comes to anything pUKe related, but I say that with even more emphasis when it comes to us bending to exactly what they want in order to be able to resume the series.

  • IUMIKE1

    Granted TW does handle the ball a considerable amount, probably more than he should, but I think most would say calling him a guard is a pretty big stretch.

  • IUMIKE1

    Totally agree. I too have great interest in seeing both of them on the floor at the same time, and not for just a two or three minute stretch, but come into the game with that being a big part of the game plan. I also agree with you in that this isn’t the game to try doing that, or if he did, that is where trying it for a two or three minute stretch would be the way to go.

  • IUMIKE1

    I would also like to see him get fired up like Coach K was described as being in that article. Every kid needs their buttons pushed in a little bit different way and it’s up to the coach to know how and how much you can push that button before it becomes counter productive, but sometimes the best way for a coach to convey a point is in a very aggressive way. I would also like to see him have a lot more fire when it comes to dealing with the refs as well. I’m not saying that he could make them change a call after they have already made it, but I coached enough to know that you can certainly influence how they see the game from that point on if you engage them in the correct way and sometimes that means you engage them in a way to where no one is going to make the mistake that the two of you making plans for later on. lol

  • HoosierHuckleberry

    Perhaps unhappy, disappointed, or even disillusioned would be a more apropos adjective for those who do not embrace TC as the coach who will return IU to a position among the elite programs in college BB. I truly respect what he did in resurrecting the program from the Sampson debacle. Believe he’d be one heck of a neighbor, friend, motivational speaker or recruiter. Still feel he lacks the charisma, vision and coaching skill set to make the leap at IU. To me, TC is just another liivng manifestation of the Peter Principle. I could be wrong…it wouldn’t be a precedent setter for me to be in error.

  • Hoosier1158

    I think Troy brings the ball up the floor too often. His ball handling skills are not great and we have guards. Not to mention the occasional circus shot he will take.

  • Hoosier1158

    IU didn’t mishandle the series. Why give UK exactly what they want? Exposure in Indianapolis. IU needs to catch up on recruiting good inside talent or they would not fair well against the size of a team like UK. But one day we will find that out.

  • INUnivHoosier

    Saying flagellate instead of flatulent would be malapropism. Saying flagellate instead of disillusioned would just be egregious.

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    To be honest, I almost threw up watching Fischer the other night! He looked big, athletic, put hooks up with both hands, finished strong off the dish, stepped outside and hit jump shots, and did all the things that made me one of the people that started praising him and claiming he was the jewel of last year’s recruiting class. Watching him actually step out there and do exactly what I thought he would do for IU this year and beyond made me sick!

    Take a player like that (or even a Trey Lyles which I’m not sad to see at pUKe) and this IU team is a B1G contender.

    Oh well, this team is still fun to watch and better than last’s in my opinion and with bigs coming in next year the future still looks bright.

  • HoosierHuckleberry

    Maybe you’d like to go back and see what Ken’s stats show regarding NO BIG on the floor (Hanner or Emmit or Jeremiah)…Collin, Troy and 3 guards don’t get it done, either.

  • HoosierHuckleberry

    In the post game interview w/Dick Vitale, TC gave credit to VJIII for responding like a “Senior on a broken play” and finding CW for his infamous shot.

  • Hoosier4life67

    ty for the reply Alex. You’re always on top of it. Thanks again.

  • Hoosier4life67

    According to KenPom IU is not at the other three schools level. Just saying.

  • Mr. Mitchell

    Force to miss out? Maybe we should let EsPN CbS FOx just pick our entire schedule then. We didn’t miss out on shiii

  • Outoftheloop

    KY and Louisville are great. NC and UCLA are just like IU with better PR!

  • INUnivHoosier

    You know what? You’re right. TC is a terrible coach, and he has never called a good play. Every mistake is clearly his fault, and every positive thing is clearly solely a result of his players having talent that overcomes his awful coaching.

  • HoosierHuckleberry

    I almost gave you an up vote for that post, except I have never said that TC was a terrible coach or that he never called a good play. Today, he made a good 2d half adjustment w/the box and 1 (Yogi) on Dunham for most of the half. Props for the decision.
    If you want to persist in believing that the Wat Shot was a brilliant TC call, that’s certainly your prerogative but there’s no evidence to support it. Go back and listen to his chat w/Vitale and Shulman. He said that it was a broken play.

  • millzy32

    We play Butler and Louisville on neutral courts. Are they playing us for fools too? Why are we so scared to play Kentucky on a neutral court? If we beat them then it will help our recruiting too you know. We aren’t exactly getting all of the in state talent as it is with several slipping through our grasp lately. We got lucky on Blackmon I think he realized that Kentucky was “overbooked” or he probably bolts too.

  • millzy32

    Kentucky already has exposure in Indianapolis. It’s called the Television and ESPN. No, we don’t need to play Kentucky every year but yes I want us to play Kentucky every year. To me it is a rivalry. To them they probably think it is just another win on their schedule. Why not prove them wrong and beat them at their own game. Why is everybody so afraid of big bad Kentucky. Screw ’em if they want neutral courts we’ll play them and beat them on neutral court. Our fans travel too. If Cal wants a top kid in Indy he doesn’t have to play in Indy to get him. Lyles ring a bell? The only ones who suffer are the Indiana fans who don’t get to see this rivalry game anymore. Kentucky fans couldn’t care less.

  • Hoosier1158

    There is a difference in the television market and playing in an arena in Indianapolis. I don’t know the true story on Trey but I read comments he was looking for something CTC would not provide.