What to Expect: Northwestern

  • 01/22/2016 7:12 am in

Indiana is back at it on Saturday afternoon as Northwestern comes to town for a matinee in Assembly Hall. The Wildcats are 15-5 overall and 3-4 in the Big Ten, but have dropped four of their last six contests.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 12 p.m. ET:

At 6-0, Indiana remains atop the Big Ten standings with Iowa, which beat Rutgers on Thursday night. Favorable schedule or not, the Hoosiers keep posting wins and gaining confidence. IU has won its last two games at Assembly Hall by a combined 59 points. That doesn’t happen unless your level of play is extremely high.

But the road should get a little tougher on Saturday with Northwestern in Bloomington. The Wildcats have struggled lately, but just took Maryland to overtime in College Park. And the last time Northwestern came to Assembly Hall during the 2013-2014 season, Chris Collins and company left with a 54-47 win.

For Indiana to solidify itself as a legitimate contender for the Big Ten crown, it must continue to stack up wins at home and steal a few more on the road. As a KenPom favorite in its next three contests, now is the time for Indiana to keep its foot on the gas and collect another conference win.

MEET THE WILDCATS (all stats are now conference only unless otherwise noted)

Slowly but surely, Collins has Northwestern marching towards national relevance and an NCAA tournament berth. It may not be this season, but it’s coming. The talent level is increasing in Evanston and with a very solid second year point guard in Bryant McIntosh, a breakthrough seems inevitable.

A lackluster non-conference schedule put a heavy emphasis on Northwestern doing the bulk of its work in Big Ten play, which has been a mixed bag to this point. The Wildcats do have wins at Nebraska and Minnesota with a home win over Wisconsin, but losses at home to Ohio State and Penn State certainly sting.

In McIntosh, who won a state championship at Greensburg, Collins has one of the better distributors in the league who has struggled with his shooting so far in Big Ten games. McIntosh ranks second in the Big Ten with an assist rate of 44.2 percent, but is making just 44.2 percent of his 2s and 20.7 percent of his 3s. His 14.7 points per game lead the Wildcats.

Joining McIntosh in the backcourt is known Indiana killer Tre Demps, who is also struggling with his shooting over his last seven. The 6-foot-3 senior is just 8-of-42 from distance for 19 percent. Both Demps and McIntosh are carrying a heavy load minutes with little behind them in terms of depth. Demps is logging 38.1 minutes per game in Big Ten play with McIntosh not far behind at 37.7. As his ShotAnalytics chart shows, Demps has really struggled all season from distance:


Northwestern was likely expecting a breakout sophomore campaign from Victor Law, but surgery in November to repair a torn labrum ended his season before it could begin.

Freshman forward Aaron Falzon, who is 6-foot-8, is the team’s third leading scorer in conference play at 10.7 points per game. Falzon is hitting 36.4 percent on 3s and 53.3 percent on 2s. He also rarely turns it over with a turnover percentage of just 8.9 over Northwestern’s last seven contests.

Junior wing Sanjay Lumpkin is a low usage offensive player (just 11 percent usage) that gives Collins a veteran presence in the lineup who can defend. His steal percentage ranks in the top 20 of the conference.

Two other wing players that Indiana will have to mark are junior Nathan Taphorn (42.9 percent on 3s in limited attempts) and Scottie Lindsey, who is a solid athlete and finisher. Lindsey is making 35.3 percent of his 3s and close to 56 percent on 2s in Big Ten games.

Up front, Alex Olah is back after a stress fracture forced him to miss six games and is slowly easing back into the rotation. Olah played seven minutes against Penn State and 13 at Maryland. He’s averaging just 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds in two Big Ten games.

His absence meant increased roles for Joey Van Zegeran, a graduate transfer from Virginia Tech and freshman Dererk Pardon, who had been slotted in for a redshirt. Van Zegeran is the starter at the five and is seventh in the conference in block percentage (7.7). He’s also been finishing well with a 2-point field goal percentage of 63.6 percent.

Pardon is finishing even more effectively (70.5 percent on 2s) and has taken 32 free throws in seven conference games. He’s also in the top ten in the Big Ten in offensive and defensive rebounding percentages and looks like a very good under the radar find for Collins.



The numbers will likely adjust as the competition level increases, but with the exception of turnover percentage and free throw rate, Indiana’s profile is solid across the board.

One area that is certainly worth watching on Saturday is the rebounding battle. Northwestern is second in the conference in keeping teams off the boards and plays the most deliberate pace of any Big Ten team. The Wildcats will be focused on limiting Indiana to one shot and working slowly on the offensive end. Collins won’t be advocating for a track meet nor should he.

Against Maryland, the Wildcats used a junk zone that kept them in the game throughout and it would come as no surprise to see a similar approach in Bloomington. The question is: Can Northwestern make enough shots? They come into Bloomington as the ninth best Big Ten offense and 12th in effective field goal percentage.


KenPom likes Indiana to win by nine with an 82 percent chance of victory and the Sagarin prediction, adjusted for homecourt, likes the Hoosiers by 11.

This, however, feels like a game that could be much closer when you consider that the Wildcats have road wins at Virginia Tech, DePaul, Nebraska and Minnesota and a narrow loss at Maryland. McIntosh and Demps have shot so poorly in league play that a correction there is certainly in play. And as Olah eases back into things, he could definitely be more of a factor that he has been over the last two games.

Still, Indiana is playing at a very high level with the duo of Yogi Ferrell and Thomas Bryant leading the way with Troy Williams producing more “good Troy” than “bad Troy” moments as of late. If the Hoosiers are to be taken seriously as a legitimate Big Ten contender, this is a game they must have.

(Photo credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images North America)

Filed to:

  • That isn’t even a question that needs to be asked.. OG is so much better than EH, there is no comparison.. Not sure why you’re dwelling on that, living in the past, since we’ve ‘hashed’ and re-hashed’ that so often I’m really tired of even seeing again.

  • To put it in Crean’s terminology, ‘No question about it’…lol…

  • IULore

    Just a tremendous high level understanding.

  • Yeah that’s right… another one.. made me laugh out loud…

  • IULore

    The bottom line is, you gotta laugh with emotion, not laugh emotionally.

  • sarge

    Without question, these jokes are at a high level. They are emotionally right where they need to be, no question.

  • MK

    Yogi is on a different level right now

  • MK

    Seen this a few times on here. Just a tough comparison in my opinion because they play different styles.

  • Bballpop

    Was just looking at the box score from that game (13/14). We only have 3 guys left from that team, YF, TW, and CH. Hartman didn’t play. Williams didn’t score. Yogi only scored 9 points with 1 assist and 1 rebound. (He was 2-14 from the floor.) Somehow, I felt real good seeing that. I’m pretty sure that those three are going to remember that game and try their hardest not to repeat it. If they do, I’ll save you that seat at the funny farm!

  • Zach

    Think it’s safe to say this game is most likely to be a grinder as opposed to a shootout so we’ll have to continue to get stops and play disciplined to come out with a win if we don’t shoot lights out. I plan on getting there at least an hour early for my GA tickets, also considering rocking the Angry Birds costume lol

  • IU track Alumni

    Calling it now… This will be a game with an OG explosion! 15 points 10 rebounds and a posterization (is that word?) On Alex Olah!

  • BMusic

    You’re right. It’s a natural comparison to make, though, because both guys emerged and filled crucial needs for the their respective squads. But really, TB replaced HMP, MB replaced EH, JH replaced MH and OG replaced (wait for it) Stan. Upgrades at every spot.

  • Not hard to believe at all. NW is a good team, just lost a few lately. I’m expecting a tough game.

  • ForeverIU

    Mental toughness.

  • ForeverIU

    He impacts everybody around him.

  • Hoosier Hall

    I agree. It’s a shame they lost Vic Law for the year. I’m pulling for NW to make their first tourney, just not at our expense.

  • IUBizmark

    The main thing with these jokes is that they continue to improve. These jokes are getting better and better every day.

  • oldiugymnast

    Can these jokes get better? Absolutely! Are we working to make them better? Without a doubt!

  • oldiugymnast

    Shark. Jumped.

  • Bill Graham

    This team is pretty comparable to Wisc. a couple years ago when they really slowed down the game and frustrated offenses. If we show up we should handle them though. I know this won’t be a popular comment, but I hope Macintosh really struggles. Something about an Indiana kid playing out of state just rubs me wrong (oh and I’m talking to you too Zak)!

  • ForeverIU

    I’d wear that headache like a badge, lol.

  • BL

    Man, make my day!

  • ForeverIU

    We can match up against anybody with our jokes, we’re high level clowns and jokesters. Our humor knows no ceiling.

  • IU track Alumni

    Crean is 4-2 since the 2011-12 season

  • SilentBob

    Haha I feel you, but I don’t think he got a scholly offer from Indiana schools in power conferences? Certainly don’t remember him on the IU radar, but I’ve had a few beers since then haha

  • In the last 3 years, we were favored heavily in every game against NU. Record: 2-2. Tournament record vs NU: 1-0.

  • dwdkc

    Good caveat, as that was the one arguable case of not being an upgrade. As solid as Max has been, Emmitt seemed to have a very high upside. I wish we still had him as Max was brought in when Hanner left, and therefore we could have had both.

  • dwdkc

    Yes this is a probably a huge but undercommented issue. We do go deep and at a hard pace, and I’ve noticed that a lot of 3-balls come up a little short late in games by the opposition. Only Yogi plays the really big minutes and he is an ironman.

  • TomJameson

    Hahaha … I like that idea, but IU has the same problem, albeit not lately. They have a good team and a bad team as well.

    They just need to worry about one game at a time, and protecting their home turf. I hope they come out strong, pushing it in the middle and just smash NW in the mouth with their offense.

  • Bill Graham

    Ya your right he wasn’t offered by an in state school as far as I know…and its not as bad as pulling a Lyles and going to UK. I still find it hard to route for Indiana kids on BIG teams. Outside of the BIG its easy. Like Nic Moore, I’m glad he’s playing awesome.

  • sarge

    Do it Z!

  • sarge

    I really like Nic Moore’s game too. It was good to see him come back and play in AH. His team is on a roll and even though they are banned from postseason play, they are turning heads. It is always tough to see the great talent from this state in jerseys that don’t have Indiana across the front 🙁

  • In your opinion though.. Did we play our best against Wisconsin? Just askin’.. Even though it was on our own court, I just don’t think we played as well as we have since that game..

  • Why don’t you just take care of that headache?.. Come on, it’s likely just a build up of tension over a period of time…lol…

  • Really Dude? We’ll be watchin’ for you… That’d be cool…

  • ForeverIU

    I hope so, but I also think Wisky is a better team than the teams we’ve played since. I think our margin of victory in this game will tell us something about where we stand.