What to Expect: Northwestern

  • 01/28/2017 1:00 pm in

Indiana concludes a two-game roadtrip on Sunday evening in Evanston as the Hoosiers take on Northwestern. The Wildcats are 17-4 and 6-2 in the Big Ten.

The game will be broadcast at 6:30 p.m. ET on BTN with Wayne Randazzo and Jon Crispin on the call:

Indiana was embarrassed on Thursday at Michigan. The Hoosiers were blown off the floor for 40 minutes as the Wolverines cruised to a 90-60 victory.

The road doesn’t get any easier from here.

Up next is a trip to Evanston to take on a surging Northwestern team that has won five straight and looks poised to break into the Associated Press top 25 poll on Monday.

Indiana’s 2016-17 season has been one of dramatic twists and turns. The highs – wins over Kansas and North Carolina – made it seem like this team potential to be elite.

But the lows – Thursday’s debacle at Michigan, a defense that is regressing, turnovers, losses to Fort Wayne and Nebraska and the injuries – have left this as a real possibility: Indiana might not even make the NCAA tournament.

That was unthinkable when the Hoosiers went to Fort Wayne in late November as the No. 3 team in the AP Poll. Now, two months later, reality has set in and Indiana is fighting to even remain relevant in the national conversation.

MEET THE WILDCATS

Indiana is the most disappointing team in the Big Ten this season and Northwestern is the league’s feel good story. The Wildcats, barring a collapse, are on their way to the NCAA tournament.

It’s just year three of the Chris Collins era, but the former Duke player and assistant coach has things moving in the right direction despite some preseason controversy.

How has it happened? Improved talent and a Big Ten that is void of elite teams this season.

Junior Scottie Lindsey, who was a role player in his first two seasons, has emerged as an All-Big Ten candidate. Lindsey is averaging a team-best 15.6 points per game and is shooting 37.2 percent on 3s and 54.2 percent on 2s in Big Ten play.

Lindsey (pictured) is a low-turnover, high efficiency offensive player who is good in transition (1.16 PPP), on cuts (1.43 PPP) and on hands offs (1.46 PPP).

Joining him on the perimeter is junior point guard Bryant McIntosh, a Greensburg product. McIntosh has struggled with his shot this season (27.1 percent on 3s), but is still one of the Big Ten’s best distributors. His assist rate of 34.2 is fourth in the league and his turnover percentage is just 14.2 in Big Ten games. McIntosh is third on the Wildcats in scoring at 12.4 per game.

Redshirt sophomore Vic Law missed last season with a shoulder injury, but has been terrific this season. Law is second on the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game and second in rebounding at 5.8 per game. Law is an excellent 3-point shooter (44.3 percent) and is hitting 87.1 percent of his free throws in Big Ten play. The 6-foot-7 forward is most dangerous in spot-up situations (1.12 PPP), transition (1.22 PPP) and on cuts (1.43 PPP).

Senior wing Sanjay Lumpkin is Northwestern’s glue guy. He’s a low usage offensive player, but Synergy Sports grades him out as a very good defensive player. When Lumpkin does look to score, he’s most effective drawing fouls and getting to the line. His free throw rate (FTA/FGA) is 45.4 percent this season and he’s hitting 71.7 percent from the line in 39 attempts.

Freshman Isiah Brown is the primary backup option in the backcourt. Brown is hitting just 43.3 percent of his 2s and 28.6 percent of his 3s in Big Ten play.

The frontcourt is anchored by sophomore Dererk Pardon. Pardon is a 6-foot-8, 235 pound workhouse on the glass. He’s coming off 19 points and 22 rebounds in Northwestern’s most recent contest, a win over Nebraska. Pardon is finishing 58.8 percent of his 2s in Big Ten play and is the fourth best offensive rebounder in the conference. He also ranks fifth in the league in block percentage in conference games.

Gavin Skelly, a 6-foot-8 junior, is Northwestern’s primary backup up front. Skelly is 13th in the league in offensive rebounding, but is hitting just 40 percent of his 2s in Big Ten games.

TEMPO-FREE PREVIEW

If Indiana doesn’t come out with a better disposition defensively, it could be a long evening for the Hoosiers. Northwestern isn’t as explosive as Michigan offensively, but the Wildcats are a much better defensive team.

Northwestern has the Big Ten’s second best defense, as of Saturday morning, and the best effective field goal percentage defense. The Wildcats take care of the ball, don’t give up a lot of 3s and are pretty good on the offensive glass.

Neither team is very good at drawing fouls or keeping the opposition off the line, so the free throw differential certainly bears watching.

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO

The Pomeroy projection is Northwestern by six, with just a 32 percent chance of an Indiana win. Sagarin is less bullish on the Wildcats and projects a tw0-point win for Northwestern.

Northwestern enters this game with confidence and momentum. The Wildcats probably only need three more league wins to wrap up their first-ever NCAA tournament bid. With six home games remaining (including Sunday’s), it’ll be a major surprise if Northwestern doesn’t enter the Big Ten tournament with a top five seed and 22 wins at the minimum.

Indiana is unpredictable on a game-t0-game basis. The Hoosiers are capable of playing well, but they’re also capable of laying an egg like the one on Thursday in Ann Arbor. The momentum Indiana built with its recent three-game winning streak is gone and the possibility of a 4-5 conference mark returning home on Wednesday to play Penn State looks very real.

(Photo credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images North America)

Filed to:

  • TomJameson

    I have lost hope for a good season, much less a great one. Too many things to list as to why, but I think the top two are enough.

    Lack of defense, and too many turnovers. Broken record this season.

  • Ole Man

    Tom, if you’ve lost hope, then the ship is truly sinking.

  • IdahoHoosier

    Hard not to like Northwestern in this one. Solid team who plays together and is trending in the right direction consistently. If this were my team, my focus for this game (maybe the rest of the season) would be teamwork. Win or lose, I’d want to see basic smart passes, open shots only, movement, and applauding teammates. Winning will come when these guys find their identity and learn to trust each other. Time to boost morale and start small.

  • TomJameson

    Yes, I’ve even given up on bailing the water.

    I just see some fundamentally wrong things going on. It’s not just the players, and it’s not just the coach. I’m wondering if there aren’t any chemistry problems after all.

    I’m totally confused about this team, that’s really all it is.

  • SCHoosier

    No surprise that Collins is making something out of the Wildcats. Northwestern.. IMO ..plays b-ball like its intended to be played. Hoosiers will need an outlandish shooting night and under 11 TO’s to have a chance in this one. I still can’t believe the aimless, unmotivated piss-poor effort IU gave against UM. Hoping I’ll wake up any minute and discover it was just a bad dream.

  • Sir Bruce

    Don’t know why but I think we win this one. I think you won’t keep JB down for 2 games and we control the boards and dominate the paint with just enough out of RJ and JB to keep them from collapsing. Look for Juwan to have a big rebound game. This is also a game where the speed matches ZMs style so he will create some extra opportunities.

  • Piker

    JBJ out indefinitely with lower leg injury

  • SidelineSportsNetwork

    No Blackmon.. this one may not be pretty.

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    It’s true, you are the most optimistic person who posts on this board,if you have lost hope things are bad!

  • Gregory J. Haggard

    ???, is this true?

  • Piker

    Afraid so

  • ForIndiana

    Balls!

  • Ohio Hoosier

    Let the freshman start and play.
    Let’s see what they can do.

  • Not much choice otherwise.

  • With JBJ out “indefinitely,” I’ve lost hope as well for even a decent season. It’s gonna be rough from here on out.

  • I concluded a few games ago that there must be some kind of underlying chemistry problem. Whether it’s between players, or the players and the coach, I don’t know. But the strength of last season’s team was its closeness — both with each other and with CTC — and that’s just not in evidence with this team. I certainly didn’t expect it, and I think ultimately it comes down to the leadership that Yogi and TW brought to the team. (Yes, I always thought Troy was a real personality leader on the team, as compared to Yogi’s acting as the team’s general.)

  • TomJameson

    Gregory, I’m just tired of the up-and-down play. I’m too darn old to be riding on roller coasters, my poor old brain just keeps bouncing around in my head and gives me migraines. 🙂

    Still a fan, still watching, just feeling that IU is turning into being more like my second favorite team … Evansville Aces.

    Maybe this horrible news about JBJ can bring this team together and pull out a successful season (whatever that means).

  • TomJameson

    Hahaha … like it hasn’t been rough enough already.

  • Jay Skibbe

    never changes, and coaching is a big reason for that !!! DEFENSE IS COACHING, SEPARATES CHAMPIONSHIP COACHES, TO MEDIOCRE ONES, AND INDIANA HAS NOT GOT FURTHER THAN SWEET 16 UNDER CREAN !!!

  • Sandra Wilson

    Adjustments need to be made…..We are not going to be able to run and play fast constantly…..We need to work a much more deliberate offense and do the things you mentioned above…..By slowing the offense and going inside much more, you take time off the clock and that’s time our defense doesn’t have to defend…..The freshmen guards need more playing time and JN less….I never felt CTC made wise adjustments during games or during the week…..I guess he’ll have a chance to prove me wrong the rest of this season.

  • AZMBNZ

    Who is going to be the next OG? It was about this time last year that he started flashing his game. I could see De’Ron getting his, he has some serious skill. If Devante can make smart decisions, and CuJo can get open looks, they can all score and contribute in a significant way to wins.

  • Guyton25

    This game tomorrow is going to be one of Crean’s defining moments for me. He has a rough time adjusting in-game so I’m extremely curious to see his gameplan for our “new team” against the Big Ten’s best D.

    With our perimeter game all but decimated, it’s time to see if Crean can coach a frontcourt heavy team effectively. I’m afraid he’ll do the same thing he always does: run the same scheme even though we don’t have the tools for it anymore like a football team continuing to throw heavy even though the QB is out and the RB is a star.

    I’m nervous but excited to see how he responds this time.

  • Zach

    Love the optimism at the beginning of the day from you but now JBJ is out indefinitely. *sobs into pillow tonight at what this season has become*

  • Missing Moye

    So I’m curious what the starting 5 will look like today. If I had to bet, I’d say Johnson, Newkirk, Morgan, Bryant, and McRoberts. If it were me, I think I’d start our best five and let the bench depth works itself out during the game: Johnson, Green, Morgan, Bryant, Davis. Doesn’t leave much height depth on the bench, but not sure that matters if we start down 16-4 again.

  • Please stop yelling, I have a headache.

  • It’s obvious watching the first half of the game so far that CTC doesn’t want the players to keep helping off of perimeter shooters. But they keep doing it.

  • ChitwoodIN

    Chris Collins of NW is less than 1% from Creans winning percentage…..in half the time.
    Yes…..indeed. this is what IU bb has become. Excuses are like armpits.

    Don’t take this the wrong way either…I think Collins is a very good coach, especially with what he has. I bet he wouldn’t be down to NW with what Crean has. Just sayin.

    We will never see a final four appearance, let alone a championship with him. Deep down everyone knows this, yet….some are just being nice or simply floating along with blind love for clappy.

  • Guyton25

    Crean just signed his coaching death certificate in my eyes… before the game he said, “we can’t change who we are… we don’t want to change anything.” That’s gotta be the dumbest thing I’ve heard this season. We’re a different team with different capabilities now that OG and Blackmon are gone. He needs to with a conversation or two with his Harbaugh brothers. If your QB goes down and you have a star RB, you don’t just keep throwing the ball the same amount. You adapt and play to your strengths.

  • BC

    Coaching, no excuses, just a very poorly coached team-no defensive communication, to’s, TB taking JBR’s role as 3pt specialist, an offense that basically has the ball 30 feet away from the basket with players dribbling over to handoff or pass away from basket and as the shot clock winds down have Newkirk make a 1-1 move to the basket! Brilliant. Let the excuses begin. Fire Crean now, let Buckley see if it truly is the coach or the players