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:

  • Arsdale

    Everyone remembers Barlow hitting the big shot the last time we played them, but Roosevelt Jones absolutely crushed us. He had 16 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists (I just looked it up) and had his way inside against our smaller guards, and even against our bigger inside players. I was really impressed by him that game. I don’t know much about the current Butler team, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that stopping Jones will be the key to victory.

  • Kyl470

    I know some people like the Crossroads Classic, but I hate it. As the article mentions Indiana really gains nothing from the event. Playing in an event with UK, UNC, and UCLA is going to appeal more to top recruits than playing against Butler or ND. But since IU does play in this event I hope they can start winning in it.

  • BigAd007

    You are correct. Butler does not go very deep, especially in the backcourt. Martin is their only guard off the bench, with the exception of Aldridge who might get 5 minutes a game to give Barlow a rest at the point. If IU stops Jones like Tennessee did (2/9 shooting, 4 TO’s) then they have a good chance of winning this game.

  • BigAd007

    Despite their lack of height, this Butler team is pretty good on the offensive glass. That might be something to watch out for in this game. It’s probably going to be something to watch out for in every game this year.

  • CreamandCrimson

    This is a pretty important game for both squads. Butler’s signature win over North Carolina isn’t going to hold near as much weight as everyone anticipated back in November (it appears anyway) and the Big East has improved significantly so both teams could definitely find themselves on the bubble come March. I have seen each of Butler’s game and I think I have a pretty good feel for their personnel.

    Backcourt = Alex Barlow has made himself into a darn good player. He’s more than a “pesky defender”…he’s a really good defender. Our guards need to mindful of his active hands when they drive and when passing around the perimeter.
    -Roosevelt Jones is their facilitator. It doesn’t look pretty but he’s very strong and smart and he generally gets the ball exactly where it needs to go. His shot is about as bad as you’ll see but he understands his limitations and if he shoots, it will be because he bullied his way into the paint on a drive for a layup. Jones is a strong defender and pretty good rebounder. One area we could exploit would be our quickness (he’ll be guarding either Yogi, Blackmon or Johnson)…getting him in foul trouble would be a big plus for us.
    -Kellen Dunham is a scary guy to play against. He can rattle off 6-8 points by himself very quickly and change the tenor of a game instantly. As the preview accurately notes, he has really improved at getting to the line and our defense is going to have be really disciplined against his shot fakes and hesitation moves. He’s not great defensively but he’s not a liability for them either. If we’re playing man, I’d say he’s Johnson’s guy because I really don’t trust Troy Williams against Dunham’s constant off-ball movement.
    -Austin Etherington doesn’t look improved in a Butler uniform. He still hesitates to shoot and struggles to contribute much more than occasional put-backs and some solid defense. He may hit a 3 or two against us and I’m sure he’ll be fired up about this game.
    -Kelan Martin is going to be a really good player. He has a good body for a freshman and his role is clearly to provide scoring punch off the bench. He could very easily have a big day against us.
    Frontcourt = Kam Woods is an elite rebounder and a pretty good rim protector. He offers very little offensively (besides put-backs and lob dunks) and doesn’t look very strong but he plays with great awareness and he has tremendous length.
    -Andrew Charabascz is a bruiser. Strong player with some solid post moves and solid rebounding skills. He will take the open 3 if we give it to him and he’s capable of knocking it down (although I’d make him hit a few before stepping out aggressively on him).
    -I think Emmitt Holt is a better version of Tyler Wideman.

    Sorry for the lengthy post, I figured someone might get something out of my addition to the excellent work by Alex. I’ve flipped my opinion on what I think will happen on Saturday but I’m going with a 73-66 IU victory. I worry about Butler carving us up on the glass and with their passing but I think we’ll be able to hit enough 3’s and create enough by attacking the basket to get a hard-earned and very important victory.

  • Gregory Spera

    Alex, very convincingly, lays out why the Crossroads Classic is a really bad idea for the Indiana Basketball program. How it has actually hurt our viability on a national level. Has Fred Glass ever discussed why he feels otherwise?

  • CreamandCrimson

    It’s too bad because I loved the event when it first started…perhaps we’d feel better about it if this event was in place of one of the guarantee games and we added another marquee event sometime in December.

    I haven’t heard Fred Glass defend the event recently but I know that he has talked in the past about how he thinks it’s an important event for the state (along with some other cliches about how great the venue is and how great the rivalries are, etc.).

  • Gregory Spera

    As mentioned, we have lost the last two Crossroad Classics to Butler and Notre Dame. So, taking into account the fact that we were also blown out by Purdue last year, maybe we should pick on someone our own size, like say… Valparaiso.

  • dwdkc

    I liked the concept, as Notre Dame and Butler are always quality games and I disagree with “lose, and the question is what’s wrong with Indiana?”. IU played Notre Dame every year in the glory days. And good games in Indy are always a good thing. The problem is what does it cost–if it is in place of a guarantee game or the always wretched “Indiana Classic” where IU was undefeated forever, then it’s great. But missing the CBS event is costly.

  • Rushman

    I will be at this game cheering the Hoosiers on. With that said, I really hope to see HMP continue to improve upon his recent offensive success, but more importantly increase his aggressiveness on the defensive boards. Just like a lot of guys on these boards have said, effort and determination are two items HMP needs to get better at. Also, I hope Troy can put back-to-back games together where he stays within himself and doesn’t play too fast and out of control. Can’t wait to see Blackmon and Johnson in person for the first time as well.

  • ForeverIU

    If we don’t get our defense together we can lose any game this year, regardless of opponent rankings. Opponents will just have to get hot on 3s and/or know how to coast their way through the paint without tripping on their shadows. LOL!

    Looking at our kenpom defensive efficiency rating of 183 is depressing, and I won’t get terribly excited about this team until we up the D consistently.

    I any case, always happy about a win for our kids. Go Hoosiers!

  • ForeverIU

    Thanks C&C for sharing the insights and observations. I’m usually the optimist, but not this time. I feel Butler will be the hungrier team and they are sort of playing on their own turf.

  • Guyton25

    Thanks for reminding me there’s still a dagger in my kidney with that CBS Sports Classic reminder.

  • BobbyBeingManny

    I think a lot of these problems would be solved by simply being a better program. KenPom rankings for our “inferior” opponents as of Dec 18:

    Notre Dame – 34
    Butler – 36
    Purdue – 49
    Indiana – 52

    I hope Fred Glass is more worried about that then enhancing our “brand” by OOC scheduling.

  • FinEndNow

    I wish Indiana would get out of this! We need to be playing UCLA, UNC, UK, Duke, Kansas etc in the OOC.

  • FinEndNow

    We can so easily not do this event and oh idk… just go ahead and put Butler and Notre Dame on the schedule?

  • SilentBob

    That was cold man lol

  • Ole Man

    Butler plays meaner than a junkyard dog.

  • This is not a bad event…we just don’t have a very good program. Iu is 262-195 since 2000. That’s an average record of 19-14. We have been to the ncaa 8 times and the nit 1 time in 14 seasons.

  • Hoosier Hall

    Come on bro! Why’d you have to go there? We haven’t even been the best team in the state… That hurts.

  • Hoosier Hall

    I honestly think we could beat UNC or UCLA this season. That would have been much better for our recruiting. Hopefully we can pull this win out though or we just look like a bunch of whiners.

  • Hoosier Hall

    This will be a good win for us. I think Blackmon will shake off his 3 point slump and have a big game. Hanner will keep improving and Emmitt will remind us of the Pittsburgh game. 81 to 70, Hoosiers FTW!

  • SCHoosier

    Two years ago I wish Barlow had realized he “wasn’t much of a threat to score”..when on a set play.. he scored over Jordy with seconds left to beat the Hoosiers. No repeat performance please. IMO this game will be about defense..and boards..two areas where the Dogs seem to have the advantage?

  • SCHoosier

    Yea..nothing like a good butt kickin’ on national TV.read that as you wish!

  • Blair McKee

    Love this event. Miss it. I’d be in red among my family’s BU blue. Yes it is really another version of those Cheistmas Break patsy tournaments IU used to do to fill the arena with alums assured of victory against Mrs. Wilson’s Finishing School for Girls or Idaho State Potato College.
    However, this event does sell tix and with Butler ranked, IU needs this win for its RPI calc. Of course none of that will matter if IU loses! Butler is never out of the games and play’s punishing defense. Should not be able to keep up with Yogi and RJ on the fast break.

  • Blair McKee

    Etheringtom is off the bench, but has not blossomed in his post-IU days like Fischer. He will get a few minutes for some offense, but containing Rose is the key.

  • SCHoosier

    .IU will run into..thru and around more screens in this game than any of our starting five combined have set themselves.while in college.

  • And One

    In case you can’t watch the game, here’s how it will shake out: IU demoralizes the Bulldogs by hitting one damn 3-pointer after another, but 15 point lead is whittled to 8 in the last two minutes (twenty minutes of real time) thanks to IU turning it over trying to inbound the ball or some such foolishness. They get the win, but do it in such a way that we’re all wringing our hands instead of pounding our chests.

  • INUnivHoosier

    I think this is a will-win for IU as long as they don’t hit a shooting slump.

  • SCHoosier

    I think Jones is why IU has to play mostly zone in the game. Let’s just hope Dunham doesn’t have a career shooting day if we do play zone…cause as we know..there will be open shots..especially from the corners.

  • Blair McKee

    That would be true if IU had the discipline and the game plan to beat elite schools regularly. I think they have the athletes and the heart, but not preparation.

  • millzy32

    Our own size? Our guys are short. If we truly wanted to play a team Our own size we’d have to play a High School Team.
    Valpo guys are too tall. They have one 6’10” Two 6’9″ and Two 6’8″ guys I just checked.

  • millzy32

    Butler beat up on UNC already this year by the way.

  • millzy32

    This was done to get this game in Indianapolis. Funny how we won’t schedule Kentucky in Indianapolis but we’ll play Notre Dame or Butler there.

  • millzy32

    You seem to have watched this team play before. I think your prediction is fairly likely but that 15 point lead will probably dwindle down lower than 8 and we may be hoping that Butler’s last possession is a missed shot.

  • JohnFromBeyond

    We were willing to, along with home-home games. Funny how UK wouldn’t play us home-home, because neutral court games were “better”, but were willing to do so with UCLA.

  • millzy32

    IU mishandled the whole KY series. We need the game more than they do and that is just fact. They don’t need us on their schedule but we would benefit having them on the schedule if for nothing more than having the chance to defend our 76 team’s honor by knocking off KY like we did a couple years ago so they wouldn’t go undefeated.

  • IUBizmark

    Zeller almost blocked that shot…except he was on the bench.

  • INUnivHoosier

    Just throw them a steak, then.

  • VanPastorMan

    My friend, you are a genius.

  • Outoftheloop

    I have zero interest in a Calipari made for TV event. Playing in Indy against good Hoosier State opponents is great!

  • Outoftheloop

    I totally disagree! Sold out basketball in Indy in December is great! “Viability on a national level” is mindless drivel. If IU could go 26-5, the “nation” would notice.

  • SCHoosier

    Not one of TC’s brilliant moments.

  • Oregoniu

    I’ll be sure to watch this game but I’m not confident IU will win. But I am confident that:

    1. That IU will play very fast in order to bring ‘fatigue’ to the game. And because of the speed needed, CTC wil play 4 guards and 1 big most of the game.

    2. That Butler won’t get fatigued.

    3. That IU will try and dribble-drive every chance they get and may force a few shots. They will shoot the three but won’t have many clean looks especially since no plays are ran to open up the gaps. (think off-ball screens)

    4. That CTC’s game plan will call for mass substitutions, trying to use the NBA model of complete first and second unit substitutions dictated by the little 3×5 card.

    5. That the guys with the ‘hot’ hand will come out after being allowed to shoot and make three shots and then, “because of exhaustion”, they will be sub..ed out.

    6. IU will have a 6th man ( who will look very tan) on the floor running, clapping, and directing every play.

    7. That Butler will play basic fundamental “Indiana Style Basketball”, featuring hardnose defense and fundamentally sound offense taking pains to value the ‘rock’.

    8. That, I wish it wasn’t so, CTC will be out coached.

    9. That IU has some real good shooters but so does Butler.

    10. That IU is “a very young team and will learn a lot form this game” win or lose.

    11. That if the game comes down to a final play IU will run something that makes no sense to anyone and that one of IU’s best players will be on the bench at crunch time.

    But I still have faith and hope to see two ‘bigs’ on the floor at the same time (think Emmit even though ‘he’s not ready”) and for IU to pull this one out. Go Hoosiers!!!

  • IUBizmark

    Rivaled only by the time he put Austin Etherington on Frank Kaminsky with the game on the line.

  • chris

    So where is the reference to Robert Johnson being born to play in the Crossroads Classic?

  • Ole Man

    We don’t need KY. I’m an IU fan. We don’t need KY.

  • ForeverIU

    Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
    Success in Circuit lies
    Too bright for our infirm Delight
    The Truth’s superb surprise
    As Lightning to the Children eased
    With explanation kind
    The Truth must dazzle gradually
    Or every man be blind —

    — Emily Dickinson

  • GatewayHoosier

    I am not saying IU is close to the level of Duke or UK, but we are tied (or were a few weeks ago) with Kansas for the most wins vs. Top 25 teams (16) in the past 3 years.

    If anything, Crean’s problem has been failing to get the team to perform against mid-level opponents, not the elite. I just don’t see how criticizing IU’s record against top teams can stand up against any scrutiny.

  • Hoosier4life67

    The key to this is the fact that IU is trying to keep UK out of Indy. UK playing in Indy only helps recruit Indiana kids. UK playing at assembly hall helps recruit Indiana kids to IU. That’s my opinion on that matter.