What to Expect: Northwestern

  • 02/24/2015 3:20 pm in

Indiana goes on the road for the final time this season on Wednesday night for a trip to Evanston to face Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Wildcats are 13-14 overall and 4-10 in the Big Ten, but have won three in a row.

The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Network at 7 p.m. ET with Eric Collins and Stephen Bardo on the call:

Indiana picked up its first win away from Assembly Hall in more than a month on Sunday at Rutgers with an 84-54 rout that was the worst home loss for the Scarlet Knights in 10 years.

Now it will look for a fourth Big Ten road win in a venue that’s typically filled with a large contingency of Hoosier fans in Welsh-Ryan Arena. Indiana won in Evanston last season, but Northwestern has some momentum late in the season with three straight wins (at Minnesota, Iowa, Penn State).

A win would give Indiana its 20th on the season and make the Hoosiers a near certainty to make the NCAA tournament field next month. A loss, however, would mean there’s still work to do to close out the regular season in Bloomington.

MEET THE WILDCATS (All stats are for conference games only)

It’s not going to be an overnight fix, but second-year coach Chris Collins appears to have Northwestern headed in a positive direction. Collins has mixed some Bill Carmody era holdovers in Tre Demps and Alex Olah with a solid cast of young players, highlighted by guard Bryant McIntosh and wing Vic Law, and has the Wildcats playing well in late February despite just a 4-10 conference mark.

The backcourt rotation is led by Demps, a junior, and McIntosh, a freshman who is from Greensburg and was recruited some by Indiana throughout his prep career. Demps is the team’s leading scorer in league play at 13.1 points per game on 39.7 shooting from behind the 3-point line. He’s 15th in the conference in assist rate (23 percent), but his primary value comes as a shooter from deep and he’s knocked down eight 3s over Northwestern’s last three games. Per Shot Analytics, Demps is most comfortable from the left wing in league play:


McIntosh, meanwhile, is a strong candidate for All-Big Ten freshman honors as he’s done a very solid job of running the team as a freshman. The 6-foot-3 Indiana native, who started his prep career at New Castle and finished it at Greensburg, is averaging 12.8 points per game in Big Ten games. He’s hitting 38.5 percent of his 3s and is fourth in the conference in assist rate at 28.8 percent. His shot chart in Big Ten play is most favorable from the center and left sides:


The rest of the perimeter/wing rotation includes Law, a 6-foot-7 freshman who was named the Big Ten freshman of the week on Monday as well as freshman Scottie Lindsey, senior Dave Sobolewski, sophomore Sanjay Lumpkin and sophomore Nathan Taphorn.

Law is the standout of the group and owns the 9th best defensive rebounding percentage in the conference and a solid 6.5 percent offensive rebounding percentage. His overall offensive numbers aren’t great – he’s shooting just 34.9 percent on 2s and 40 percent on 3s in league play – but is coming off a 22-point effort against Penn State at Welsh-Ryan.

Lindsey, a 6-foot-5 guard, is earning more minutes in the absence of JerShon Cobb, who has been out the last four games. He’s scoring just 3.6 points per game in conference play, but is top 20 in the league in both steal and block percentage. Sobolewski is a non-threat offensively and essentially just a space filler for when McIntosh needs a break. Taphorn is a 3-point specialist who is hitting 50 percent of his 3s in Big Ten games while Lumpkin is a low usage offensive player who does a solid job finishing the attempts he does take (64.2 percent on 2s).

Olah, a junior who is 7-foot and 270 pounds, has steadily improved over his career and averages 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in conference play to anchor the frontcourt. Olah does a nice job of drawing fouls (33.9 free throw rate) and finishes when he gets to the line (83.3 percent). He’s strangely taken 17 attempts from 3 in Big Ten play and has knocked down just one of those attempts from deep, but is making 51.3 percent of his 2s. The backups at the five are 6-foot-8 freshman Gavin Skelly and 6-foot-10 senior Jeremiah Kreisberg, a grad transfer from Yale, neither of which contributes significantly statistically.

A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS (Tempo-free stats via KenPom)


Pace figures to be a key factor in this one as Indiana is currently playing the second fastest tempo in Big Ten play at an average of 64.7 possessions per game and Northwestern is the 12th fastest team at 59 possessions per game on average.

But if these two teams do get up and down a little bit, the lack of defense could produce some entertainment and scoring. Indiana is last in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency and Northwestern isn’t far behind, although the Wildcats did just hold Penn State to .68 points per possession over the weekend.

The Hoosiers, on paper, have an edge offensively with better shooting, free throw rate and offensive rebounding percentage numbers. Northwestern has been playing zone recently, but Collins may need to rethink that strategy as Indiana can load the perimeter with shooters and fill it up from distance.

The Olah matchup is obviously a concern for Indiana as the Hoosiers really don’t have anyone who can guard him, but the big men who have really hurt IU have pounded the offensive glass, which isn’t necessarily Northwestern’s strong suit.


Pomeroy is basically viewing this game as a toss up as his numbers predict a one-point win for IU and a 56 percent chance of the Hoosiers picking up their 20th win. Vegas opened with IU as a 2.5-point favorite and Sagarin likes the Hoosiers by three.

The atmosphere for Indiana games at Northwestern isn’t your typical hostile Big Ten road atmosphere as Hoosier fans typically fill in a good portion of Welsh-Ryan and if IU gets going, can become an audible majority.

The Wildcats are still a program in the process of building, but unlike teams like Nebraska and Rutgers, who are packing it in recently, Northwestern is playing some of its basketball late in the season which makes it essential for Indiana to play well in order to walk out with a victory.

(Photo credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

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  • sarge

    Really need this game Hoosiers. Finish the regular season strong and win the last road contest.

  • INUnivHoosier

    Obviously the team can’t take Northwestern lightly, but there are few teams in the B1G I’d rather see on the schedule as the final away game.

  • And One

    What not to expect: NW winning a fourth straight game. I mean, come on.

  • Kyl470

    Simply put: If you want people to take you seriously as a NCAA tournament team then you don’t lose games to Northwestern. I don’t care that they have won 3 in a row. You just can’t lose to Northwestern. They are a 4-10 team for a reason and it’s because they are not good.

  • Hoosier Hall

    We gotta take care of business again here. They’ve had their fun with the 3 game streak now its time to get serious. We need this one and at least one more to stay out of the 8/9 seed territory.

  • Maybe its because I don’t fully understand KenPom’s system (I’m a fan but not a hardcore stats guy), but that one point margin seems pretty conservative. Sure, it is a road game, but as the article points out, NW is not the most intimidating home court.

  • Hoosier Hall

    On a side note, I think Collins is doing a terrific job there and they will be competing for tournament bids in the next 2 to 3 years. I don’t think they’ll ever be a top 4 or 5 Big 10 team but I believe Collins will have them out of the cellar soon enough.

  • SilentBob

    That’s actually the most sense KenPom has made to me all year, although I can guarantee were not looking at the same things lol. By Northwestern standards they are red hot. There last 3 game stretch is something every big ten team would be happy with. They have the second or third largest player in the big ten who averages 28 minutes per game and is one of the best shot blockers in the league. Hanner has had foul trouble ever since big ten play started. Even if Olah isn’t a phenomenal offensive rebounder he could be if Hanner has to sit, or if Troy and James aren’t crashing the glass. Finally it’s IU on the road against a zone, According to Crean they run a similar zone to Syracuse which always scares me lol.

  • Ms hoosier

    I don’t think Collins will be at NW long. Somebody will be knocking on his door. If he gets to a good basketball program he’ll win.

  • SCHoosier

    Was it two years ago that Demps really lite IU up in A-Hall when they made a big comeback late in the game? In any case..this kid for some reason likes to shoot against IU! I expect the Wildcats to give IU everything it wants and then some. Usual mantra for IU..hit shots..board.. play best D you can and for goodness sake no more 6 TO’s in the first 7 min….please! If Hoosiers pass effectively for good looks..IU by 5-6 pts in a toughie.

  • Hoosier Hall

    He’ll need to take them to their first ever NCAA tournament and then the other schools will come calling.

  • John D Murphy

    Question for the thread: Given the same record…would you rather be #4 seed in the B1G tourney and face the #5 first game or presumably get a W under your belt as the #5 seed by facing the 12/13 before facing the #5.

  • Hardwood83

    That’s a good question. I’m leaning towards the higher seed as it will give them more rest/prep time.

  • Pianoroark

    The 4 seed. If we beat the 12/13 seed as the 5, who cares? Means nothing to the committee, and we risk injuries and fatigue altering our chances later in the BIG tourney as the competition gets tougher. Plus, of course, no need to risk a potential bad loss just before Selection Sunday.

  • MDHoosier

    I expect a double-digit win by the Hoosiers!

  • ncHOOSIER82

    Yes he did. And they have an Indiana boy freshman sharpshooter. Yuck. Has there been an Indiana native who hasn’t lit it up against us lately (see GaryHarris)?

    I think we will miss Collin in the middle of the zone for ball movement. This will be a good test. I think we can win but we will have to earn it. Go Hoosiers.

  • Tcuomo

    Does it really even matter when Wisco will be waiting in the semis?

  • Eugene Debs

    Those are some good points right there.

  • Eastwood88_2

    This game is a scary one, but nw doesn’t foul and is not athletic. We should have a great shot to win by double digits. Really need this one to relax for a week. I would really hate 7 days of iu fans dissecting a loss.

  • Ole Man

    Good buddy, I think if IU wins by 1 we should consider ourselves very fortunate.
    NW historically has given us fits, no matter the records.

  • I absolutely refuse to predict an outcome. 🙂

  • dwdkc

    NW has won 3 in a row and is playing hard, unlike Rutgers. A win is good, anyway, anyhow. All that matters.

  • TomJameson

    AND in addition I don’t like road games in the B1G. One never knows what’s going to happen, no guarantees there!

  • ManovSteelo

    He’s not going anywhere unless Illinois fires Groce and / or Coach K croaks and named him as the successor in his will. As a “Chicago” kid and a Duke product, the NW job was his dream; I’m sure he sees himself as a young Coach K (who struggled at Duke, remember, before bringing in Johnny Dawkins and Co. in 1982), so the appeal to turn things around and be a hero on campus and nationally probably is what gets him up in the morning. Unfortunately for him (and Stanford’s Dawkins, ironically enough, given his own coaching situation), NW has such tough admission standards for athletes that it will take a series of small miracles to get elite ballplayers who are also strong students to come and play there — despite its lofty academic rep, what it clearly has come down to at Duke is that if Coach K offers you and you are elite, then you are in; no (academic) questions asked. Gotta get that all-important first NCAA bid, a la Tommy Amaker at Harvard, and then watch the chips fall his way in recruiting better talent.

  • calbert40

    They looked pretty pedestrian last evening. UW is a great team, no doubt, but I actually wouldn’t mind playing UW in the tourney. A loss doesn’t hurt your profile, but a win could shoot you up one to two seeding lines. It is like playing with house money.

  • CreamandCrimson

    Exactly…if we met them in the B1G Tourney Semis, I’d be very pleased. The reasons you gave are 100% accurate.

    Here’s to hoping we get a W tonight to keep our hopes of getting a top 4 seed alive. For me, it’s not about getting the double bye so that we have a better shot of winning the B1G Tournament (although that would be great). Rather, it’s more about staying out of a 2nd round matchup against someone like Minnesota or Northwestern. We would have nothing to gain from winning and risk adding a somewhat bad loss right before Selection Sunday.

  • IU diehard from CT

    i feel confident but also concerned…does that make sense? it will be very difficult when the game slows down, and NW makes IU guard the entire shot clock. Ive watched NW play maybe 100 times over the years. there is no getting around their pace of play. they play slow, and thats how it is. hopefully, IU can make shots and try and pull olah away from the paint. with the absence of CH, IU loses the ability to play smaller with a possible 5 shooter lineup, which is a lineup that causes problems for teams with a heavy post defense

  • calbert40

    I think Collins has the potential to be a really good coach. NW is very solid offensively, and if he was ever able to get more athletic players to play for him, I’m certain their D would improve.

    But I think it is FAR harder to turnaround a program today than it was in the 70s and 80s. There are a lot of similarities between NW and Duke in the early Coach K years. One of the biggest differences, which will present a monumental challenge to Collins, is media exposure. NW gets nearly none. Even in Chicago, they are a 2nd rate program behind Illinois. It is going to take a very special recruiting class for him to do more than a 1-2 year run. That may get him a new job, but I think continued success there may be borderline impossible.

  • Tcuomo

    I understand what you’re saying Cal, but IU just doesn’t match-up well against Wisco. Bo always gets over on us. UMD held them to 6-22 3’s and only 53 points. Not likely to happen with IU’s D. UMD can launch IU’s seed just as much and it’s a better match-up. Can IU get the 3 seed? IDK, they will need a lot to fall their way. Question: IF PU goes 11-7 and MSU and IU both finish @ 12-6, how would the tie breaker be determined when both teams split?

  • calbert40

    I think KenPom is pretty conservative most games. The spread doesn’t matter as much to me as the percentage chance of winning. His computers believe that IU has a 56 percent chance of winning. Unless you are a truly elite team, a nearly 60 percent chance of winning a league road game is pretty high, all things considered.

    NW is playing very well. They are at home. They have nothing to lose. IU has been up and down on the road this year, and over the last month they have been inconsistent (win one, lose one). I think he’s pretty close to the mark.

  • CreamandCrimson

    In that scenario, the record against the 1st place team would be considered, if that record is the same, the record against the 2nd place team is considered, if that’s also the same, you continue down the standings until there is an advantage gained by one team. It appears that Maryland will be finishing 2nd…we went 1-1 against the Terps, the Spartans went 0-2 so in your scenario, would be the 3 and MSU would be the 4.

  • Tcuomo

    Thanks C&C

  • Alan

    IU is only a 2 point favorite. Yes NW is winning some games but Vegas knows something…

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    contrast in styles in this one. of course we want a track meet and NW wants to run clock, i look a TW over under of 4 dunks tonite!! really excited about this one because my son will be over to watch the game. GO HOOSIERS!!

  • SCHoosier

    Yea and if John Shurna somehow ends up in their line up tonight (as he was for what it seemed like 6 years) I’m gonna leave the room!:)

  • SCHoosier

    agree on Collin.

  • ManovSteelo

    You don’t get media exposure if you don’t win, and you can’t win without good players, and you don’t get good players without recruiting well, and . . . . This becomes circular until the cycle gets broken, which won’t happen unless and until Collins can somehow get around the stringent academic standards of the school vis-a-vis the good to elite prospects who could actually get in. With the exception of perhaps McIntosh, doesn’t look as if he’s making too much headway in that area, so the sad cycle continues. While I don’t disagree with your assessments, I think the problem ultimately comes down to the less-than-stellar roster he’s working with on a daily basis — these guys just can’t compete consistently with most of the BIG in terms of talent, regardless of how hard they work. Collins needs to cast a wider net in recruiting the state, searching for guys that may be passed over by the Big Boys but who still are dying for a high-major D-I offer. That, and attempting to re-woo one-time PG commit Jaren Sina (Carmody), who recently left Seton Hall and is still looking for a school. He and McIntosh would be a great combo for the backcourt, and would be a nice selling point for future recruits to consider once they see what ostensibly those two would bring to the table as a duo.

    That said, Go, Hoosiers! Hoping for a big game from Yogi and a close score that IU manages to turn into a W to help the NCAA bid.

  • calbert40

    Exactly. Something must be done that breaks that cycle of losing, but talking about it is easy. Actually breaking it is very difficult. I don’t envy his job, but if he is able to build that program into a tourney team just once, he will probably be able to write his own check at NW or he will have his pick of major programs in the future. I wish him luck. I’ve always rooted for NW more than any other B1G school. I’d like to see them achieve some success and then sustain it…just so long as it doesn’t affect IU in the process!

  • calbert40

    Thanks, Cream. I was about to look it up, but you saved me the hassle.

  • calbert40

    I don’t think we match-up great with UW, either. The good thing with UW, though, is that they don’t play D at all. They just try to slow you down some. If they had an off shooting night, and we had a strong shooting performance, I think we could beat them on a neutral court.

    But the point is just that everyone expects UW to waltz through the B1G tourney and win the championship. If any team beats them, that team will bump up at least one seed line, provided it isn’t someone like Rutgers.

    If I could choose what I want for IU the rest of the way, I’d love to see them earn the #3 seed in the B1G tourney, play UW in the championship, and win or lose, earn a #6 seed in the NCAA. Anything but an 8 or 9 in the NCAA!

  • ManovSteelo

    Well, Bozich and Co.’s scouting report was simply money. Demps did ’em in — where was Yogi?

    Too bad you got your wish re: NW’s ‘achieving success’ (if only for one game), and at IU’s expense, sadly. Yikes. Just yikes.