What to expect: Arkansas State
Indiana is back in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to continue the four-game Hoosier Tipoff Classic on Wednesday night. The Hoosiers will host Arkansas State for the first ever meeting between the two programs. Arkansas State is 2-2 with home wins over Abilene Christian and Howard and losses at Evansville and Eastern Michigan.
The game will be broadcast at 7 p.m. on BTN with Kevin Kugler and Stephen Bardo on the call:
After a strong second half performance against South Florida, Indiana has two games remaining before a gauntlet of contests that will be unforgiving.
But before Indiana hosts Duke next week in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and then digs into conference play next weekend, the Hoosiers will wrap up the four-game Hoosier Tipoff Classic this week in Bloomington.
First up, the Hoosiers will host Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference. The Red Wolves are coached by Mike Balado, a former Louisville assistant who is in his first season in Jonesboro. Arkansas State was picked to finish seventh in the Sun Belt, a 12-team league.
MEET THE RED WOLVES
Arkansas State is an upgrade over some of the lower tier Division I programs that Indiana fans have been accustomed to seeing in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in recent seasons.
Upgrading the guarantee game portion of the non-conference schedule is a priority in Bloomington and as of today, the Hoosiers only have one sub-300 KenPom team on the docket.
The Red Wolves won 20 games last season and their coach, Grant McCasland, departed after just one season for North Texas, a Conference USA job. As a result, the cupboard wasn’t left bare for Balado as three starters are back from last season’s club.
Through four games, Arkansas State’s best player has been Ty Cockfield, a 5-foot-11 junior college transfer. He’s averaging a team-high 17.8 points on 55.1 percent shooting from the field. Cockfield is shooting 50 percent on 3s thus far and is coming off a 25-point, seven rebound, three assist and zero turnover performance against Howard.
Senior Rashad Lindsey, another 5-foot-11 guard, has started all four games with Cockfield in the Arkansas State backcourt. He’s struggled to take care of the ball (23.8 TO%, per KenPom) and has an effective field goal percentage of just 42.9.
Connor Kern, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, has started three of the team’s four games and is 5-of-12 on 3s. He’s averaging 5.3 points per game. The wildcard on the roster to this point is 6-foot-4 senior Deven Simms, the team’s second leading scorer at 15 points per game. Simms had a combined 45 points against Abilene Christian and Eastern Michigan, but played just six minutes in Monday’s win over Howard. Simms averaged 13.4 points and five rebounds off the bench last season for Arkansas State.
The frontcourt names to know are Tamas Bruce, Grantham Gillard and Tristan Walley. The 6-foot-7 Bruce has started all four games, but is averaging 8.1 fouls per 40 minutes, according to KenPom. He’s the team’s third leading scorer (12.5 ppg) and currently ranks in the top 100 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage.
Gillard is 6-foot-4 and undersized as a four man, but has done a solid job of getting to the foul line. Through four games, his free throw rate (FTA/FGA) is 73.7 percent and he’s connecting at a 85 percent clip from the line.
Walley is a 6-foot-7 junior college transfer who can block shots. Through four games, he’s averaging 4.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
One significant challenge for Arkansas State is its lack of size. The Red Wolves have just one rotation player taller than 6-foot-7 and it’s 6-foot-9 freshman Jake Scoggins, who is playing just 9.5 minutes per game.
Indiana has struggled with turnovers through four games, but Arkansas State has been even worse at taking care of the ball. The Red Wolves currently rank 329th nationally in turnover percentage at 24.8. Indiana’s turnover percentage of 22 is 269th nationally.
Defensively, Indiana has struggled to defend the 3-point line, but currently sits 71st nationally in 2-point field goal percentage defense and 27th in block percentage.
Arkansas State, meanwhile, has been awful at defending 2s (56.3 percent), but opponents are shooting just 27.1 percent on 3s so far against the Red Wolves. A lot of that probably has to do with Arkansas State’s lack of size inside and the quality of opponents thus far when looking at the 3-point shooting. This is a game where Indiana can’t settle for perimeter shots. Arkansas State is sending opponents to the free throw line frequently – the Red Wolves rank 298th nationally in opponent free throw rate – so this is a matchup where De’Ron Davis should get plenty of touches.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO
Nothing has come easy for Indiana so far this season as the Hoosiers trailed South Florida at halftime the last time out before pulling away in the second half.
The KenPom projection for Wednesday is Indiana by 11 with an 84 percent chance of victory. Sagarin likes the Hoosiers by 11.5.
Sunday’s second half was arguably Indiana’s best 20 minutes of basketball of the season, but the Hoosiers have yet to put together a full 40 minute performance through two exhibitions and four regular season games. While it’s only 11 days into the season, a beefed up non-conference schedule means that Indiana doesn’t have much time to fix its issues. After Wednesday, Indiana will play seven straight against teams currently ranked in the top 153 of KenPom’s rankings.
(Photo credit: Arkansas State basketball)
Filed to: Arkansas State Red Wolves