What to expect: Northwestern

  • 01/13/2018 11:52 am in

Indiana will look for its fourth league win on Sunday afternoon as the Hoosiers host Northwestern. The Wildcats are 11-7 overall and 2-3 in the Big Ten league.

The game will be broadcast on CBS at 4:30 p.m. ET with Spero Dedes and Clark Kellogg on the call:

A preseason top 25 team, the 2017-18 season has been a struggle so far for Northwestern. The Wildcats, who made the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in program history, have lost seven games by an average of 14.6 points. That’s slightly worse than Indiana’s average margin in losses, which is 14.2 points.

The Wildcats begin a three-game stretch on Sunday that could ultimately determine the direction of their season. After traveling to Bloomington, Northwestern will host Ohio State and Penn State next week at All State Arena. In terms of quality of opponent, Northwestern doesn’t have any “bad” losses besides a one-point loss at Georgia Tech. But its resume is lacking in wins that will impress the selection committee. If it wants to get back into the postseason conversation, the time to make a move is now.

Indiana, meanwhile, is playing arguably its best basketball of the season despite losing De’Ron Davis recently to injury. The Hoosiers are in the top half of the league in defense and have rebounded the ball very well in their last two wins. In a Big Ten that is wide open after clear separation at the top, Indiana can put itself in position for a top half finish in the league by continuing to win at home.

MEET THE WILDCATS

Northwestern’s cast is full of experience as the Wildcats start two seniors, two juniors and a redshirt sophomore. Seniors Scottie Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh start in the backcourt and are the team’s two leading scorers.

Lindsey’s 14.7 points per game lead the Wildcats and he’s an excellent spot-up shooter, according to Synergy Sports. In 81 spot-up possessions this season, Lindsey has 94 points. That ranks in the 83rd percentile nationally. He’s shooting 34.4 percent on 3s this season.

McIntosh is one of the Big Ten’s best playmakers as his 13.4 points per game are second on the team and his six assists per game are tops on the roster. McIntosh, an Indiana native, has an assist rate of 43.9 percent in four conference games and is coming off of a 16-assist, zero turnover performance in a win over Minnesota on Wednesday. However, he’s shooting just 33.3 percent on 2s in conference games and just 32.8 percent on 3s for the season.

Junior Jordan Ash, sophomore Isiah Brown and freshman Anthony Gaines are the backups in the backcourt. The 6-foot-4 Gaines is the most productive of the trio as he averages 3.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 15.4 minutes per game.

Redshirt junior Vic Law starts on the wing and has shown improvement after a disappointing sophomore campaign. The 6-foot-7 Law is third on the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game and second in rebounding at 5.4 per game. Like Lindsey, Law has been effective in spot-up situations as he’s got 68 points in 60 spot-up possessions, per Synergy. He’s shooting a team-best 42.5 percent on 3s.

Redshirt sophomore Aaron Falzon and senior Gavin Skelly split the minutes at the four and both can stretch the floor. Falzon is shooting 40.4 percent on 3s and Skelly is shooting 50 percent (15-of-30). Falzon is scoring 1.42 points per possession on spot-ups and Skelly is at 1.22 points per possession, so Indiana must find a way to make both put the ball on the floor.

Junior Dererk Pardon is undersized at the five, but plays much bigger than his 6-foot-8 frame. Pardon is the seventh best offensive rebounder in the Big Ten (12.2 OR%) and is fourth in block percentage (9.8). Pardon’s free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 57.1 is the best on the team and he’s knocking down 61.8 percent of his attempts on the season.

TEMPO-FREE PREVIEW

Neither team looks to get out and run regularly as Indiana’s adjusted tempo, according to Ken Pomeroy, is 255th nationally and Northwestern is 308th.

The two key areas are rebounding and free throws and the Hoosiers are going to need a solid performance in both to prevail. The Hoosiers are currently the Big Ten’s third best offensive rebounding team and Northwestern is second. Both teams are also in the top five in defensive rebounding percentage, so second chance points are certainly worth monitoring.

Northwestern has really struggled to keep Big Ten opponents off the free throw line. The Wildcats are 12th in the league in opponent free throw rate at 41.3 percent while Indiana is fifth at 27.7 percent.

While IU’s turnaround on turnovers has been heavily cited, its improved ability to defend without fouling is equally important. Indiana finished last in the league last season in opponent free throw rate (45.6 percent).

WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO

The KenPom line is Indiana by one with a 53 percent chance for a Hoosier victory while Sagarin’s ratings like IU by half of a point once adjusted for home court. The Vegas line should be out later on Saturday.

Northwestern has struggled on the road this season. The Wildcats are 1-4 in true road games and the lone win was by two over DePaul at Wintrust Arena in mid-December. Still, Indiana already has three home losses this season, each of which has come by 10 or more points.

If Indiana is going to pull out its third straight win, slowing down McIntosh while winning the rebounding and free throw battles are the clear keys.

(Photo credit: Abbie Parr/Getty Images North America)

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  • TomJameson

    Come on … IU favored by only 1 at AH is almost a disgrace. I know where the program is right now, but still ….

    Hope IU takes that as motivation, and comes out really strong. Hit them in the mouth right away, and keep the pedal to the metal the entire game. A 20 point win would make a tremendous statement.

  • Sandra Wilson

    Win this game and we’ll be tied with MSU for 4th. I know it won’t last, but it’s nice for now. MSU’s defense today looked about the way ours did at the early part of the season. Lucky for the Spartans the B1G has chosen them this year to be the recipient of the easiest schedule possible and probably felt that would help them be a #1 seed. Sure would be nice if we had divisions and a fair schedule. Looking down the line, assuming we can beat NW (and that’s a big assumption), it looks like 9-9 is possible, not probable, but possible. Go Hoosiers !

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Well put. This is another phenomenal opportunity to move up in the Big Ten standings. Northwestern is struggling and this game is at home. I hope IU takes advantage of this opportunity.

  • HoosierHillbilly

    Need to get this win. Our next 5-6 games will be a gauntlet. Probably won’t be favored in any of them.
    It’s nice to see the team starting to buy in a little to Archie’s system. Tempo and turnovers going down, defense stepping up in key situations. If our shots start falling and we start attacking the rim we will be a tough team to beat down the stretch.

  • JethroTroll

    Umm, IU has blow out home losses to Indiana St and Fort Wayne this year. Nothing further needs said.

  • TomJameson

    Exactly my point, and why I said I know where the program is right now. Thanks.

    More clearly, this game will tell us what this team is all about. I don’t think it’s the same as it was last month. They need a great team effort to beat a very balanced NW.

  • TomJameson

    Me too man. It’s that buzz-word I’ve been preaching since even before the coaching change. I need to see that consistency. This is the game that will tell the tale of this team. If they are “getting it”, if they’re on the right road, or if they take a step back.

  • JethroTroll

    Since when is losing on the road to a good team a bad thing, especially considering the quality of this year’s IU squad?

  • JethroTroll

    ? ‘We can be that team too’? We have been that team before. Too many times in recent years actually. That’s why i disagree with this whole idea of how it’s ‘disgraceful’ to be favored by only one against NW.

  • PBzeer

    Not sure who you think we’ll beat if it’s a big assumption to beat a team preforming well under expectations at Assembly Hall.

  • ForIndiana

    Random thought while watching Vandy and Kentucky yesterday regarding Romeo…I don’t see that Vandy has any advantages over IU in landing his commitment; however, we can all recall there seemed to be some “rub” between Romeo, injured slightly at the time, and Calipari over the summer with some USA team…it occurred to me that Romeo “may” want to get a shot at Kentucky in what will presumably be his only year in college…with Vandy, he would get that shot twice in league play, and maybe a third in the SEC tourney…that would be a thing Vandy has over us in the comparison game. Might be a total non-factor to Romeo, but it crossed my mind while watching the game and comparing what Vandy had on court versus the opportunity to become an IU legend?

  • ForIndiana

    Seems the league this year has shown you can beat anybody on a given night if you play a clean and motivated game. See Rutgers nearly knocking off MSU, or all of Ohio State’s wins thus far, outside of MSU and Purdue, its shaping up to be a free-for-all to finish in spots 3-5

  • PBzeer

    Focused, intense and motivated is just what I expect us to be today.

  • N71

    There’s a new video on YouTube that has Romeo’s highlights from last night, he scored 40+ over Scottsburg I think it was. Had me also wondering what he will do. You watch him and it makes you wonder if he would prefer to be away from all of the attention which is something Vanderbilt would have over IU and Kansas. Its his demeanor that I’m trying to read, from a competition perspective its like that uncle you had that kicked all the cousins’ asses out on the driveway during Thanksgiving, he’s really not challenged at the high school level. When interviewed as well he’s somewhat disinterested or annoyed. Vanderbilt would be a more quiet place for sure, smaller school, limited basketball tradition, small fan base, etc…a place to hide if that’s what you were looking for.

  • inCMitrust

    Expect McIntosh to stick it to us one more time for about 25 for not recruiting him, but RoJo matches him for a close IU win.

  • Lance76

    After MSU dropped that game to U of M, Izzo will likely have MSU playing PO’ed. Bad for us arriving in the Breslin on my birthday. The best present I could get would be the Hoosiers getting the win.

  • Arch Puddington

    No one game tells a tale, or at least not a definitive one. We are just past the half way point of the season, and still early in the conference part of our schedule with most of the really tough games yet to come. First year of a new coach, third game since losing our starting center, learning to play small, etc. We could blow NU out and lose our next 5 games, and we could lose today and then beat MSU on the road. Many chapters left in this story.

  • TomJameson

    Of course one game doesn’t tell the tale, Arch. But if the effort is there like in the last 2 games (and some 1/2 games before that), then I would feel comfortable thinking that the consistency could be there. In this case, I’m using the definition of consistency as being [I]”steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc”[/I].

    And yes, they might blow some games in the future (again), but I’m not going to go into the what-ifs that could happen, there are too many variations that anybody can make up. I’m just reading the chapters that are written, not going to make up the ending to this book.

    For this point of consistency, I’m using the start of the season, even with it’s 2 bad losses, and going through the last 2-3 games and seeing them continually get better. And again, if they show the same effort in this game as the last, IMO, that’s a good sign.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Good point in. I’m hoping Zach guards him.

  • VOXAC30

    Get ready for a 7 and 2 run fellas it is starting today.

  • Lance76

    Great idea—pressure the ball hard and make it difficult to get the offense going. McR is like that mosquito that is annoying and just will not go away.

  • who’syourhoosier

    game’s on, wish i’d looked elsewhere other than this article for the start time.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Lance, hello!!! Ugly, ugly first half. IU is ahead though,,, thankfully.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Love it!!!!!

  • Does a guy with serious NBA aspirations really want to “hide”?