Three things to watch for: Indiana at Xavier
We’ll have our traditional “what to expect” preview later in the week, but here are three things to watch for when Indiana travels to Xavier on Friday:
The health of Colby Jones
The Musketeers were without Jones in Tuesday’s win against Fairfield and his status is up in the air for Friday’s matchup. According to Sean Miller, Jones was hurt in practice on Monday.
The preseason first-team All-Big East selection has a sprained ankle and was on the bench in a walking boot on Tuesday at the Cintas Center.
Through two games, the 6-foot-5 Jones is averaging 13.5 points, seven assists and four rebounds while shooting 42.9 percent from the field.
“The good news is x-rays were negative,” Miller said Tuesday night. “And he’s made progress from yesterday to today. I know Colby’s hopeful he can play. So are all of us. We certainly aren’t going to put him at risk. It’s going to be his decision and it’ll also be making sure that he’s able to play. I think we’ll know more as we get to the day before.
“I think the situation is… he would have to be able to show us that he can go through a shootaround, go through a practice, the swelling, the mobility, all of the things you look for have to be in place. And if they are, then we’ll play him. Certainly, we would love to have him.”
Freemantle/Nunge vs. Jackson-Davis/Thompson/Reneau
Friday night will bring two versatile and talented frontcourts together on a national stage.
Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson and Malik Reneau are one of the Big Ten’s best frontcourt units. But Xavier’s Zach Freemantle and Jack Nunge are a formidable duo capable of causing matchup problems.
Freemantle posted a triple-double in Tuesday’s 78-65 win over Fairfield with 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. The 6-foot-9 senior has made 49 3-pointers in his career and can draw defenders away from the basket.
Nunge, who is in his second season at Xavier after transferring from Iowa, scored 23 points on Tuesday despite missing six free throws. At 7-foot, Nunge is a perimeter threat. He made all three of his attempts from distance in Tuesday’s win and also had three blocks.
Indiana’s bigs will need to have great awareness defensively on Friday, particularly on the perimeter when keeping tabs on Freemantle and Nunge.
How will Indiana fare on the road?
If Indiana is going to meet expectations this season, it needs to win more away from Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers went 3-8 in true road games last season with their only victories coming against teams that were ranked 83rd or lower in the KenPom rankings.
Friday’s game is Indiana’s first opportunity for a win that will stick on the NCAA tournament resume.
“I tell our players, the road is different,” Mike Woodson said Monday on his radio show. “You’ve got to have a mentality on the road that you can’t turn the ball over, get good shots and you really gotta defend and rebound the ball.”
While Xavier sits at No. 39 in the KenPom ratings as of Wednesday morning, the computer numbers project a tight game. Pomeroy likes Indiana by just three and the Sagarin ratings favor the Musketeers by four.