What to Expect: Indiana vs. Arizona
Indiana returns to action on Saturday evening against Arizona in Las Vegas. The Wildcats won the Maui Invitational and are 7-1 overall.
Saturday’s game is set for a 7:30 p.m. ET tip on FOX:
The third of Indiana’s four marquee non-conference games is Arizona. The Wildcats were picked to finish second in the Pac-12 in the preseason and are a current top 20 KenPom team.
Tommy Lloyd is in his second season in Tucson and has compiled a 40-5 record after spending 20 years as an assistant to Mark Few at Gonzaga. The Wildcats have size, play an uptempo style that is fun to watch and are battle-tested this season with wins over Cincinnati, San Diego State and Creighton.
It’s a testament to Lloyd that Arizona remains a top-20 team despite losing Bennedict Mathurin, Dalen Terry and Christian Koloko to the NBA in the offseason.
MEET THE WILDCATS
Arizona won the Maui Invitational last month, but has been shaky returning from the island. In its first post-Maui game, Arizona lost by 15 at Utah. Most recently, the Wildcats beat California by 13 at home last Sunday. Any conference home win by double figures should be viewed favorably, but Cal is in the conversation for the worst high-major team in the country at 0-10.
The scoring strength for Arizona lies in the frontcourt with the duo of Azoulas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo.
Both players can run the floor and like to seal off their defenders in transition for easy buckets. Arizona is playing the nation’s fastest pace with an average of 75.8 possessions per game.
Tubelis is a 6-foot-11 junior from Lithuania who averages 20.1 points and 8.3 rebounds in 27.1 minutes per game. He’s shooting 61.9 percent from the field and 44.4 percent on 3s in nine attempts. He’s using 28 percent of Arizona’s possessions, the highest mark on the roster.
Ballo followed Lloyd from Gonzaga before last season and is a high-usage, high-efficiency post scorer. After averaging only 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in 15.2 minutes last season, the Mali native is amidst a breakout season as a junior. His 19.1 points per game are second on the team and he’s shooting a ridiculous 76.9 percent from the field. Ballo’s major wart offensively is his free throw shooting. He’s taken 61 attempts but is shooting just 54.1 percent. His efficiency at the rim is a major reason Arizona enters Saturday’s game as the nation’s best 2-point shooting team at 64.5 percent.
Pelle Larson began his career at Utah before transferring to Arizona before last season. The Swedish wing is a career 38.3 3-point shooter, but is just 6-for-22 from distance through the first eight games. About half of his field goal attempts at Arizona have come from beyond the 3-point line.
The starting backcourt for the Wildcats consists of Texas transfer Courtney Ramey and Kerr Kriisa.
Ramey originally committed to Louisville as a high school player, but ended up at Texas with Shaka Smart. The St. Louis native played three years for Smart and one for Chris Beard before opting to use his final season of eligibility in Tucson. He was suspended for the first three games of the season for participating in a non-certified pre-NBA draft camp in the offseason.
The 6-foot-3 guard is third on the team in scoring at 13.8 points per game and is shooting a sizzling 15-for-30 from distance through five games. His 32 minutes per game lead the Wildcats.
Kriisa, an Estonia native, runs the point and has been excellent this season. His assist-to-turnover ratio is 3.1-to-1 and he’s shooting 40.9 percent from 3 on 44 attempts. Kriisa is also a career 83.8 percent free throw shooter. Kriisa had his second career triple-double earlier this season with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists against Southern University. The matchup between Kriisa and Xavier Johnson will be one to watch.
Cedric Henderson, a 6-foot-6 transfer from Campbell, plays 23.4 minutes off the bench and averages 9.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. The Memphis native is shooting 66.7 percent on 2s and 40 percent on 3s.
Freshman Kylan Boswell was a top 30 recruit in the 2022 class and is the backup for Kriisa. He’s struggled thus far and is shooting 23.1 percent from the field. Long term, he projects as an important backcourt piece for Lloyd but his role will likely be minimal behind Kriisa for now.
Two frontcourt backup names to know are sophomore Adama Bal and freshman Henri Veesaar. Bal is a France native who logs 14.4 minutes off the bench and is a career 37.5 percent 3-point shooter. Veesaar is from Estonia and is a 7-footer who is 10-for-14 on 2s.
Indiana’s defense will be challenged at MGM Grand Arena. Arizona enters Saturday’s matchup with the nation’s second-best offense and the best effective field goal percentage, per KenPom. Indiana has only allowed one opponent – Xavier – to score more than a point per possession in a game this season.
The Wildcats push the pace relentlessly and their big men run the floor to score quickly. Kriisa and Ramey can also put a lot of pressure on the defense with 3-point shooting.
Arizona is a solid defensive rebounding team, but has struggled with turnovers, which isn’t surprising due to their pace. While the Wildcats are a good 3-point shooting team, it isn’t an emphasis of the offense. Indiana has a higher point distribution from 3s than Arizona at 24.8 percent versus 23.8 percent.
Defensively, Arizona has holes to exploit. Their perimeter defense can be beaten off the dribble and aren’t nearly as good of a shot-blocking team as Indiana.
WHAT IT COMES DOWN TO
The KenPom projection is Indiana by one with a 54 percent chance of victory for the Hoosiers. The Sagarin numbers like Indiana by three.
With the status of Jalen Hood-Schifino unclear, Indiana will need another strong performance from Tamar Bates, Trey Galloway and Miller Kopp to be successful. Bates and Galloway were excellent against Nebraska, but were ineffective at Rutgers.
This could also be a tricky matchup for the Hoosiers at the four against Tubelis. Race Thompson hasn’t played up to his normal level this season so far and the size and versatility of Tubelis is a tough matchup.
Both fanbases should be well represented in Las Vegas and the winner of this matchup will have a notch on the resume that will be valuable come NCAA tournament selection Sunday.
Filed to: Arizona Wildcats