Do you remember the all-offense, no-defense Iowa team from last year? Well, that's essentially what this Indiana team is, only worse. Last year's iteration of the Hawkeyes finished the season with the 120th worst defense in the nation, according to Kenpom's adjusted defensive efficiency. This year's version of the Hoosiers is ranked 231st. Unlike Iowa, who had a defensive collapse of epic proportions at the end of last season, this Indiana team has been insanely terrible on the defensive end of the court all season.
That's not to say Iowa couldn't still lose this game; they could.
Because even though Indiana's defense is crap, their offense is the exact opposite. Similar to the 5th ranked Iowa offense of last season, Indiana's offense is the 7th best in the nation this year. Their style is a lot different than last year's Hawkeyes, in that they shoot a lot more threes while Iowa constantly attacked the rim. But the comparison of the gap between the two units still stands.
The Hawkeyes should be able to put up points in this one. But will they be able to put up enough points?
When Iowa has the Ball
Note: All Kenpom rankings are from Monday (when I was writing this), so if they are slightly different at the time you are reading this, that is why. Also, all numbers in the charts in this post are conference-only statistics. Finally, a reminder on how to read this chart: 100 = Division 1 average. Anything above 100 is above average, while anything below 100 is below average. The bigger the number, the better.
On this end of the court we have the second best offense in the conference against the worst defense. Iowa's offense is averaging an opponent-adjusted 1.22 points per possession (PPP) and Indiana's defense is giving up an opponent-adjusted 1.03 PPP. Apart from Northwestern who is right at 1.00 PPP, the Hoosiers are the only defense giving up more than a point per trip in conference play. Most of that stems from the fact that they don't contest shots well at all and they never force turnovers.
So why are they so bad on defense? Well, I imagine that some of it has to do with the fact that they are so young. Outside of three juniors, the rest of the guys who get decent playing time are all sophomores or freshman. Additionally, many people think that is has to do with the fact that Tom Crean will have his defense switch from man-to-man to zone defense in the middle of a possession sometimes. This is supposed to have the effect of confusing the offense, but with the way this Indiana team plays defense, it seems to be confusing his players more often than not.
The Hoosiers aren't absolutely terrible in every facet, however. They are a good defensive rebounding team for having nobody over 6'9" and they are pretty good at not fouling and putting their opponent on the line.
That being said, the Hawkeyes still have the advantage in every area on this side of the ball. The Hoosiers have no post presence on defense and they have been punished down low all season because of it.
Teams are taking advantage of their lack of presence in the paint, as Indiana is allowing the competition to make 62% of their two pointers at the rim this season. Iowa's size down low should not only be able to score with ease, but will hopefully allow them to clean up any misses they might have and the foul-drawing trio of Aaron White, Gabe Olaseni, and Adam Woodbury should be able to work themselves to the line at least a little bit. And if they don't visit the line all that much, that probably means that Indiana wants nothing to do with them down low.
And that brings me to another match up nightmare for Indiana on this side of the ball: who will guard Jarrod Uthoff? None of Indiana's wing players who get a lot of playing time are taller than 6'4". That means James Blackmon will likely be guarding Jarrod Uthoff when Indiana plays man defense tonight. Not only does Blackmon have a 5" height disadvantage here, but he's not exactly a defensive superstar to begin with. So Uthoff should be able to post Blackmon up on the block, but he should also get some good looks from outside. And Iowa will most likely need some or all of Uthoff, Jok, or Oglesby to knock down their threes because Indiana's offense will be firing away at will.
When Indiana has the Ball
For all of the negative things I had to say about the Indiana defense, I'm going to say a lot of glowing things about the offense. At 1.24 opponent-adjusted PPP, the Hoosiers' offense is second best in the conference behind Wisconsin and just ahead of Iowa. Meanwhile, Iowa's defense, sitting at 0.96 PPP, is ninth best in the conference.
On this side of the ball, Indiana does everything well save for getting to the free throw line. They don't turn the ball over and they are a surprisingly good offensive rebounding team, considering their lack of height and beef. When it comes to shooting the Hoosiers have had a nasty tendency of getting their shot blocked quite a bit in Big Ten play. The Division I average for block rate is 9.7% and Indiana has had 14.3% of their shot attempts blocked by Big Ten foes this season. That's bad. Lucky for them (or unlucky in Iowa's case), they are making 40.7% of their three point attempts in conference play. That's a huge weapon for any team in America, but when 2 out of every 5 field goal attempts comes from long range, that is a gigantic weapon for Indiana.
Outside of keeping the Hoosiers off the line, I don't really see any advantage for Iowa here. The Hawkeyes have been a spotty defensive rebounding team this season and they aren't great at forcing turnovers at a high rate either. But most of all, they give up a lot of three point attempts and that is not good against an Indiana team that takes 40% of their shots from out there. Iowa's reliance on two pointers and free throws can make them very, very vulnerable to a team that is making their threes. That means Indiana doesn't necessarily have to be playing a perfect game to keep things close, and if they are playing a perfect game, then Iowa is probably going to need a crazy PPP total to keep pace.
That is certainly possible playing this Indiana defense, but this Indiana offense clearly has the advantage on this side of the court.
Team Shooting Tendencies
(Shot charts courtesy of Shot Analytics.)
The Hoosiers are surprisingly not a great two point jump shooting team. But holy hell, look at that right wing and corner.
Iowa has been slightly better from two point range and the free throw line since conference play began. And even though they have been shooting their threes well, it's hard to top that 40.7% by Indiana.
Again, what makes this Indiana offense so dangerous is not just the fact that they can shoot from deep, but the fact that they shoot from out there so often. It also doesn't help that Iowa's defense gives up so many looks from long distance.
This is going to shock you, I know, but Indiana relies on the three ball for a gigantic chunk of their points. Like, almost 15 percentage points more than Iowa does. The Hawkeyes better hope they are converting at the rim and at the line in this one.
Opposing Players to Know
Yogi Ferrell is the closest thing this Indiana squad has to a senior on the roster. He's only a junior, but he's been the man at the point guard position for three years now and, for the second year in a row, he's averaging 36 minutes per game in conference play. His points per game are down slightly this year, but that's because he has more help on this side of the ball. He's still shooting it as well as ever, it's just that he doesn't need to take as many shots in order for this offense to be good. But even with the addition of all the extra firepower this team lacked on offense last season, Ferrell is still scoring 15 points a night on Big Ten opponents.
Ferrell can do a bit of everything with the ball in his hands. He can drive to the basket and finish or he can find the open man. But, at 42% on the season, his most dangerous quality is his ability to shoot from distance.
All three of those skills make him dangerous in the pick and roll. Not only does Iowa need to make it a point to contest any three he attempts, they also need to keep him out of the lane in order to keep the defense from collapsing and giving the rest of his teammates some wide open looks from three.
A good chunk of that firepower that Indiana was missing last year has come via the way of James Blackmon Jr. this year. Blackmon Jr. is just a true freshman, which explains the defensive breakdowns he tends to have, but his scoring ability is much more advanced.
His shot could use a little bit of polishing from inside the perimeter, but from outside it, he's making 39.4% of his attempts. Blackmon Jr. also uses the second most offensive possessions of anyone on the Hoosiers and he takes, by far, the most shots of anyone when he's on the floor. He's also got a very impressive turnover rate for a guy who is just in his first year on campus, and is a very good defensive rebounder for a 6'4" guy. He's got a bright future.
The main threats in the back court round out with Robert Johnson and Nick Zeisloft. Johnson is another freshman, this time at shooting guard, who has taken exactly 50% of his shots from inside and outside this season, but thanks to his 41% field goal percentage from long range, Iowa should be extremely worried about leaving him open. Zeisloft, meanwhile, has 133 field goal attempts all year, 117 of which have been of the triple variety. Out of those 117, he's made 51 (43.6%) and put together what is probably the best shot chart I've come across this season.
And, lastly, let's discuss the big men for the Hoosiers.
First and foremost, Troy Williams is an undersized, but ridiculously athletic 6'7" 206 lb. big man. He plays a majority of his time at the four spot, but he will also slide to the five at times too. He has played almost 29 minutes per game against Big Ten foes and is averaging 13.8 points. He will, on the rare occasion, hoist up a three, but he's one of the few on the team that shouldn't concern Iowa from beyond the arc.
Instead, Williams is at his best in transition and when catching alley-oops. A big knock on him last year was that he wasn't very good at creating his own shot in the half court offense. I haven't watched enough Indiana basketball to know if that's changed or not this year, but Iowa should hope that their length down low can bother Williams when he gets the ball near the rim. Besides being a low post scorer for the Hoosiers, Williams is also the best rebounder on the team. He's not amazing on the offensive boards, but he can really crash the defensive glass.
Lastly, Hanner Mosquera-Perea (HMP) and Collin Hartman are the other important front court players for Indiana. HMP is only playing 15 minutes per game in conference play, but the 6'9" center is one of the better rebounders on the team in his limited minutes, and he really seems to be a guy who benefits from running the pick and roll with Yogi Ferrell. Hartman is a guy who doesn't look like he's going to play against Iowa due to injury, but just in case, I should mention he has been important to this team for his defensive abilities against opposing big men. He usually gets 23 minutes per game, which means HMP will probably get some more playing time as could Emmit Holt, if Hartman is out with an injury.
What Kenpom Thinks
Kenpom Rankings: Iowa #25, Indiana #47
Projected Score: Iowa 74 (45%), Indiana 76 (55%)
Projected Points Per Possession: Iowa 1.14, Indiana 1.17
Projected Possessions: 65
No surprise here, as Kenpom calls for an all-offense, no-defense close contest between these two teams. The numbers give the edge to Indiana here mainly because of the home court advantage.
Really, I don't know what to think about this game except for the fact that it makes me nervous. Indiana seems like a team that is just a bad, bad match up for this Hawkeye squad. They have smaller, quicker players that can put Iowa away from deep. Sure, Iowa could also pose as a nightmare match up for them as well. The Hawkeyes' size and strength in the post could bully the hell out of this Indiana defense all night long. My main concern, though, is that Indiana's margin of error seems smaller than that of Iowa's. If Indiana gets down early, a few threes can get them back on track. But the whole 3 > 2 thing means they don't have to play a perfect game to stay within striking distance. If Indiana comes out hot from deep and Iowa gets flustered on the road, this could easily spiral out of control.
Of course, that could easily just be the pessimistic Iowa fan in me coming out. Indiana could go cold from three point range and be absolutely screwed when they can't stop White and Olaseni in the paint and Uthoff, Jok, and Oglesby are knocking down wide open looks from three.
Honestly, I can envision this game going in any of the above-mentioned directions. But no matter what happens, I'm pretty sure this is going to be a "defense is optional" type of game. I would probably feel better about Iowa's chances in this type of game at home, but these teams only play once this year, so what can you do? I want a Hawkeye victory, first and foremost, but I think I will be fine with a close loss.