One of the most incredible facts about the current state of Wisconsin hoops is that the Badgers currently have a 12-game winning streak against Indiana, the longest streak any team has pieced together against the Hoosiers in their storied history. Wisconsin has beaten Indiana seven consecutive times away from Madison, including five in a row at Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
I could just read that paragraph over and over and be happy for the rest of the day.
Luckily, however, Bo Ryan and the Badgers (16-0, 3-0 Big Ten) aren't so easily placated. No, they are taking the business of extending that streak so seriously that they held closed practices for three straight days after beating Illinois to prepare for their first truly challenging Big Ten road trip of the season.
The Hoosiers (11-5, 1-2) just squeaked by Penn State (a game Ken Pomeroy actually predicted IU would lose) to earn their first conference win. After losing two of the most talented players in the league last year to the NBA, Indiana has added star freshman Noah Vonleh to the mix down low, replacing Cody Zeller. Behind Vonleh, IU is one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the nation.
Adam Johnson, manager of IU site The Crimson Quarry, joins us today to discuss Tuesday night's battle.
B5Q: I'm sure Indiana fans have thought about what last year's team could have done with this year's version of Yogi Ferrell. He's dramatically improved as a 3-point shooter, while taking a much bigger share of the offensive load. Does this team work best when Yogi is scoring a lot or being more of a distributor?
Crimson Quarry (Adam): That's a tough question. Of course sophomore Yogi would have made freshman Yogi's team dramatically improved from a guard scoring aspect. Outside of Hulls' shooting the guards didn't offer a ton of offensive threats. However, this year's squad is completely different. They're almost entirely dependent on Yogi's shooting to keep the offense spread, which isn't a good thing. Your premiere ball handler can't be your only shooter. Therefore Yogi is stuck in a spot where he's got to be a great scorer while successfully distributing the ball with consistency. It's not really fair to demand anyone be Trey Burke but that's what we're asking of Yogi. That being said, I'd say this team is at its best so far when Yogi is putting up 20 points. If another player or two steps up then that could shift quickly.
B5Q: Compare and contrast Noah Vonleh with the departed Cody Zeller, Indiana's two most recent freshmen post phenoms. Can Tom Crean use Vonleh in any similar ways? Which player is more fun to watch in your opinion?
CQ: Cody Zeller came in as a much more mentally prepared player whereas Noah Vonleh is the more physically capable player. Vonleh and Zeller both struggled early on to find that killer instinct and demand the ball in the post and allow themselves to get pushed around by bigger players. However, Vonleh contains the physical attributes to make that athletically spectacular play and use his big body to grab rebounds with ferocity. Zeller was much more finesse in his freshman year. He knew when to attack during defense and give it up when there was nothing there on offense. Vonleh struggles with that still which is why he's almost always in foul trouble and turnover-prone.
As for who is more fun to watch, I think I'd take Zeller. Not necessarily because of anything Vonleh does, it's just that his game is a much more blue collar, do the dirty stuff right and let the game come to you. Cody was much more apt at making something happen with his basketball skills instead of being reliant on a teammate or a rebound to set him up.
B5Q: Though IU's offense has struggled a bit this year, the defense seems to be up to snuff. Will we see full court pressure out of the Hoosiers Tuesday? Any zone?
CQ: I thought we were getting to a point where some more full court pressing would occur in the conference, but it doesn't appear to be. Sure, depending on the situation, there's a chance that some pressing will occur, but Indiana's youth still struggles so much with their defensive rotations that it becomes somewhat of a liability to press confident teams with good ball security. But we will see some zone defense. With the loss of Luke Fischer there's a struggle to fill in the depth behind Noah Vonleh. When he's out we tend to go small and swap into a bevy of different zone defenses.
B5Q: Turnovers could be a major storyline on Tuesday night. While Wisconsin continues to take great care of the ball, Indiana has reverted back to the sloppiness of its rebuilding days -- turning the ball over on 22 percent of its possessions. The Hoosiers are young. If you had to guess, how many of these turnovers are unforced errors and how many are caused by the opponent's pressure?
CQ: If you take Indiana's average of 16 turnovers per game and break them down into forced and unforced, I'd say teams force Indiana to make a mistake 6-7 times a game. The other 9-10 are completely avoidable or dumb plays. Of course, as Indiana tries to force the pace some of those turnovers are just going to happen. Those are ones we just have to accept in the name of pacing. So to break it down in total, 6 forced, 6 dumb and 4 that are just going to happen as you force pace.
B5Q: Speaking of inexperience, who are the leaders on the team? The only two seniors are Will Sheehey (last year's Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year over Sam Dekker) and transfer Evan Gordon. Is Indiana getting what they expected from those two?
CQ: No. That's been Indiana's biggest problem. There really isn't anyone out there reigns the pups in when things get crazy. Yogi tries, but he's still learning how to succeed in that role. You'll see Sheehey chatting and coaching the guys up a lot, but when things get hectic Sheehey and Gordon both tend to get sucked up in it as well. Sheehey especially has been a guy that is apt to just disappear. I think it has a lot to do with him being the back seat driver for the last three years. He's struggled to take the wheel and steer this season.
B5Q: There is such a contrast in styles between these teams. Indiana depends on getting to the line, but the Badgers do not foul. The Hoosiers (outside of Ferrell) struggle to shoot 3-pointers, but they are good at limiting opponents' outside shooting, where Wisconsin typically makes a killing. What do you see as the key matchup against Wisconsin?
CQ: Rebounding and shooting. The Hoosiers are a ferocious rebounding team and Wisconsin isn't exactly lighting the world on fire at that end. However, Indiana is apt at missing the put backs. The difference between this Hoosier squad and the top of the conference is shooting. Indiana almost always has their shots contested on the offensive end and give up too many easy buckets on defense. In the end you'll likely see the Hoosiers, despite a rebounding advantage, have several fewer shots than the opposition. If Indiana's new-found, off-the-ball movement can get them easier shots, then I could see this game being a much bigger battle than many expect.
Projected Starting Lineups
|Frank Kaminsky, Jr.||C||Noah Vonleh, Fr.|
|Sam Dekker, So.||F||Jeremy Hollowell, So.|
|Josh Gasser, Jr.||G / F||Will Sheehey, Sr.|
|Ben Brust, Sr.||G||Troy Williams, Fr.|
|Traevon Jackson, Jr.||G||Yogi Ferrell, So.|
KenPom win probability: 75% (74-67 W) 68 possessions
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