Boasting one of the top offenses in the country, Indiana has the profile of a team that could run away with a victory on its home court against Wisconsin. Nine different Hoosiers -- nine! -- are shooting at least 40 percent from three-point land. Indiana shoots 45.1 percent from distance as a team and likes to run, while Wisconsin is one of the worst teams in the nation at defending threes. Furthermore, emotions will be running high inside Assembly Hall as the Hoosiers (12-3, 2-0 Big Ten) honor their undefeated 1976 team on Tuesday night.
Does that matter the Badgers? Of course not. Greg Gard and company have a comprehensive scout ready that notes ways to attack the notoriously lax Indiana defense at the other end. Wisconsin (9-6, 1-1) can hope to win the turnover battle against the often sloppy Hoosiers.
Sophomore shooting guard James Blackmon, Jr. will likely miss the game (Update: Blackmon is done for the year), which according to Ben Raphel, an assistant editor at The Crimson Quarry, might have a silver lining. We also learn from Ben which one of Indiana's other weaknesses matches perfectly with a Wisconsin strength.
B5Q: Look at Indiana, starting out with two conference road wins. Nice work. Unfortunately beating Rutgers and Nebraska isn't going to convince anyone that the Hoosiers can survive the rest of the Big Ten gauntlet away from home, where IU went a combined 5-13 in conference over the previous two seasons. What makes Indiana so good at home that cannot normally be duplicated on the road?
Crimson Quarry (Ben): Sure, Rutgers and Nebraska aren't the most challenging road opponents, and IU was expected to handle both of these teams, which they did. But starting out the B1G season 2-0 with two road victories is a nice tone to set for the Hoosiers, as they move into tougher competition this week at home against Wisconsin and then Ohio State on Sunday. What makes the Hoosiers so good at Assembly Hall is that as a team whose success is predicated on how well the shots are falling, they are used to their home gym and comfortable shooting there. In addition, Assembly Hall is one of the best home-court environments of any college hoops team, especially when the Hoosiers are playing well.
B5Q: So ... James Blackmon, Jr. Indiana did okay without him last week, but as discussed, the Hoosiers haven't truly been challenged yet. Will Blackmon be able to play on a bad right knee on Tuesday? Should he?
CQ: Tom Crean and others involved with the program have been very quiet on the extent of Blackmon's injury. If you recall, JBJ tore his meniscus last summer and had to miss most of the practices leading up to the season. As of now, I doubt Blackmon plays tomorrow, and until we get a better sense from the team of how bad the injury is, it's hard to know when to expect him back. The interesting thing about JBJ being out, however, is that the defense for IU might improve.
B5Q: Tom Crean hasn't found a good big man since Cody Zeller left town, but he has a pair of decent candidates this year in heralded freshman Thomas Bryant and Michigan transfer Max Bielfeldt. Each guy has taken a turn putting together an impressive game to start the Big Ten season. Can you assess how well Bryant and Bielfeldt are filling the pivot this year?
CQ: Thomas Bryant has shown some growing pains and inconsistency in his freshman year, but he may have played his most complete game against Nebraska over the weekend. He's always a scoring threat down low, but he has to stay out of foul trouble and be more consistent at ball screening and protecting the rim. I really like the experience that Bielfeldt brings to this team -- as a grad transfer from Michigan, he's been through the B1G gauntlet quite a few times, and Crean has trusted him in late-game situations. If not for his steady play, we may have suffered an embarrassing loss at Rutgers. Another name to watch out in the frontcourt is OG Anunoby -- he's only a freshman but he's already getting solid minutes off the bench, playing tough on the defensive end, and had 11 points against the Huskers.
B5Q: I'm terrified of Indiana's three-point shooting ability, particularly since the Badger defense surrenders made threes at a 37.7 percent clip this season. with Blackmon potentially out, are the Hoosiers more dangerous shooting in transition or from a half-court set?
CQ: We're still more dangerous in transition,even without JBJ -- the team excels on the fast break and has players like Troy Williams and Yogi Ferrell who love to push the tempo. One thing that the Hoosiers have proven in recent games -- especially during a comeback against Notre Dame -- is that they do not get worn down easily. They don't play at a breakneck speed (86th nationally in adjusted tempo), but it is the fastest pace in the conference, so if they can control the tempo early the Badgers could have trouble keeping up.
B5Q: We know that Indiana is traditionally lackluster on defense, yet this is a Wisconsin team with a much less efficient offense than in years past and much less accurate from deep. Where would you direct your team's attack against the Hoosiers if you were Greg Gard?
CQ: If I were Greg Gard, I would attack the paint relentlessly. Indiana, for all its defensive flaws, has been okay at defending the long ball, but the points in the paint that this this team gives up every game is absurd. Part of this is due to the fact that the Hoosiers rank 236th in the country in giving up offensive rebounds. If the Badgers' big men can create second chances for on the offensive end and follow up their misses on the glass, Indiana might be in trouble.
(Ed. note: Oh, really?)
B5Q: Wisconsin has owned Indiana for years but it looks like that might be about to change. I had this game down as a loss even before a few of UW's missteps this year. Have the Badgers turned into more of a hated enemy during this time? How does this rivalry rate among IU's levels of hatred since the series has been so lopsidedly frustrating recently?
CQ: Obviously, Crean has had years of familiarity with Bo Ryan and Wisconsin, having played them every year when he was coach at Marquette, and then seeing the Badgers often multiple times a year while at IU. With Wisconsin's consistency, along with Indiana's inability to win at the Kohl Center since 1998, this has turned into an intense but often lopsided rivalry. No matter who the coach at IU has been, Bo Ryan's style of play has seemed to flummox the Hoosiers, and this has led to a hate -- but also a begrudging respect -- of Ryan throughout the years. With Bo gone, the rivalry won't feel quite the same and a win may not feel quite as good (I was at the 2014 game where we rushed the court after knocking off No. 3 Wisconsin in Assembly Hall). But Bo's lasting legacy means that winning this game will always be a big deal for Indiana and its fans.
B5Q: Which player is the key to this game in your opinion and why? Care to give a prediction on the final score?
CQ: For the Hoosiers, the key will be Troy Williams, who will have to make sure he limits his turnovers (he had 7 against Rutgers) against a team known for not turning over the ball much. For Wisconsin, I can totally see Zak Showalter going off against us -- one player always seems to have a big game against Indiana, and my guess is that it will be Showalter, who had 9 points in 14 minutes against IU last year. Ultimately, I think the Hoosiers will win their B1G home opener, as this Wisconsin team just doesn't have the firepower that previous Badger teams do. 78-71, Hoosiers.
A healthy respect for the Z-Show is rare and appreciated. We also appreciate Ben helping us out again this year with our Q&A preview. To get more Indiana content, follow @crimsonquarry and @VT_Ben on Twitter.
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