Basketball Preview: Indiana
Will Desautelle, Ellie French and Brad Hayes look at the matchup between Penn State and Indiana.
Now that college football season has come to a close, we can now fully direct our attention to the college basketball world. Big Ten play is in full swing, and there have already been several surprises this season. Both Indiana and Penn State have been difficult to figure out so far this season, and they’ll match up on Wednesday night in Happy Valley.
Indiana had a lot of talent return this season, and many were anticipating a return to elite status after falling to UNC in the sweet sixteen of the NCAA Tournament last year.
Unfortunately, it’s been a slow start in Bloomington. The Hoosiers are only 12-6 thus far, and they’ve already suffered three losses in the Big Ten. They have knocked off two great teams (Kansas and UNC), and four of their losses (Butler, Louisville, Wisconsin, and Maryland) have been to quality teams as well. Losses to Fort Wayne and Nebraska, however, are unacceptable given the amount of talent on their roster.
Penn State, on the other hand, has been inconsistent, but they are coming off two impressive conference wins against Michigan State and Minnesota. Pat Chambers has inherited a young team this season, and he brought in his best recruiting class as the Nittany Lion’s coach during the offseason.
Tom Crean and Indiana are an elite offensive team. The Hoosiers are first in the Big Ten in points per game and field goal percentage and second in three-point percentage. James Blackmon is one of the top players on the conference, while Robert Johnson and OG Anunoby are explosive athletes on the wings. Thomas Bryant is also a versatile offensive player who can score with his back to the basket or facing up.
Their issue has been turnovers. The Hoosiers rank last in the Big Ten in turnover margin, which is not a good combination with their other glaring weakness.
Indiana has also been terrible defensively this season. They’re one of the worst among power five teams in defensive efficiency at .99 points allowed per possession. They also do not have a consistent rim protector. Bryant is much more known for his offensive skillset than his defense, and Juwan Morgan, their other primary big man, averages under a block per game. Combine that with having the second worst transition defense in the Big Ten and ranking last in forced turnovers.
A lot of those weaknesses play to Penn State’s strengths. Although they do not shoot the ball well from the outside, they have a lot of athleticism and play a fast-paced game. Shep Garner, their leading scorer, and Peyton Banks are their two most consistent shooters from the outside, but the Lions have really been ignited by their talented trio of freshman.
Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr, and Mike Watkins are all averaging double figures. Carr has stepped in and done a solid job running the point, Stevens is a versatile two way wing player at both ends of the court, and Watkins has been a presence down low. Josh Reaves’ return to the lineup has also been critical, as he adds a lot of athleticism and more experience as well.
Other than Duke, Indiana might be the most talented team that Penn State has played up to this point. On paper Indiana is the better team, but Penn State is a team that matches up surprisingly well with them.
The Hoosiers are not far from contending in the Big Ten. If they can take better care of the ball on offense and show more consistent effort on the defensive end, they’re as good as anybody in the conference.
The Lions, on the other hand, aren’t being talked about much, but their young guys are really starting to get comfortable and Pat Chambers has his team playing with a lot of confidence. The Lions will be playing in front of a big crowd on Wednesday night, which will play to their favor. They’ll be able to exploit Indiana’s poor transition defense, force a lot of turnovers on defense, and make enough plays down the stretch to pull of another big win.
Prediction: Penn State 71, Indiana 68
Will Desautelle is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.