It's that time, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation -- time for the A Sea of Blue preview of the Kentucky Wildcats @ Indiana Hoosiers tomorrow evening at legendary Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana.
With the matriculation of Cody Zeller to Indiana, the Hoosiers are suddenly undefeated after eight games for the first time since 2003. The Wildcats are coming to Bloomington to attempt to rectify that anomaly, at least for now. One thing we can say for sure is that one of these two teams will not be undefeated after today.
But all kidding aside, the Hoosiers are a good team this year and have developed their talent over the last several years since Tom Crean came to Bloomington. The biggest difference between the two teams so far this year is the average opponent strength: Kentucky's opponents average out to 151 RPI, while Indiana's schedule averages out to 205 RPI.
What have the Hoosiers done to improve over their rather loathsome 12-20 team last year? Mainly, their quality players have matured and they have brought in consensus 5* center Cody Zeller, and he has really helped IU by providing a post presence around which the rest of the team can revolve.
Let's start by looking at Indiana's personnel and stats:
Roster and Analysis
|2||Christian Watford||6-9||225||F||Starter||Junior||59.3||22.7||105.7||50.0||14.9||8.2||9.0||1.1||2.1||2nd LR. Major 3-pt threat|
|40||Cody Zeller||6-11||230||F/C||Starter||Freshman||67.8||22.2||131.3||67.6||18.6||12.0||5.2||5.4||6.1||LS, LR, LS|
|1||Jordan Hulls||6-0||181||G||Starter||Junior||71.2||16.0||134.6||70.5||5.7||1.7||21.0||2.2||0||2nd LA, major 3-pt threat|
|12||Verdell Jones III||6-5||195||G||Starter||Senior||62.5||23.0||105.6||47.8||8.1||5.2||24.0||2.2||1.5||LA,|
|4||Victor Oladipo||6-5||214||G||Starter||Sophomore||57.5||25.3||113.3||55.9||15.4||8.5||13.3||4.8||1.6||2nd LS, 3rd LR, 2nd LS|
|10||Will Sheehey||6-6||200||F||Sixth Man||Sophomore||51.2||25.7||116.7||57.3||11.1||5.5||14.9||1.3||0.6||3rd LS|
|32||Derek Elston||6-9||225||F||Major reserve||Junior||34.6||15.7||137.9||68.1||17.3||7.0||8.2||1.5||2.7|
|25||Tom Pritchard||6-9||245||F/C||Major reserve||Senior||24.0||8.7||109.2||60.0||7.8||3.4||6.0||1.4||2.6|
|30||Matt Roth||6-3||185||G||Reserve||Senior||16.2||12.9||150.8||62.5||5.8||2.5||12.2||2.1||1.9||3-pt threat|
|0||Kory Barnett||6-5||186||F||Rarely plays||Senior||3.1||11.2||145.5||33.3||20.2||0.0||32.0||5.6||0|
|24||Jeff Howard||6-8||238||F||Rarely plays||Sophomore||2.1||16.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||8.0||14.5|
|15||Raphael Smith||6-3||175||G||Rarely plays||Freshman||1.8||28.1||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0|
|20||Taylor Wayer||5-11||172||G||Rarely plays||Sophomore||1.5||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0|
|3||Maurice Creek||6-5||195||G||Injured||Junior||Out for season?|
Obviously, the Hoosiers have developed some decent depth over the last three years as some quality players like Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford have stayed at Indiana and developed. The major offensive threats for the Hoosiers are Oladipo, Watford and Zeller. Verdell Jones is a role player who adds some good perimeter shooting and rebounds very well for a guard. Jordan Hulls is a dangerous 3-point shooter and primary offensive initiator. Oladipo, in particular, is an extremely athletic player whom UK fans may remember from last year. He is mostly a slasher who can score in a variety of ways.
Off the bench, sophomore forward Will Sheehey has been very impressive this year, improving by leaps and bounds over last year. Sheehey is a dangerous scorer who gives the Hoosiers a lift off the bench. Tom Pritchard seems to have been at IU forever, and he gives them some size and rebounding off the bench.
Looking at matchups, I'll be interested to see who Calipari plays on Zeller and if they'll try to double-team him with Terrence Jones and Anthony Davis like they did his older brother, Tyler Zeller. It will also be interesting to see how Marquis Teague deals with Jordan Hulls, a player that he absolutely must stay at home on. Hulls isn't a great athlete, but he is somewhat underrated athletically and can really hold his own against all but the quickest players.
Terrence Jones on Christian Watford is another intriguing matchup, as Jones struggled versus the Hoosiers last year, and Watford is a very talented player and a good defender. I do think that Jones will have the advantage overall.
Doron Lamb and Verdell Jones match up nicely on paper, but Lamb is much more skilled and so far has been a better ballhandler.
Four Factors to Winning:
Indiana matches up very nicely with Kentucky in these four important stats, but you have to remember that IU has played a much softer schedule. The stats here are very close, so this would lead me to expect a very competitive game.
IU is a dangerous team, and in the fevered environment of Assembly Hall, this game will be a very tough one for Kentucky. With that said, IU has played nobody with anything remotely approaching the skill, ability, and athleticism of Kentucky, not to mention the outstanding coaching of John Calipari, which opponents underestimate at their peril.
Kentucky has a size and length advantage even with Zeller in the lineup, but Indiana is the better three-point shooting team, so Kentucky has to be careful to guard the line. If they give IU as many open threes as the North Carolina Tar Heels got last week, this game could be very tough indeed.
Defensively for Kentucky, the most important thing is to contain Cody Zeller and make the Hoosiers take perimeter shots. IU is a decent offensive rebounding team, which could be trouble if Kentucky doesn't block out. IU and Kentucky both handle the ball reasonably well, although Butler did force IU in to 23% turnovers.
This game is likely to be competitive well into the second half, but I expect Kentucky to take control of this game in the last 25% of the game and win a fairly close game. If Kentucky plays as well as they played versus North Carolina in the second half, IU will be beaten convincingly. But the partisan Indiana crowd will be a major factor in this game.