Northwestern vs. Indiana preview

If you think Northwestern needs a win, well, you haven't met my friends the Indiana Hoosiers. They're like Northwestern in that they're on a brutal losing streak. They're not like Northwestern in that their fans have seen them win national championships before and can come to terms with the fact that this team was never even close to having a shot at making the NCAA tournament, whereas ours keep telling ourselves that next year will be the year every year and therefore go stir-crazy whenever we start looking mediocre and cognitive dissonance begins to set in.


Are they good?: Kenpom puts Indiana at 73rd in the nation, primarily due to the fact that their efficiency ratings are off the hook after blowing most of their sub-par noncon opponents way out of the water. But the Hoosiers don't have anything resembling a quality win on the schedule: they're 1-7 against Kenpom's top 105 teams (the win came over No. 93 Wright State) and are riding a five game losing streak, having fallen to Northern Iowa (yeesh) Colorado (guh) Penn State (jeez) Ohio State (oh well that makes sense) and Minnesota (can't blame em). Wins will be tough to come by in conference for Indy - today is big.

Who they got?: Sophomore guard Jordan Hulls is a deadly shooter - he shoots over 50 percent from three, very nearly leads the team in assists, and is No. 3 in kenpom's national efg% and true shooting % numbers, as well as No. 16 in overall offensive rating. Most of his shots are 3-pointers, so it's understandable that those numbers are boosted, however, having watched him play, I genuinely think he can become more than just a catch-and-shoot guy. Although, this probably sounds silly to people who saw him go 8-for-13 from the field, 8-for-12 from downtown last year against Northwestern. Christian Watford and Verdell Jones III each average over 12 points per game, but use the ball an awful lot, combining to take over half the team's shots when they're on the floor. Maurice Creek looked like a game-changer as a freshman, but hasn't been as good his sophomore year, and Jeremiah Rivers is still comically bad at playing offense.

Do you miss Devan Dumes?: Yes, deeply. I will miss him like few other Big Ten players. Dumes' dedication to shooting stepback 25-footers in the face of his poor 3-point shooting percentage was inspirational, much like the film "Radio" starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. It was the tale of a man who told the world, no, I don't care if this shot makes any sense, I'm taking it anyway, and there's nothing YOUR RULES can do to stop me. And it also helped NU a lot because he only made that shot like twice. His passion for excellency in the field of shooting with reckless abandon is something the Big Ten might not see for decades to come.

What are they good at?: Shooting, mainly thanks to 'Hulls' efficiency from deep. They're a very middle-of-the-pack team in pretty much every category, offensive or defensive, besides shooting.

What are they bad at?: Pretty much anything inside on offense. This team doesn't have a true big man presence. Everybody on the team can shoot the three-ball with the exception of Jeremiah Rivers (whose lifetime 3-point percentage at IU is .000 on eight attempts), from Hulls to the "big man" Watford, who shoots 39 percent from downtown. But they don't really have a center: normally the team runs out Watford and Derek Elston as forwards. Watford never strikes me as able to bang with big guys and Elston rarely plays more than 20 minutes, because he's an offensive liability whose job is to provide size on defense and the glass. (He went into double digits against three noncon teams, including 19 against Northern Iowa. But my point stands.) Yes, Watford is 6-foot-8 and the team's leading scorer, but he does a lot of his work as a jump-shooter and has also been genuinely awful recently - he's 11-for-42 from the field in his last four games, leaving IU without a primary scorer.

How do you feel about the striped warmup pants?: I want a pair, bro.

Sick, bro: Yeah.

Us and them: Indiana has been a good friend of NU's in recent years, going 1-4 against the Cats since 08-09. They beat NU last year in the last game of the regular season 88-80 in overtime on the strength of the aforementioned 24 points on 8 3-pointers by Hulls to thwart John Shurna's 31, but then turned around and lost a few days later in the first game of the Big Ten tournament.

How can NU beat them?: I say this all the time, but, it comes down to the big guys. Indiana doesn't have much of a presence inside, and last year, NU hurt them: Luka dropped 14 on them at Welsh-Ryan, Davide Curletti had a career-high 12 in the Big Ten tournament. And both of NU's wins last year against the Hoosiers saw somebody grab double-digit rebounds: Mirk and John Shurna had a rare double double-digit board game for NU last year,where both got over 10 bounds and the team combined for 17 offensive boards.

Should NU beat them?: Hesitant to say yes - the Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoosiers were on an 11-game skid when NU lost to them in OT last year, but, that said, this team has lost five straight for a reason, and they're coming to Welsh-Ryan. Should be a W. This team needs it to have any shot at tourney-makin', and if they have any pride, need a bounce-back win right now after three depressing losses.

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