Indiana Basketball: Hoosiers look to bounce back against No. 14 Wisconsin

A showdown squares off on Tuesday night as No. 25 Indiana hosts No. 14 Wisconsin. A battle of the top offensive and defensive teams in the Big Ten Conference.

Tom Crean and the Hoosiers are coming off their worst week so far this season. A critical upset loss to Nebraska.  A poor afternoon of shooting against then-No. 6 Louisville left the Hoosiers 10-4 to conclude 2016. Indiana Basketball faces the tough task Tuesday of handling the most elite defense in the Big Ten Conference, No. 13 Wisconsin.

Wisconsin comes into Assembly Hall known to much of the nation as an elite defense. The Badgers through 14 games have only allowed 58.8 points per game from opponents. The Badgers defense ranks eighth best in the NCAA and No. 1 in the Big Ten. This matchup will be another telling opponent for the Hoosiers. On the other hand, Wisconsin is no slouch on offense either.

Three of the five starters for Wisconsin are averaging double figures in points. Wisconsin coming into the year was returning with a pair of seniors in Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes. They retained 6’8 sophomore Ethan Happ and have been seen pre-season as one of the most complete teams in the Big Ten.

The Badgers only two losses of the season come from then-No. 22 Creighton and then-No. 4 North Carolina. They proved to knock off opponents such as Syracuse, Georgetown, and Oklahoma throughout non-conference play. Wisconsin is not only winning games, but by large margins. The Badgers enter Tuesday with the second highest margin of victory in the Big Ten (+18.8) slightly behind Purdue (+19.1).

Accordingly, how does a skidding Indiana Basketball team combat one of the best defenses in the country? Simple, shoot them out of the building. Indiana is not ranked as the best offense in the Big Ten for nothing. While the past few games have been rough on the offense, a clear turn around is needed.

Keys to victory…

Indiana needs to push the pace early

Wisconsin is known to play an extremely slow tempo game. The Badgers sit at No. 340 in adjusted tempo (per 40 minutes) at 63.9 possessions per game according to KenPom. In the same token, Indiana ranks No. 175 in adjusted tempo with 69.3 possessions per game. This couldn’t be better news for Indiana, who thrives when pushing the pace.

The problem lies with the irate number of turnovers when pushing the pace doesn’t work. Indiana needs to lean on its guards to command the tempo of the game. Wisconsin will look to slow the game down and avoid the Hoosiers from going on extended runs. The responsibility of Josh Newkirk, James Blackmon Jr., and Rob Johnson to space the floor and avoid the Wisconsin defense from getting set will hinder much of the outcome.

Keep Wisconsin top scorers in check

This is especially important for Indiana. The Hoosiers have seen a list of top scorers from opponents have season high point totals against their defense. Kansas’ Frank Mason III, Butler’s Kelan Martin, Nebraska’s Glynn Watson, and Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell all dropped season high’s against the Hoosiers. The Badgers have three versatile scoring threats in Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes, and Ethan Happ.

Locking these three up doesn’t mean totally shutting them down. They are all going to score. It’s about containing all three of their point totals from reaching season highs. If one of these Badgers drops 20 or more tonight, the Hoosiers could be in for a long night. Indiana needs continue to showing their impressive perimeter defense, allowing opponents so far to shoot only 29.4% from three.

Bounce back for Robert Johnson

Indiana Basketball needs their junior guard Robert Johnson to bounce back from his 1-14 performance against Louisville. Tom Crean was confident in his post game press conference Saturday that Johnson’s tough day shooting is “rare”.

This is true, Johnson is a season 51.1% shooter this season. He knocks the three down at a rate of over 40%. He is the second leading scorer on Indiana and they will need his offense all the more against an elite defense. If Johnson heats up tonight, it could open up the rest of the offense through other top scorers such as James Blackmon Jr. and O.G. Anunoby.

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