(Photo Credit: Fox Sports)

It was a great week for the Hoosiers. First, IU secured a great win over a scrappy Louisville team. Then, Marquette’s victory over then-#12 Wisconsin gave IU’s resume an additional boost, as now the Hoosier victory over Marquette earlier in the season appears even more impressive. IU also worked itself into the AP Top 25 Poll, finishing tied for 25th with Syracuse and Kansas State. But, most of all, it was the way IU won that left fans feeling good.

The victory over Louisville seemed to be a return to form. They limited turnovers, they did not settle for jumpers, and their defense was much better than it had been over the last few games. IU held Louisville to 38.3% from the field and 34.4% from three. They also forced Louisville into committing 22 personal fouls. While the three ball wasn’t falling, IU still shot 49% overall. The Hoosiers currently rank 6th in field-goal percentage in all of college basketball (51.4%), illustrating the team’s commitment to great shot selection which was on display this weekend. The game also allowed the squad to gain some experience in tight, late game scenarios.

Now, IU faces yet another solid non-conference opponent, Butler, in the second game of Saturday’s Crossroads Classic (aka “The Battle for Indiana”). Both teams tend to rise to the occasion and play well at the event. In fact, IU and Butler are the winningest teams over the course of the event’s first seven years (Butler is 5-2 and IU is 4-3).

While Butler has been relatively quiet so far this season, they are putting together yet another good year and pose an interesting set of challenges for IU. In particular, Butler has the 21st most efficient offense in all of college basketball (compared to IU who ranks 106th). Like IU, Butler also has a high average scoring margin of +12.6 which is 33rd in the nation (IU’s +12.8 ranks 31st). This statistic demonstrates that each team is effective on both ends of the court and each does a nice job of maintaining leads. The Bulldogs are very reliant on the three-point shot, as they average 28.3 points per game from the three ball alone, which is 41st in the country. This statistic demonstrates another stark contrast between the squads. IU is not reliant at all on the three-point shot, as they only average 18.3 points per game from three-pointers (292nd in the nation). It is also important to remember that Butler also has two of the best scorers in the Big East in Kamar Baldwin and Paul Jorgensen. Thus, as you can tell, the result of this game is largely dependent on how well the Hoosier defense plays.

Here’s more about the matchup:

Meet the Bulldogs

Key Departures

  • Kelan Martin – 6’7″ / 220 lbs / Forward – Louisville, Kentucky – Martin was Butler’s premier player last year. He averaged 21.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. He also shot 36.4% from three.
  • Tyler Wideman – 6’8″ / 240 lbs / Forward – Schererville, Indiana – Averaged 9.3 points and 5.1 rebounds.

Projected Starters

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  • Kamar Baldwin – 6’1″ / 195 lbs / Guard / Junior – Winder, Georgia – Baldwin is averaging 16.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. He is widely considered one of the best players in the Big East. His one Achilles’ heel is that he turns the ball over 3.3 times per game.
  • Paul Jorgensen – 6’2″ / 185 lbs / Guard / Senior – New York City, New York – Jorgensen is a dynamic scorer and one of the most improved players in the Big East. He is averaging 17.2 points (a +7 point increase from last season), 4.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. He also shoots an impressive 43.1% from three. Transfer from George Washington.
  • Sean McDermott – 6’6″ / 195 lbs / Forward / Junior – Anderson, Indiana – Averaging 12.1 points and shooting 42.4% from three. Provides great length on the perimeter.
  • Aaron Thompson – 6’2″ / 185 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – Glenn Dale, Maryland – Thompson is a great facilitator. He averages 5.9 points and 4.2 assists.
  • Nate Fowler – 6’10” / 240 lbs / Forward / Senior – Cincinnati, Ohio – Fowler provides a nice inside presence, averaging 5.1 points and 4.2 rebounds.

The Rotation

  • Joey Brunk – 6’11” / 230 lbs / Forward / Sophomore – Indianapolis, Indiana – He is their best contributor off the bench, posting 8.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
  • Henry Baddley – 6’4″ / 180 lbs / Forward / Junior – Wadsworth, Ohio – Another crucial bench contributor. He averages 7.1 points and 3.8 rebounds. He also plays starters minutes, averaging 22.3 minutes per game.
  • Jordan Tucker – 6’7″ / 210 lbs / Forward / Sophomore – White Plains, NY. Tucker was once a recruit for Tom Crean, but then decided against going to Indiana after the coaching change. He ended up at a very great program – Duke to be exact. After a season where he was unhappy with his playing time, he then transferred to Butler mid season. He will actually be eligible to debut for Butler against Indiana.
  • Christian David – 6’6″ / 200 lbs / Forward / Sophomore – Wyoming, Michigan.
  • Jerald Gillens-Butler – 6’4″ / 230 lbs / Forward / Sophomore – Orlando, Florida.
  • Campbell Donovan – 5’11” / 170 lbs / Guard / Sophomore – Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Expectations for Butler

In his first year at the helm at his alma mater, head coach LaVall Jordan led Butler to a 21-win season and fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Despite a few key players graduating, Butler came into the season with high hopes. Butler was one of only three teams to receive a first-place vote in the Big East preseason poll but oddly only finished fifth in the preseason conference rankings. This is most likely due to the fact that Butler is largely a two-man team. The Bulldogs will always be well-coached and disciplined; however, the lack of multiple scoring threats left some hesitant to anticipate Butler at the top of the conference standings. While Butler may be reliant on only a few players for offense, they certainly have no trouble getting buckets.

Scouting Butler is rather easy. Everyone in the building knows that the ball is going to either Kamar Baldwin or Paul Jorgensen. Together they represent 45% of Butler’s offensive production. Baldwin was terrific last season, dropping 15.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. He was a unanimous ALL-BIG EAST selection. Most impressively, Baldwin continued to grow and improve with each game. In fact, his numbers actually improved during conference play. Because of his stellar sophomore campaign, Baldwin was a unanimous preseason ALL-BIG EAST First Team selection. Despite the immense hype, Baldwin’s game has taken another step forward. Baldwin is an impressive player and largely considered one of the best in the Big East. He can do just about anything on the court. As previously mentioned, his only flaw is that he commits about 3.3 turnovers per game. However, because Baldwin does so much for their team and so much of the offense runs through him, one can expect his turnovers to be higher than average.

Likewise, the other member of Butler’s two-man wrecking crew, Paul Jorgensen, has been equally as imposing this season. Jorgensen was an active contributor last year, averaging 10.2 points per game. Now, Jorgensen has emerged one of the best pure scorers in the Big East. Jorgensen’s numbers have dramatically increased as more responsibility has been placed on his shoulders. He now averages 17.2 points per game and has increased his three-point shooting percentage from 34.9% last season to 43.1% so far this year. Jorgensen’s growth is a large reason for Butler’s success.

Butler currently sits at 7-2. Their loss against Dayton (5-4 record) was a surprise and signaled that the team has some vulnerabilities. The team also lost to a 7-2 Saint Louis squad a week later. While the Bulldogs have seven victories, they haven’t played much of a schedule. Their biggest victory is over a scuffling Florida (5-4). Butler has shown some inconsistencies; but, with their ability to put the ball in the basket, they are sure to be competitive all season long. They are currently ranked #26 in the KenPom rankings (just one spot below IU).

Injury Watch

Race Thompson is still out with a concussion but attended practice and appears to be inching closer to a return. Although he is still in concussion protocol, he recently did two cardio workouts and some weightlifting.

There is still no timetable for a return for Jerome Hunter, who is still recovering from surgery to treat “a lower body condition.”

Butler’s Bryce Golden is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Bryce Nze is currently ineligible due to transfer rules. The 6’7″ sophomore transferred from Milwaukee.

What to Watch for:

  1. KYP – Know Your Personnel! – Because 45% of Butler’s offense comes from just two people, it’s crucial that IU focus in on stopping Baldwin and Jorgensen above all else. If they can shut them down (which is no easy task), IU will be well on the path to victory. Moreover, while the Bulldogs love the three ball, there are only three players on the team that have had more than 40 three-point attempts (Baldwin, Jorgensen, and McDermott). Therefore, the Hoosiers should have a good understanding of what players need to be pressured on the perimeter and which players they can lay off of in order to prevent a drive to the basket. This should be a good test to evaluate not just how good the defense plays, but how smart they play.
  2. Paint Party – Butler does not have a great deal of size and strength in the post. Thus, expect IU to continue to drive frequently and try to score at the basket or get fouled. Moreover, Saturday should be an opportunity for Morgan, Smith, and Davis to have success in the paint. In particular, this could be the game where Justin Smith finds himself offensively.
  3. The Free-Throw Shooting Conundrum – IU is only shooting 63.6% from the charity stripe. Even in his recent radio show appearance, Archie Miller noted that he was “concerned” about the poor free-throw shooting. He emphasized that it was an area in need of improvement in order to avoid empty positions. Miller even joked that it had become such a problem that his dad even texted him and told him to “get on a new free-throw plan.” It’s clear that this will become a point of emphasis over the next few weeks and hopefully there will be signs of improvement sooner rather than later.
  4. Put Baldwin Under Pressure – Baldwin has committed 30 turnovers already this season. That’s at least 14 more than any of his Butler teammates. While this may be one of Baldwin’s few weaknesses, it is a glaring vulnerability nonetheless. Expect IU’s defense to hone in and try to force him into coughing it up.
  5. Guard Play – This game should be a great barometer for the Hoosier guards. With Butler being a guard dominated team, it will be interesting to see how Phinisee, Green, and Langford respond (particularly on the defensive end of the court). Will their offensive game suffer because of their increased responsibility on the defensive end? Can they take care of the ball against a savvy opposing backcourt? Can Phinisee, Green, and Durham provide enough supplemental offense to prevent the entire scoring load from falling on Langford’s shoudlers?

How to Watch

DateSaturday, December 15th
Time3:45 PM EST
RadioHoosiersTV Audio

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