Pre-Game: #9 Indiana Hoosiers vs. #18 Butler Bulldogs

#9 Indiana Hoosiers vs. #18 Butler Bulldogs
Saturday December 17, 5:00 pm

The sixth annual Crossroads Classic takes place this Saturday when Indiana and Butler meet to play in the second game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, following the match-up between Purdue and Notre Dame. Both teams enter the game ranked in the Top 25 and are coming off a full week break. Butler rebounded after their tough 72-71 loss at Indiana State with a win at home against Cincinnati. The Hoosiers are on a five-game winning streak after their mishap in Fort Wayne. This will be the 53rd meeting between the two teams; Indiana owns the series with a 38-14 all-time record, although it has been a pretty even contest in recent years. Speaking on behalf of Hoosier Nation, Butler is always a scary game. They are a highly-disciplined team that rarely beats themselves. Both teams are looking for another signature win to add to their resume before the start of conference play. Two ranked Indiana teams going at it in front of a sold out crowd in the home of the Pacers. It’s going to be a fun Saturday afternoon.

Match-Up to Watch
Bad news for Butler… OG Anunoby is back. OG has been in a boot for the last three games treating an ankle injury, but Coach Crean says he is ready to go for Saturday. This is huge for the Hoosiers having their best defensive player and 12.5 points per game back on the floor. His defense will certainly be needed to contain the talented Kelan Martin. Martin is a 6’7” Junior averaging almost 18 points per game. He is a streaky shooter that can get going at any moment, so we will see if Anunoby is healthy enough to handle the dangerous Martin.

X-Factor for the Hoosiers
There are two factors for Indiana that will give them an advantage over the Bulldogs. First and foremost is James Blackmon Jr. Indiana fans are thrilled with his Junior season return. He is averaging 17 points per game and shooting 40% from distance. He has been incredible in big games this year scoring a combined 40 points against Kansas and North Carolina, and Saturday is nothing less than another big game. Butler is a good defensive team, but sometimes struggle at the guard position. Coach Chris Holtmann uses several guards off the bench including Kamar Baldwin, Sean McDermott, and Henry Baddley for defense, but Blackmon could be too much to handle. Just like Martin of Butler, JBJ is a guy who gets going and is almost impossible to stop. Blackmon could be the edge the Hoosiers need to get out of Indianapolis with a win.
The other advantage Indiana brings to this game is their dangerous abilities in transition. The Hoosiers obviously love to get the ball up the court quickly, whether it is after a basket or a miss, and score before the defensive can get in their set. As talented as Butler is they simply cannot run with Indiana for 40 minutes. They will try to slow the game down as much as possible, which is exactly what scares Hoosier fans. Crean will want his team to get out in transition as much as possible and avoid the half-court defense of the Bulldogs.

X-Factor for the Bulldogs
Butler comes into this game forcing their opponents to turn the ball over an average of 16 times per game. Good news for Butler… Indiana ranks 334th in Division 1 basketball in turnovers per game. To sum those statistics up, Butler forces a lot of turnovers and Indiana is horrible at protecting the ball. As stated earlier, Indiana is going to try to speed the game up while Butler will look to slow things down. Coach Holtmann will try to make it a half-court game as much as possible and try to force the young Hoosiers into making mistakes. If the Bulldogs can be successful in this then I think they have a good chance to come out on top, but if they allow Indiana to play their game they are nearly impossible to stop.

Key Stat
Looking past the turnovers, rebounding is going to be crucial in this game. Indiana ranks 3rd in the country in defensive rebounding while Butler ranks 307th. Looking at offensive rebounding Indiana ranks 38th nationally, and Butler comes in at 308th. Every man rebounds for Indiana and Coach Tom Crean emphasizes that. He expects everyone on the floor from Thomas Bryant to Josh Newkirk to crash the boards on both ends of the floor. This is key for them to be able to get out in transition as they like to do. Butler is going to have to figure something out to keep the rebounding margin close. Allowing the Hoosiers to get multiple shots per possession is very dangerous, especially with such an elite shooting team. Indiana will likely outrebound Butler, but the rebounding margin combined with the turnovers will be the difference in this one.

This game could be a race to 80, which is a very favorable number for Butler. Chris Holtmann owns a 25-0 record at Butler when his team has scored 80 points or more. They average just shy of 78 this season compared to Indiana’s average of 87.5. I see tomorrow being a close, high-scoring game that could go either way. Hoosier Nation will fill up the majority of the seats of Bankers Life Fieldhouse tomorrow, and as everyone knows, Indiana plays at a whole new level in front of their fans. With this in mind, I have the Hoosiers moving to 9-1 with an 84-77 victory.

Jonny Gee
Indiana University | 2020

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