Indiana can flat-out score. They are arguably the best offensive team in the Big-Ten, if not the country. With totals of 102 and 88 against Eastern Illinois and Austin Peay respectively, there is no question IU’s high-powered offense will continue its trend on Thursday night against Creighton.
Their defense however, is not as predictable. Indiana has shown two totally different teams in their two games this season. Against, Eastern Illinois, they allowed just .716 points per basket. Against a lackluster Austin Peay offense, they allowed .97 points per possession. The lazy defensive effort Indiana flashed can work against Austin Peay but the margin for error will be significantly smaller for Creighton.
Keys to Success for IU
Help defense: There were times in both games when the help defense was on point. Bryant and Bieldfort stepped up and got in position to make stops on more than a few occasions. However, at times, the defense looked lost and, especially, against Austin Peay, they let up wide open layups and dunks. Look for Indiana’s help defense to play a key role in the outcome of this early season matchup.
Feed the Post: Bryant was brought to Indiana to add the defensive spark that last year’s team lacked. Still, Bryant’s offensive game has exceeded the expectations of everyone. His post moves, his positioning, his passing, and his rebounding has been excellent. He is the perfect fit for this Indiana offense. Dumping it inside helps 1) Get easy baskets in the inside and 2) It opens up the outside for IU’s lethal shooting. The inside-out offense Crean has put in place is truly dynamic and I looked for them to continue the trend. Bryant may not get as many touches in the post as many would like but the important part is that he is in position and he gets the ball when the shooters are cold and offense is stagnant. When IU played Austin Peay the shooters were hot from behind the arc but if those shots aren’t going down Bryant could play a crucial crucial role for the offense.
Run the Break: IU has the tools to run the break effectively every time. Guards Blackmon and Ferrell not only have the passing ability to hit Bryant or Williams on the run, they can finish through contact. Additionally, the big men are fast and smart enough to fill the lanes every time. To top it off, they have a freakishly athletic finisher in Troy Williams to add that extra punch. Creighton is a younger team which means it can be susceptible to turnovers and fast break points. With Indiana looking to play fast on both ends this could mean trouble for Creighton.
Rebound: One thing that did not sit very well in my stomach on Monday were there rebounding totals. At one point late in the second half Yogi Ferrell had more rebounds than Thomas Bryant and Max Bielfledt combined. This is not a good omen for the Hoosiers and look for Bryant and Bielfeldt to crash the glass hard against Creighton.
What to Expect from Creighton
Roster: Well I am sorry to inform everyone that Doug McDermott will not be suiting up for the Bluejays on Thursday night but there is some talent remaining on the roster. They have 7 freshman on the roster including 2 transfers Malik Albert and Cole Huff. Huff will be a stretch 4 who can shoot it and bang inside.
Offense: Just like Indiana, Creighton’s calling card is their offense. Isiah Zierden is a junior guard who leads the team in scoring. He will be the focal point of the offense from the opening tip. Cole Huff will be a force down low for Bryant and Bielfeldt to cover even though he is 6’8″. Kenpom.com has Creighton is the 50th most efficient offense in the country. They are projected to be an extremely effective shooting team especially from beyond the arc.
Defense: The Creighton defense has not been truly tested in their first two games. Before the season kenpom had them rated 125th in college basketball for defensive efficiency. They do not give up many offensive rebounds so the Hoosiers will have to score a majority of their points on the first shot. This game will most likely be high scoring and if Creighton can keep up with IU offensively it could come down to who can get that big stop or big rebound in the second half.
Look for Creighton and IU to play into the 80’s but in the end I believe IU has the talent and size to outlast Creighton. If Indiana’s defense can step up with some great intensity and communication this could become lopsided in a hurry but IU’s defense has never been a guarantee.
There is a lot to be excited about in Bloomington. The team has looked better than they have in few years. Creighton should be the first real test Indiana has faced so far and should help outline their strengths and weakness before heading into a highly competitive Maui Tournament.