BOZICH | Indiana needs a win, Louisville needs to avoid a loss
Which team needs a win more Saturday: Louisville, which has won five of its first seven or Indiana, which has lost four of its first nine?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It’s too early to obsess about anything during this college basketball season. Check back in March. Maybe February.
“It’s Dec. 8,” Louisville interim head coach David Padgett said. “We can’t worry about what our resume for the NCAA Tournament is going to be.”
Padgett might be able to control himself. Ditto for Indiana coach Archie Miller. But the rest of us can (and will) obsess. Fans in this area lose perspective in December, March, May and every month in between.
It’s one reason that everybody who is anybody understands this is the most compelling, engaged and, well, obsessed college basketball market in America. (Sit down and listen, Tobacco Road.)
So with Indiana and Louisville meeting for the first time at the KFC Yum! Center at 2 p.m. Saturday, what topic stirs the obsession this weekend?
Try this: Which team needs this game more — the Hoosiers (5-4) and Miller or the Cardinals (5-2) and Padgett?
My answer: Indiana needs a win. Louisville needs to avoid a loss.
So the answer has to be Indiana, correct?
If the Hoosiers expect to return to the NCAA Tournament after whiffing last season, they need a quality non-conference win. Didn’t get one against Duke. Didnt get one against Seton Hall.
Except if you check the fine print in Louisville’s record, you’ll discover the Cardinals have as many quality wins as the Hoosiers — none.
In fact, Indiana’s 13-point victory over Iowa (No. 84) Monday was a better victory than anything Louisville has posted over the first four weeks. IU has a second win (Eastern Michigan, 149) about as dazzling as Louisville’s best win (Southern Illinois, 140).
Keep obsessing. When you do you’ll remember Indiana has a better win than Louisville but the Hoosiers also have the stain of an uglier loss — that 90-69 opening night stumble against Indiana State, a Sycamores’ squad that proceeded to lose five of its next seven after bussing home from Bloomington.
Indiana needs to beat Louisville to push that stumble to the bottom of the Hoosiers’ resume.
Louisville has not lost to a team like ISU. But (I warned you I was going to obsess) the Cardinals failed to look like a one-, two-, three- or even four-seed while defeating four teams with losing records, George Mason (4-5), Omaha (1-9), St. Francis (3-5) and Siena (2-6).
The Cardinals trailed Siena at the third media timeout of the first half and did not distance themselves from the visitors until the final 16 minutes.
“We scored, I think it was either 12 or 14 points in the first four minutes of the game,” Padgett said.
“So obviously we got off to a good start. Which may have very well have been a bad, not necessarily a bad thing, but maybe you come into the first media timeout and all of a sudden you’re a little bit more relaxed because you think, ‘OK, we’re scoring at will, we’re just going to beat this team by 20 or 30.’
“You can’t do that. And I told the guys that … I kind of got that vibe in the first half, that they just relaxed a little bit. I said, ‘Look we’ve got to learn our lesson. We’ve been up in a couple games at home this year, more so in the second half, we’ve been up 15 or 20 points, and we’ve let the other team get back in the game.
"So we’ve got to learn the lesson and say, ‘You’ve got to come out and increase your lead even more.'"
The Hoosiers are ranked 83rd by Pomeroy, 75 in Jeff Sagarin’s predictor and a lowly 176 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). Those numbers will change.
But most of the wise guys don’t have the Hoosiers making the 2018 NCAA Tournament. As much as the Cardinals need wins, what they don’t need is a loss to a team with computer numbers like those.
A year ago, Louisville used Indiana to get well, handing the Hoosiers by 15 points in Indianapolis. Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel punished Indiana from distance, making half of their 14 three-point attempts.
What a difference 49 weeks makes. Mitchell moved to the Utah Jazz and is playing like the second best rookie in the NBA. Rick Pitino was dismissed. So was former IU coach Tom Crean. This will be the introductory moment in the three-game series for Miller and Padgett.
“Our guys are anxious,” Padgett said. “We just have to try to build on our second half from Wednesday night (against Siena). Indiana, even though their record is 5-4, they’re a better basketball team than that.”
Indiana has cut back on its turnovers. But the Hoosiers are not as efficient on offense as they were last season (111.3 points per 100 possessions this season, down from 116.1 a year ago) without a statistical improvement on defense (an increase from 101.6 to 103.7).
The Hoosiers have been one of the worst teams in the country defending the three-point shot. Opponents are making close to 41 percent of their shots from distance, which ranks 322nd among 351 teams.
Can Louisville hurt Indiana from distance the way Seton Hall (9 of 17) and Indiana State (17 of 26) did?
“Three-point field goal percentage defense and three-point field goals made for us right now is an alarming statistic,” Miller said on his radio show Thursday night.
“It’s improving, little by little, but it’s not improving at the rate we’re going to need it to.
“Part of it is (we need to) be more detailed on shooters, to take away their great looks. If they call a play for a guy, eliminating that look.
“The second thing is being very detailed in terms of getting back faster, not allowing teams to shoot the three in transition. Then once we’re in half court, probably our biggest problem right now is positioning. We still really haven’t gotten that positioning down, where the defense isn’t always reacting to the dribble penetration or reacting to when the ball goes into the post.
“You never want to be a defender running at the ball, because (when you run at the ball), they’re going to kick it out. We want to be a team that’s in, so as they drive, we’re always on our way out. And that takes time, it really does.”
Both teams have time. As Padgett noted it’s Dec. 8 — early, but not too early to obsess.
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