5 Items on Indiana's Holiday To-Do List When Butler Comes Calling
The top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers have a very easy schedule in December other than a big date with Butler on Dec. 15 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The Hoosiers sit at 9-0 and are No. 1 in the country, but they will face off with a very dangerous 7-2 Butler squad that already has wins over Marquette, North Carolina and Northwestern on its resume.
IU has wins over Georgetown and North Carolina, but Butler may be the toughest opponent yet because their campus is located in Indianapolis, they play their best against good teams and are well-coached by head coach Brad Stevens.
Against all odds, the mid-major powerhouse Bulldogs made the national championship in both 2010 and 2011, proving they belonged with the best teams in the country. Stevens has a knack for making his teams believe they can do anything. This year is no different as Butler enters its first season as a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
This game is sure to have an electric, NCAA Tournament feel to it as the crowd will likely be split down the middle with Hoosier and Bulldog fans filling up the arena.
Head coach Tom Crean's Hoosiers must do five things to emerge victorious over the Bulldogs and remain the No. 1 team in the country. Here they are:
Play an Up-Tempo Pace
The Hoosiers lead the nation in points per game, scoring 89.1 PPG. To win this ballgame, the Hoosiers have to play an up-tempo brand of basketball that involves getting the ball up the court rapidly and scoring quickly.
Big man Cody Zeller can run the court as good as anyone, and the Hoosiers are at their best when they are aggressive and have good ball movement leading to open shots.
If the pace is slowed down, it may aid Butler more than Indiana. The Bulldogs score a solid 73.4 PPG, but in past years they've been known to thrive in games where the score has been low and baskets are hard to come by. This year, they've proven they can score and even put up 82 on North Carolina in Maui on Nov. 20.
However, they don't have the firepower to keep up with a Hoosiers attack that can hurt you in so many ways.
The Hoosiers' top five scorers all average 11.9 points per game or above, making it difficult to stop the entire team even if one or two of these guys struggles.
Shut Down Rotnei Clarke
The senior guard, who sat out last year after transferring from Arkansas, has impressed in the early going for his new team, leading the Bulldogs in scoring with 17.3 points per game through the team's first nine games.
The sharpshooter has been lethal beyond the arc for Butler, hitting four three-pointers a game and shooting 45 percent from deep.
In Butler's early season loss to Xavier, the Musketeers shut down Clarke, as he scored just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting and was 1-of-7 beyond the arc.
The Hoosiers don't need to stifle him quite that much on the defensive end, but they must limit his effectiveness and make someone else beat them. Khyle Marshall, Kellen Dunham and Andrew Smith all average in double digits for the Bulldogs, but it remains to be seen if they can win a game if their primary scoring option is shut down.
Get Cody Zeller More Touches
An AP preseason All-American, Zeller has played solidly in the early going of the season, averaging 15.4 points and 8.9 rebounds in 27.6 minutes of action per game. There is nothing wrong with these numbers, but the sophomore will have to be the guy to carry the Hoosiers against Butler.
In the first nine games of the season, Zeller has had plenty of time to rest, playing more than 30 minutes just once, when he played 42 minutes in an 82-72 overtime win over Georgetown on Nov. 20.
In many games, he simply hasn't needed to impose his will because the Hoosiers have beaten seven of their nine opponents by 24 or more points. Zeller is only pointing up 8.9 shots per game, a number that must be considerably higher against Butler.
It has been nice to see the Hoosiers able to beat teams in so many different ways, but this game may come down to the Hoosiers getting the ball to their big man as much as possible and letting him lead them to victory.
Zeller must be the shining star in this one if the Hoosiers want to leave Indianapolis with a victory.
Shoot Efficiently from Beyond the Arc
The Hoosiers are shooting 39.2 percent from beyond the arc this season and certainly aren't afraid to shoot it from deep.
However, the Hoosiers will have to shoot it efficiently because every possession in this game will be important. This game will not be a blowout like many other games in the past, so the Hoosiers will have to value each possession with even more care because they know every opportunity to score will matter.
So far this year, the Hoosiers have still found ways to win even when they haven't shot well from deep. They must maximize their opportunities against a Butler team that will probably try to slow it down to avoid getting into a track meet with the Hoosiers.
Ease Mosquera-Perea, Jurkin Back in
After missing the first nine games serving an NCAA suspension, Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin, both freshmen, will be eligible to return to action when the Hoosiers take on the Bulldogs.
Mosquera-Perea, a 6'8" physical specimen, is expected to contribute right away and be in the rotation for the Hoosiers. Jurkin, a seven-foot center, is expected to play a more limited role as he develops his skills further.
Hoosier fans are eager to see what these two players can do on the court. But head coach Tom Crean must be cautious with his approach, especially in a nationally televised game against a high-profile opponent in their first game of the season. The two have not seen game action this year and will need to get up to game speed to perform well.
The rest of the December schedule for IU is full of cupcakes, which will give Mosquera-Perea and Jurkin plenty of time to log minutes and build confidence against inferior competition.