Crean looks on from Sidelines at Assembly Hall
Tonight, the Indiana Hoosiers travel into Madison, Wisconsin to take on Bo Ryan and the Wisconsin Badgers.
The Hoosiers are coming off a huge decisive 80-61 win at home, where they held Michigan to just 15 points in the first half. On the flip side, the Hoosiers just lost Maurice Creek to a knee injury again, for the second year in a row, and the Hoosiers will need to find someone to fill in his shoes (see freshmen Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey)
The No. 17 Wisconsin Badgers last beat the Illinois Fighting Illini 76-66 at the Kohl Center, where they have won 13 straight, including nine in a row against the Hoosiers. The Badgers have yet to win back-to-back games in the Big Ten yet, and are looking to do just that tonight.
Here are five ways that the Hoosiers can beat the Badgers tonight.
The Kohl Center is a fortress for Wisconsin basketball. Since Bo Ryan has taken the helm, the Badgers are 146-11 at home, an incredible feat not matched by many in the history of the game.
Because of this, many teams are already intimidated before they step on the court. To add to that, the Wisconsin student section, The Grateful Red (pun intended), does a good job at making it a loud and tough environment for opposing teams to play in.
For the Indiana Hoosiers to break their streak of nine straight losses in Wisconsin, they are going to need to shoot well, and shoot early to quiet down the crowd. The Hoosiers haven't gotten off to good starts this season in general, but if they want to stay in this game, they must do that tonight.
Obviously this is easier said than done, but if Indiana can clean up its sloppy play on the defensive end, and keep the Badgers confused and out of sync, and force them to take tougher shots, the Hoosiers will have a much better chance to bring home a W.
Wisconsin is in the basement of the Big Ten after five games with a .398 shooting percentage. Even more, Wisconsin has made just 102 baskets, although that is likely due to its excellent patience on the offensive end.
Indiana would rather take its chances with Wisconsin forward Jon Leuer, guard Jordan Taylor and center Keaton Nankivil jacking up shots from around or behind the arc, rather than letting them get close to the basket for a shot, or foul opportunity.
Hoosiers Boxing Out
Historically (within the last 10-15 years), Wisconsin has been known as a solid, fundamental team that wears you down with its patience, free-throw shooting and ability to defend in all areas.
Indiana surely knows this, and must understand that it has to limit Wisconsin's second-chance opportunities. With the Badgers' propensity to take as much time as they need to find the best shot, Indiana can ill-afford to stay on the defensive end for two 35-second shot clocks, and assume that Wisconsin will come away from both of those possessions empty.
Indiana needs to, from the first minute, grab every rebound in the air like it's the last. Surprisingly, Wisconsin right now is ninth in the Big Ten in rebounding margin, averaging 5.6 less rebounds than its opponents. Indiana, on the other hand, is fifth in the Big Ten in that category, averaging just .2 rebounds less than its opponents.
Indiana out-rebounded Michigan in its last game 33-17, and will need an effort like that one tonight to stay in the game vs. the Badgers.
All five players on the court will have to box out and crash the boards at every opportunity, to ensure that Wisconsin doesn't get extra possessions, and that Indiana can have a sufficient chance of surviving in the Kohl Center.
Watford rises and fires.
Not to keep harking back to last Saturday's game vs. Michigan, but Indiana shot an amazing 67.4 percent from the field, and 42.9 percent from behind the arc. All that helped give Indiana 81 points on the day, and its first Big Ten win.
But now, Indiana goes back on the road, where it has averaged just 42.2 percent from the field in its two road Big Ten losses.
For Indiana to shoot well, the Hoosiers need to diversify their shooting. Get forward Christian Watford the ball down low, and let him exploit mismatches against either smaller or slower players. Get guard Verdell Jones the ball, and let him drive around screens and take the ball to the hoop.
Even more crucial to Indiana's success is to get guard Jordan Hulls, the nation's most accurate shooter according to Ken Pomeroy, more shots on the basket. Simply put, when he shoots, it goes in the hoop over 70 percent of the time. Against Michigan he scored 13 important points, including three three-point baskets, and a long two-pointer to help put the game away.
Indiana will have to play smart on the offensive end, and find the best way to score each time down the court. It won't always be the same, but the in-game adjustments made during the game will determine whether the Hoosiers stand a chance to win or not.
Coach Crean speaks with forward Tom Pritchard
Outside of Indiana, no one is giving the Hoosiers a chance to win this game tonight. Ken Pomeroy's analytical statistics give Indiana a 10 percent chance of winning at Wisconsin. He predicts the score will be 70-58, Wisconsin the winners.
In Vegas, the spread is 13.5. This doesn't help Indiana any more than KenPom's predictions did as well.
And there is good reason the Hoosiers aren't being given much of a chance.
They have not beaten a mid-major or major team on the road or on a neutral court all year. They just lost Maurice Creek, once the leading scorer of the Hoosiers, and up till now, slowly working his way back and finding his shot. And of course, Wisconsin is 146-11 at home in the Kohl Center.
But for Indiana to win, it will have to do everything that was previously stated in this article, and then some. They need to play 40 minutes of inspired, efficient and energetic basketball. And have they done that at all this year? Not for a full 40 minutes at least.
It's going to be a difficult game tonight, but with the confidence the Hoosiers have coming off their last win, and the emotion of playing for your hurt teammate in Creek, there is a chance the Hoosiers can pull off the upset.
But hey, if Tom Pritchard can get an assist, AND pull down seven rebounds in a game, anything is possible.
Enjoy the game.