clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

B1G / ACC Challenge Preview: Indiana vs. Pittsburgh

New, 2 comments

Indiana will get its toughest challenge of the young season tonight in Bloomington. Will they be able to break out of their recent funk and get the season back on track?

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)

Date / Time: Tuesday, December 2nd - 7pm Eastern

Location: The Assembly Hall, Bloomington, IN

TV: ESPN2

Indiana and Pittsburgh will face off as part of the B1G / ACC Challenge this year. Both teams come in with a lot of question marks in what has already been an up and down season. Both have one solid victory and one horrific loss. Both are also missing key players as Indiana continues to play without forward Devin Davis and Pittsburgh continues to play without forward Durand Johnson who is suspended for the entire season. This will no doubt be one of the more intriguing match-ups of this year's challenge.

Getting to know Pittsburgh

When you look at Pittsburgh's roster, the first thing anyone notices is the tremendous height of this team. The majority of the team stands 6'6" or taller which is a stark contrast to the Indiana team they will be facing in this one. However, that hasn't really led to solid rebounding numbers from Jaime Dixon's group. The Panthers currently rank 196th in rebounds per game with 34.8 which is actually behind the Hoosiers who rank 126th at 36.8 boards per game.

Pittsburgh comes into this one with a record of 4-2 which includes a win over Kansas State but losses to Hawaii and ranked San Diego State. KenPom currently has the Panthers ranked 37th overall (compared to Indiana at #64). Hoosier fans will also be watching a very contrasting style of play compared to what they are used to watching as Pittsburgh comes in as the #347 (out of 351 teams) tempo team in the nation. They love to take the air out of the ball and will do their best to not let Indiana run up and down the court which is exactly what the Hoosiers want to do.

The Panthers are currently led in scoring by Sophomore 6'9" forward Michael Young at 14.7 points per game and he is followed closely by Junior 6'3" guard James Robinson at 12.7. Young also leads the team in rebounding as he is pulling down 8.3 boards per game and Robinson also leads the team in assists at 5.8 per game. While the Panthers have no one else currently scoring in double figures, they do have several players averaging 5 to 8 points per game in what is a fairly balanced attack offensively.

What to Watch For

How will Indiana respond to the size of Pittsburgh? While the Panthers haven't necessarily played to their ability on the boards this season, they will have a huge advantage over Indiana in pure height which the Hoosiers have not dealt well with so far this season. Coach Crean said after the UNCG win on Friday night - "We are going to see absolute nastiness on the boards Tuesday night." Indiana's leading rebounder right now is freshman guard James Blackmon Jr. at 5.5 per game and that needs to change for Indiana to get things back on track this season. Guys like Troy Williams and Hanner Mosquera-Perea have to step up soon on the boards.

Who will dictate the pace of this game? As stated above, Pittsburgh loves to slow the game down and they have obviously been very successful at doing just that this season. Indiana wants to get up and down the court quickly and they have done a decent job of doing that this season - even a reckless job at times. Given the major height differential in this one, it will be imperative for both teams to try and force their style of play. If Pittsburgh is able to slow this down into a pure half court game, they will be able to get the ball inside and use their height to score easy buckets in the paint while also making it very difficult for Indiana to score on the other end. The Hoosiers need to get steals and then get quickly back down the court for easy layups or transition threes.

Will Indiana find a way to cut off the paint to the Panther guards and wings? Eastern Washington really exposed Indiana last week by having their guards drive into the lane from the top of the key for easy layup after easy layup as the Hoosiers had no resistance at the rim. Pittsburgh does not have many threats from long range and they will look to get the ball inside to their many big men or will let guys like James Robinson try to drive to the rim for easy scores as the shot clock winds down. The Hoosiers have to find an answer to the driving activity - whether it is Perea playing better or a guy like Emmitt Holt seeing more playing time down low.

Projected Starting Lineups

Indiana

Pittsburgh

G

6'0"

Kevin Yogi Ferrell

G

6'3"

James Robinson

G

6'3"

Robert Johnson

G

6'6"

Chris Jones

G

6'4"

James Blackmon Jr.

F

6'7"

Jamel Artis

F

6'7"

Troy Williams

F

6'9"

Derrick Randall

F

6'9"

Hanner Mosquera-Perea

F

6'9"

Michael Young

Prediction

This is going to be the toughest team that Indiana has faced to date this season by a pretty wide margin. While SMU was ranked at the time the Hoosiers beat them - they have steadily fallen since and now sit at only 3-3. The Hoosiers haven't seen this kind of height or anything close to it this year and it will be interesting to see how they react. When you also take into account the recent funk Indiana seems to be in with tough victories over schools like Lamar and UNCG as well as a loss to Eastern Washington, I don't think many Indiana fans are going into this contest with a very high level of confidence. The Hoosiers have had a really difficult time controlling the tempo of games in recent years when matched up against a team that likes to slow it down and I think that will again be a struggle here which will ultimately lead to the B1G Conference losing a point in this challenge that had been counted on going into the season.

Final Score - Indiana 65  Pittsburgh 74