In the seventh season of its existence, the Crossroads Classic will be played again today, featuring the four top basketball programs in the state of Indiana.
At 2:30 PM ET (pending an on-time finish to Purdue-Butler), the #18 Notre Dame Fighting Irish will then tip off against the Indiana Hoosiers, giving them their first crack at first-year IU head coach Archie Miller.
So, to prepare for this clash of Indiana basketball schools (yeah, I said it — what’s up Brian Kelly???), let’s dive into the fun facts, matchups, players to watch, etc. in this one.
- #BreysChase: Mike Brey is just FOUR wins away from becoming the all-time coaching wins leader at Notre Dame. He now has 390 wins, just 3 fewer than the 393 wins by all-time leader Digger Phelps
- 10 wins away from 400 wins at ND, Brey will become the 13th active coach to reach that win total at his current school. Brey is also 11 wins away from 500 career wins as a head coach, and is on pace to be the 31st active coach to reach that mark
- Notre Dame and Indiana have met 71 times prior to today’s matchup, with the Hoosiers holding the series lead 49-22 and games dating back to the first contest between the two schools in 1906
- The Irish are 3-5 against IU in the Mike Brey era, including 1-2 against them in the Crossroads Classic. However, the Irish have won 3 of the last 5, including a 79-72 win over the Hoosiers in 2013. IU won the last matchup in 2015 80-73 thanks to a comeback from a 16-point second half deficit
- ND’s BONZIE COLSON has, unsurprisingly, had a fantastic first 10 games of the season. He’s the only player in the ACC to be in the top five of five different individual statistical categories (4th in scoring at 19.5 ppg, 5th in rebounding at 9.5 rpg, 3rd in steals at 2.1 spg, 5th in blocks at 2.3 bpg, and 1st in defensive rebounds with 7.8 per game)
- Irish F Martinas “Bird Whisperer” Geben is having a career-best senior year, averaging 9.0 points and 6.1 rebounds per game after having never averaged more than 3 and 3 during his first 3 years on the team
- Notre Dame’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating, as calculated by kenpom.com, is 118.3, good for 7th-best in the country. The Irish have finished in the top 10 of this rating in 3 of the last 4 seasons, including finishing 2nd in 2015
- Pomeroy also analyzed coaches’ abilities to make halftime adjustments, looking at the past 8 seasons to determine if teams won more games than they should have based on win probability at halftime. Mike Brey finished 2nd among all coaches in that time period, only behind Dana Altman’s halftime adjustment performances at Creighton and Oregon
- IU is 76-25 in games played in Indianapolis, as the city always features a very Hoosier-favorable crowd due to Bloomington’s proximity and the number of IU fans in general in Indy
- Archie Miller and his brother Sean (coach of Arizona) are one of four pairs of brother-coaches in Division 1 men’s hoops. The others: Scott (Baylor) and Bryce (Vanderbilt) Drew, Bobby (Arizona State) and Dan (Rhode Island) Hurley, and Joe (Boston U.) and James (Yale) Jones
- Random facts about Archie Miller as a head coach since 2013-2014 (taken from IU’s preview): he has a 58-8 record as a head coach when his team scores first, and is 44-10 when controlling the tip. He’s 32-16 on Saturdays, and 22-7 in the month of December
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
When: Saturday, December 16, 2017, 2:30 p.m. ET
How to Watch: Fox national broadcast with Gus Johnson (play-by-play), Jim Jackson (analyst) and Lisa Byington (sideline).
You can also listen on the Notre Dame Basketball Radio Network with Jack Nolan (play-by-play) and Zach Hillesland (analyst), and the game will also be available on WatchND.tv, locally at WSBT-AM 960/FM 96.1, and on Sirius 132, XM 193 and SiriusXM online 955.
Indiana Hoosiers (5-5)
No one was expecting a “banner” season for Indiana this year after the firing of Tom Crean and hiring of Dayton coach Archie Miller during this past offseason. Miller inherited a program with some talent, but also a program that lost a lot and needed some rebuilding and juice from a new hire.
The Hoosiers are 5-5 so far this year, with some strong performances and some less-than-ideal ones. IU opened the season with a humiliating 21-point loss at home to the Indiana State Sycamores, and also convincingly lost its 3rd game of the year, as the Seton Hall Pirates won that contest by 16 points.
The Hoosiers have played much better of late, though, giving the #1 (at the time) Duke Blue Devils a hell of a game at Assembly Hall before losing by 10 a couple weeks ago. The Hoosiers also looked competitive against the Louisville Cardinals and Michigan Wolverines, but lost both of those games as well.
Overall, it looks to be a season where Miller gets experience and confidence built in some of the younger talent so that they can be the leaders when help arrives in the form of the 2018 class, in which the Hoosiers have signed four 4-star players to give the program an injection of young talent next season.
This year, the key players have really been the trio of junior forward Juwan Morgan, sophomore forward De’Ron Davis, and senior guard Robert Johnson.
The three of them average a combined 37 points per game, with Morgan leading the way in points (14.1 ppg) and also rebounds (6.6 rpg). The 6’8” junior is a strong, athletic, fundamentally sound big man who can do a little bit of everything in the paint — he’s currently 5th in the Big Ten in combined points, rebounds, and assists, as he averages 29 total of those per contest.
Davis is an über-athletic and long big man who can score, and score efficiently. His 65.7% shooting percentage this season is 2nd in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, Johnson is an experienced, score-first point guard with good size and who can knock down the outside shot (he’s only 30% from 3 on the year, but is a career 39% shooter from deep).
Other IU players to keep an eye on will be senior guard Josh Newkirk (8.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.8 apg, 39% from 3), sophomore guard Devonte Green (8 ppg, 2.5 apg, 34% from 3), freshman guard Aljami Durham (7.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.2 apg, 36% from 3), and senior forward Collin Hartman (6.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 40% from 3). All those guys can shoot it when called upon and really give the offense a jump-start.
Overall, the Hoosiers play pretty well on offense (49th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom.com), but do not have it together defensively, as they rate 173rd in adjusted defensive efficiency.
Notre Dame is 7th in adjusted offense and 57th in adjusted defense, so I expect them to be able to run away with the game at the end, assuming the Irish bring their A-game.
Hoosier to Watch:
De’Ron Davis, F, Sophomore
It’s no secret at this point that ACC Preseason Player of the Year BONZIE COLSON is incredibly under-sized for a big man who plays at such a high level. So, it’s also not shocking that athletic big men with lots of length can really disrupt his game down low.
At 6’10”, Davis has plenty of length and athleticism to do just that. He’s averaging 1.5 blocks per game on the season, and as we saw with Michigan State freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. in late November, a good shot blocker with lots of length can really take COLSON out of his game and force the rest of the Irish to make big plays if Notre Dame wants to even stay competitive out there.
Davis is by no means on the level of Jackson Jr. in terms of talent and length (same goes for the rest of the IU team in comparison to the #2 Spartans), but he’s a poor man’s version for sure, and so he will be key for the Hoosiers if they want to hang around with the potent Irish offense in this one.
Matt Farrell, G, Senior
After a rough 3-game stretch where he shot 12-of-31 and averaged just 12 points per game, Matt Farrell exploded back into his more familiar self against Delaware last weekend, shooting 8-of-13 from the field (5-of-7 from deep) while racking up 24 points and 7 assists.
That is the side of Matt Farrell that will be absolutely key in this one, as BONZIE will likely get his normal 15-20 points, but could struggle a bit against Davis and Juwan Morgan down low.
If that happens, someone else will need to pick up the scoring slack and make big plays, and Farrell is obviously the best candidate to do so. He shouldn’t have trouble beating the offensive-minded Indiana guards with his quick first step and shooting ability, so if he is finally back to his healthy, consistent self, his scoring will be the difference in this game.
Notre Dame 83 - Indiana 72
I think this one will be close early on, as the Irish have not been a fast-starting team all season and the Hoosiers will feed off early crowd energy to make some big plays and even potentially take a lead into the half.
That’s when Mike Brey will work his magic, however, and Notre Dame will come out in the second half and dominate. IU might be able to keep it close for most of the game if Morgan, Davis, and Johnson all play their best while one or two others provide some key 3-pointers, but I think down the stretch the Irish offense will be able to get buckets at will and will shoot their free throws well enough to close it out with a low double digits victory.
Oh, also, Martinas “Bird Whisperer” Geben will get at least one more dunk in this one. Just saying.