A completely uninformed Indiana State preview

Based solely on data gleaned from the internet. Mainly here and here.

Record: 20-13
Pomeroy RPI: 109
Path to the dance: won MVC tournament
Best wins: Wichita St (in tournament), Missouri St (once regular season, once in tournament), though neither of these teams made the field of 68
Notable losses: by 9 at Notre Dame in November, by 13 at Purdue in December
Common opponents with SU: beat Northern Iowa twice (both reg. season), beat DePaul, lost to ND

Analysis: The Sycamores lost a number of bad games in nonconference play. When their conference slate began, they started out 7-1. Then they lost a 3OT game at Wichita St. This marked the start of a 5-game conference losing streak. But they righted the ship, finishing the regular season with a 5-game conference winning streak, and then three more wins to take the MVC tournament title. They did have a nonconference loss to Ohio Valley champs Morehead St. late in the year, but that’s their only loss in their final 9 games. Their losses to Purdue and Notre Dame are also fairly impressive, as losses go. In the ND game they were ahead early, and tied at 31 with only a couple of minutes to go in the first half. Against Purdue they were down 2 at halftime, and stayed close for the first 12 minutes of the 2nd half. They were down 2 with 8 minutes remaining in the game, at which point Purdue went on a 9-0 run over the next 4 minutes to get some breathing room.

So even though they’ve been beaten by some bad teams, they have provided a real challenge when facing top-notch opponents, and they are also “hot at the right time”.

Conclusion: SU better not take these guys for granted.

Starters: C Myles Walker (6′8″ 250lb.), F Carl Richard (6′5″ 200lb.), G Dwayne Latham (6′3″ 190lb.), G Aaron Carter (6′4″ 195lb.) , G Jake Odum (6′4″ 170lb.)
Primary Bench (at least 25 games and 9+ mins/gm): G/F Jake Kelly (6′6″ 185lb.), G Steve McWhorter (6′2″ 185), G Jordan Printy (6′4″ 180lb.), F R.J. Mahurin (6′8″ 210 lb.), F/C Isaiah Martin (6′8″ 210lb.)

Analysis: As is often the case when dealing with teams from mid-major or low-major conferences, the roster is laden with guards and light on size. They do have one legitimate big body in Walker, but he is almost exclusively a defensive presence. He averages just 6.5 points, but adds 5.3 rebounds and nearly one blocked shot per game. I’m assuming he is an Onuaku type player, but with less offensive polish. The two big men off the bench add height but little else, though Mahurin has a decent outside shot (36%) from deep.

Lathan is their leading scorer, but averages just 11ppg. Most of his scoring came early in the season, when he had 9 double-figure scoring games in their first 13 games. But then he missed three games with a leg injury, and since returning he has only hit double digits five times in 17 games. The other three starters are all averaging between 8.7 and 9.8 points per game, and all three shoot between 33% and 35% from deep. Carter is the bomber of the group having attempted 140 threes this season. (Richard has tried 76 and Odum 54.) Odum is the leading assist man at 4 per game. Off the bench, Kelly is a “sixth starter”, playing starter’s minutes and scoring 8.7ppg. He’s also 2nd on the team in assists. However, he is a poor outside shooter, hitting under 25% on the season.

ISU does have two sharpshooters on its bench, guys that they will undoubtedly count on to be zone-busters. Jordan Printy has taken 104 threes on the season and hit 50 of them, for a frightening 48% clip. (He’s just 7-27 inside the arc, and has only taken 4 free throws all year. So: BOMBER.) McWhorter hasn’t seen as much action as Printy but he’s hit 40% of his (limited) tries from deep. The good news is that although they have some good shooters they are not really a good offensive team. They turn the ball over a lot (over 20% of their possessions) and score only 66 points per game, shooting about 43% as a team.

What this means is that Indiana State has won most of their games with their defense rather than their offense. They have held their opponents to 64 ppg and just over 40% shooting. Granted they have played some bad teams, but those are still impressive defensive numbers. They held all three of their conference tournament opponents under 60 points. Pomeroy has their effFG% defense at 44th in the nation. They don’t give up a ton of offensive rebounds either. However, they are prone to fouling — their opponents have shot over 100 more free throws than they have. Worse than that in conference play.

Conclusion: It looks like ISU is going to be a frustrating opponent. They will defend well, scrap and claw for rebounds. They will foul a lot (and we know how erratic SU’s free throw shooting has been). They will slow the game down and just when you think they are on the ropes they will probably drain a couple of ridiculous threes to get back in the game. Their strengths seem designed to take advantage of SU’s weaknesses.

However, all this said, there is a reason they are a 14 seed and Syracuse is a 3. SU has more size and more athleticism. SU has better talent at every position. I think (as with most first-round “mismatch” games) it will come down to focus. They will have to take this game seriously. Time for some leadership. I’m glad they aren’t playing until Friday — undoubtedly there will be some upset on Thursday that may serve to get their attention. Perhaps one of the other high Big East seeds will stumble. SU respects their conference opponents; a result like that might open their eyes in a way that Boeheim’s nagging cannot.

Also, SU can’t play offense like the first half of the UConn game — lots of standing around and jump shooting. They need to take the ball into the paint, draw some fouls, establish the size advantage. ISU’s one big guy might be able to body up Rick Jackson, so it’ll be on the rest of the front line (whether it is Keita, Fab, or C J Fair) to make an impact scoring down low and rebounding.

OK, enough talk. LET’S. DO. THIS.

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