The Big Ten Conference is rated by KenPom.com as the second-best league in the country, with five teams ranked in the latest Associated Press Top 25 (compared to two for the Pac-12).
Arizona has had its fair share of success against the Big Ten in recent years, beating Illinois and Michigan last season. But one team from that conference it has never faced is the Indiana Hoosiers, who are the preseason pick to win the league.
To better understand what the 10th-ranked Wildcats (7-1) will be facing in the 14th-ranked Hoosiers (8-1), we reached out to Luke Norton of SB Nation sister site Crimson Quarry. Here are his distinctive answers to our common questions:
AZ Desert Swarm: The Mike Woodson hire seemed strange when it was made, especially since he’d never coached at the college level, but it appears to be working out. What does he bring to the program that his predecessors didn’t?
Luke Norton: “Woodson, as a former player, gets Indiana and the fanbase. He knows what the expectations are because he’s lived it on the court and from the stands. He’s pulled in two high-caliber recruits in Jalen Hood-Schifino and Malik Reneau, he coaches an NBA style and he brings a relaxed demeanor to media availabilities that fans love.”
Indiana has held every team not coached by Sean Miller (!!!) to under 70 points, while opponents are shooting just 36.4 percent. What’s the secret to the Hoosiers’ defense, and how do you think that will translate to facing a team that regularly plays two bigs like Arizona?
“Lol. Sean Miller. Anyway, Indiana is able to lock down just about every section of the court with physical defense and always keeping an eye on the ball. They’ve been better about closing out open shooters this year as well. I think Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson and Malik Reneau are up for the challenge of defending Arizona’s bigs, particularly if Reneau stays out of foul trouble.”
Trayce Jackson-Davis’s decision to return for his fourth season appears to be paying off for he and the Hoosiers, leading the team in scoring and rebounding and then putting up a triple-double on Wednesday night. Where has his game improved the most, and does he have any notable shortcomings?
“Trayce has mostly gotten better at what he’s always been the best at: working around the rim. His combination of size, speed and athleticism gives him the ability to use a variety of moves in the paint to get the ball into the basket. Aside from that, he’s improved as a perimeter defender and Woodson gives him free reign to roam the court and block shots. His one notable shortcoming is that he doesn’t shoot the ball much, from the perimeter or from midrange. He does so more than he used to, but definitely not a ton. It’s not much of a shortcoming given that that takes away an opportunity for a higher percentage attempt closer to the rim. Indiana has other guys to do that (they just need to step up).”
Like Arizona, Indiana suffered its first loss last week when it opened conference play on the road. Was that result an anomaly, or did Rutgers expose some weaknesses?
“Simply, Rutgers was tougher than Indiana that game. The Hoosiers looked like they were in a lull following a much-balleyhooed win over UNC and were without a starter in Hood-Schifino. Rutgers doubled Jackson-Davis and forced Indiana to score from the perimeter. Miller Kopp stepped up in that regard, but he was the sole Hoosier who did. It’s been known for years that Indiana can’t hit threes though, and they’ve been able to win without much from the perimeter.”
Who would win in a fight between Sean and Archie Miller, and how much would you be willing to pay to watch this?
“Sean, without question. The Sweat Man is larger, angrier and more outspoken than his small, quiet, Rhode Island-coaching brother. $10 million.”
Prediction time: Will the Hoosiers pick up a huge neutral-site win or will Arizona continue its recent dominance in games played in Las Vegas?
“I think Indiana has a shot, but ultimately think this’ll end up as a close loss for the Hoosiers in Vegas. I think Arizona is just too much to handle this early in the season for an Indiana team that still as a bit of figuring out to do.