Louisville faces a familiar opponent tonight on ESPN in the Jimmy V Classic. The surprisingly competitive Indiana Hoosiers and the Cards will take center stage at Madison Square Garden. Indiana leads the all-time series with Louisville by a 10-6 count, and this is the first matchup between the programs since 2003, which Louisville won 95-76. Tonights matchup with Indiana also makes for Louisville’s third game against a Big Ten opponent in the early stages of the this season. The Cards stormed through Minnesota 81-68 in the season opener and held off a late run by Ohio State 64-55 last Tuesday.
Indiana has played exceptionally well on the offensive end of the court this season, as a team, they shoot 52.4 percent from the field (including 43.9 percent from beyond the arc) averaging 88.4 ppg, which has made up for it’s unshowy scoring defense (69.2 ppg). Indiana’s highly-touted, home grown, James Blackmon Jr. scores 19.5 ppg and has been dangerous from deep (26-of-48). The Hoosiers are led by junior guard Yogi Ferrell, as he is the best playmaker on the perimeter, and also shoots well from behind the arc with 17.3 ppg and 5.8 apg, while sophomore Troy Williams (12.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and freshman Robert Johnson (11.1 ppg) are also having stellar starts for the 7-1 Hoosiers. Indiana shoots the three well, and they will shoot it a lot, so defending the perimeter will be key if Louisville expects to win. The Cards are one of the better defensive teams in the country and opponents are shooting just 21% from three against Louisville’s defense this season.
Head Coach Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are one of the nation’s top-ranked teams. Although the offense has struggled, they have still managed an astounding +26.7 scoring margin, and boast the nation’s third-ranked scoring defense (49.3 ppg) which has forced opponents to nearly 20 turnovers per game. All-American junior Montrezl Harrell (16.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg) is one of the better big men in college basketball and is shooting 61.5% from the field. Sophomore guard Terry Rozier (13.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and senior wing Wayne Blackshear (12.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg) are also very active scoring and rebounding, while senior point guard Chris Jones has struggled shooting early this season, he averages 11.7 points per game and is a main cog in Louisville’s stifling defense.
Indiana will have a chance at an upset in this one if its 3-pointers are falling, but its shooters are not going to get a lot of clean looks against this Louisville defense. Look for Harrell to have a big game against Troy Williams, there is no answer for him down low if Harrell plays within his abilities and doesn’t get into foul trouble.
Yogi Ferrell and Chris Jones will be the best match-up of the night. Jones hounding defense will be needed to offset Ferrell’s offensive production. Jones hasn’t shot it well, but if he can contain Ferrell, it could be a long night for the Hoosiers.
Wayne Blackshear will have his hands full with James Blackmon Jr. Avoiding foul trouble is essential for Wayne, as Blackmon Jr. has been lights out for the Hoosiers. No Shaqquan Aaron leaves the Cards thin at the wing, so New Wayne Blackshear must continue to stay on the floor and contribute in all facets.
Rozier against Johnson will be advantage Louisville. Johnson is a shooter, and Rozier plays well through screens and shouldn’t give Johnson many open opportunities. Offensively, Terry needs to continue to drive the lane and hit open shots.
Nanu Onuaku is Louisville’s most important player to me. If he can stay away from silly fouls, and remain on the floor,
Hanner Mosquera-Perea just doesn’t have the ability to keep up. Onuaku is vital on defense for altering/blocking shots, and rebounding, reserves Mangok Mathiang, Matz Stockman, and Anas Mahmoud just don’t quite add up to what Onuaku can do.
G 3 Chris JONES
G 0 Terry ROZIER
C 32 Chinanu ONUAKU
F 25 Wayne BLACKSHEAR
F 24 Montrezl HARRELL
Key reserves – Mangok Mathiang, Anton Gill, Quentin Snider, David Levitch, Jaylen Johnson, Anas Mahmoud, Matz Stockman.
G 11 Yogi FERRELL
G 4 Robert JOHNSON
G 1 James BLACKMON, Jr
F 5 Troy WILLIAMS
F 12 Hanner MOSQUERA-PEREA
Key reserves – Stanford Robinson, Max Hoetzel, Emmitt Holt, Nick Zeisloft, Colin Hartman,
Game time: 9:05 p.m.
Site: Madison Square Garden, New York City.
Line: Louisville by 12.
Series: IU leads 10-6.
Television: ESPN (Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale).
My Prediction: Louisville 83 Indiana 71