One of the biggest stories this college basketball season comes to the Bryce Jordan Center today. The Indiana Hoosiers have returned from the depths brought forth from the Kelvin Sampson scandal and have emerged as a legitimate Big Ten contender. With their shiny 14-1 record, the Hoosiers have already won more games in Tom Crean's 4th year than any of his previous seasons in Bloomington. If you believe KenPom's projections, Indiana has a very real chance of winning more games this year than in the past 3 seasons combined (28).
So what's been the difference between last year and this year? Cody Zeller. The freshmen big man was a coveted recruit from the Hoosier state. Many IU fans were ready to fire Crean if his staff didn't get Zeller in some candy-stripes. However, Crean landed Zeller, who has proved worthy of the hype by averaging 14.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 1.5 BPG. With all due respect to Tom Pritchard, Zeller has finally given Crean a dominant inside presence that has helped open up their entire offense.
Other than Zeller, however, the rest of the players were members of last year's 12-20 team. Verdell Jones is still there as one of those 'guys who just won't graduate'. Jones has gone from the only playmaker to the weakest link, which is a testament to Crean's staff's recruiting efforts. In 2009-2010, Jones was their leading scorer, while consistently scoring 15+ PPG. Now, he's the Hoosiers' 6th scorer with his scoring cut in half.
Christian Watford continues to be a stud and is one of three Indiana players who makes over 50% of their 3PAs. The other two are Jordan Hulls and reserve Matt Roth. The junior Hulls has been incredibly efficient with a 122.9 ORtg and 68.2% eFG%. Then you have the crazy-athletic Victor Oladipo who can explode to the rim and lock down on defense.
In conference play, Indiana is 2-1 with two home wins and a road loss. They've played arguably the top 3 teams in the league aside from themselves. They lost to Michigan State at the Breslin Center, but responded with close wins over Ohio State and Michigan. Their conference statistics aren't that great, but they will obviously improve once the strength of schedule evens out.
The Hoosiers are 2nd nationally as a team from behind the arc, shooting an absured 45.6%. However, they shoot so well because they don't rely on perimeter shots (only 25% of their points come from the 3-point line). They're highly effective attacking the basket, making 52% of their 2PAs. Overall, the Hoosiers are 5th in offensive efficiency according to KenPom.
Indiana is a much better team than Purdue, especially on offense. Their balanced attack can beat you many ways, but even if they aren't all clicking, Cody Zeller always provides a safety option inside. Many things have to go the Lions way to pull their 2nd upset in a row. I'd expect to see a lot of zone, even if IU is more than capable of lighting it up from outside. As far as PSU's offense is concerned, it all comes down to IU keeping Frazier out of the lane. Even if Frazier is successful penetrating, the Lions will still have to make the open shots. Another hot night from 3 will be needed for a Penn State victory.