Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Rebels Are Comin’

Or at least the Hoosiers are going to meet them in Puerto Rico. After two exhibitions and then two more warm-up games, the Hoosiers face a measuring stick game against Mississippi this evening. The folks at Inside the Hall did a nice job telling us some things about the Rebels here. It’s early in the season to put too much stock in the numbers, but so far Ole Miss has been pretty good on both offense and defense. Kenpom’s adjusted efficiencies indicate that IU’s offense has been stellar so far, while the defense has been nearly as bad as the O has been good. But, like I said earlier, it’s early to put too much stock in those numbers, given the small number of games each team has played.

However, one aspect of the game stands out to me in Mississippi’s raw numbers: turnovers. The Rebels have been exceedingly adept at both hanging onto the ball and causing turnovers for their opponents. Specifically, they have stolen the ball on 20% of their opponents’ possessions. That’s absurd! 1 out of every 5 possessions they have played D, the Rebels have liberated the ball from the other team. Now, their opponents have been none too good at holding onto the ball in general (actually, one of them – Alabama St. – hasn’t played another game, so we really don’t have much to draw on), but the interesting thing is that holding onto the ball is the one thing that the Hoosiers have done poorly on offense. OK, they’ve been pretty awful at making their free throws, too, but I’m talking about the Four Factors here. And the one bugaboo on their short offensive résumé this season is that they’ve turned the ball over way too much. That would seem to play right into the hands of Mississippi.

So after all that, it says here that the Hoosiers will have to hold onto the ball to compete with a more experienced and impressively talented Rebel squad. They’ll need to play much better D, too. That said, I’m looking forward to seeing them in the crucible of competition against a team that looks to be outfitted for a trip to the Big Dance in March.

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