Montana State at Indiana
- Tip time: 8:00 p.m. Eastern
- Location: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall
- Television: BTN
- Series: Indiana leads 2-0
- Point Spread: Indiana is favored by 26.5
- Tickets (Seat Geek affiliate link)
Southern Indiana was a quality Division II opponent. Realistically, Division I Chicago State was probably a step down from the Screaming Eagles.
Next week are a couple big tests, with a home game against an evenly matched on paper Marquette team followed by the season’s first big road test at Arkansas.
Nestled in between these challenging and not so challenging contests is Friday night’s opponent — Montana State. The Bobcats, ranked No. 289 in the current KenPom rankings, are certainly no juggernaut. But they are an experienced team that should provide a bit more of a challenge going into next week.
MEET MONTANA STATE
Bobcat head coach Brian Fish is an Indiana native. Hailing from Seymour, Fish is in his fifth year of leading MSU. He was a longtime assistant to Dana Altman at Oregon, Creighton, Kansas State and Marshall.
Playing in the Big Sky Conference, the Bobcats finished the 2017-18 season at 16-16 overall and 11-7 in league play. They lost their season opener on their home floor by a score of 101-71 to Utah State (KenPom No. 142). Utah State guard Sam Merrill scored 37 points in that game.
Indiana seems likely to have a significant rebounding advantage. Utah State out-rebounded the Bobcaats 51-to-25. The Aggies grabbed 16 of their own missed shots, and turned them into 17 points.
Montana State returned four starters from the 2017-18 season, and that group brings with them 58.3% of the team’s 2017-18 scoring output. The projected starters for the Bobcats are:
- Tyler Hall, 6-foot-5, 215 lbs.
- Keljin Blevins, 6-foot-6, 200 lbs.
- Devin Kirby, 6-foot-11, 205 lbs.
- Harald Frey, 6-foot-2, 180 lbs.
- Russell Daniels, 5-foot-11, 165 lbs.
Key contributors off the bench should include Ladan Ricketts (6-foot-5) and Usman Haruna (6-foot-11).
Tyler Hall and Harald Frey combined for 41% of MSU’s 2017-18 scoring and 28 of their 71 points in the season opener. Hall was limited in the season opener with an ankle injury. He averaged 17.5 points per game last year, but shot just 40.7% from the field. He hit 99 shots from distance and hit 37.2% from long range. He attempted the 27th most 3-pointers in the country last year.
Frey put up similar numbers, with 13.1 points per game on 42.8% from the field overall and 37.4% from long range.
Blevins led the team with 5.8 rebounds per game last year and added 9.7 points per contest.
IU head coach Archie Miller referred to the MSU style as being similar to Oregon and Illinois, with an offense “wheel system that is intricate and tough to guard.”
As a team MSU shot just 42.4% from the field last year. That mark ranked 294th nationally. But as their season opening result indicates, they struggled more on the defensive end.
The Bobcats allowed opponents to score 78.9 points per game last year, which put them at 321st nationally. While they don’t appear to be a team that puts up much resistance, Miller said this about the MSU defense earlier in the week:
“Montana State has a philosophy where they play a matchup which is a lot trading cutters and switching cutters and that’s always problematic at the beginning of the season especially with young players that haven’t seen changing defenses.”
If IU can keep Hall and Frey from getting the hot hand and get back on defense, this should be a game that Indiana is able to win easily. On the offensive end, the Hoosiers have a significant overall size advantage and should be able to score with regularity in the paint and get plenty of second chance opportunities. Look for a high scoring game where the Hoosiers may go over the century mark for the second consecutive contest.
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