The odds are stacked against Indiana as they hit the road for two contests this week.
Playing away from home in the Big Ten has been miserable for Indiana — and everyone else in the conference. League teams are 6-34 playing on the road through Tuesday, with no signs of the challenge letting up anytime soon.
The NCAA’s NET rankings tell the story of why things have been so difficult when teams leave home. Simply put, the Big Ten is really good this year, top to bottom. 12 of the NET’s top 41 teams hail from the Big Ten, while no other league has more than four teams in the top 41.
With trips to Rutgers and Nebraska on the slate this week, Indiana can pick up a win or two on the road if they are at their best.
But starting with a sold out Rutgers Athletic Center tonight, nothing will be easy for the Hoosiers.
GAME DAY ESSENTIALS
Indiana (13-3, 3-2) at Rutgers (12-4, 3-2)
- Tip time: Wednesday / 7 p.m. ET
- Location: Rutgers Athletic Center, Piscataway, New Jersey
- Television: BTN (Stream)
- Series: Indiana leads 7-2 (Last meeting: Indiana won 89-73)
- Point Spread: Vegas likes Rutgers by around 3.5 points. KenPom likes Rutgers by 4.
- Tickets (Seat Geek affiliate link)
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Rutgers Statistical Leaders
- Ron Harper (G) 12.2 ppg
- Geo Baker (G) 11.4 ppg (injured)
- Myles Johnson (C) 9.4 ppg
- Myles Johnson (C) 8.4 rpg
- Ron Harper (G) 6.2 rpg
- Geo Baker (G) 4.0 apg
- Paul Mulcahy (G) 2.6 apg
A look at KenPom No. 33 Rutgers’ noteworthy metrics
- Defense is Rutgers’ Identity – Steve Pikiell’s teams have always defended well, and that is especially true this year. The Scarlet Knights are No. 13 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, and No. 15 in effective field goal percentage (43.2 percent). Rutgers forces long possessions and should give Indiana’s struggling offense all they can handle.
- Not a Good Perimeter Shooting Team – If the three-pointers are going in for Rutgers, then you know it wasn’t Indiana’s day. At just 29.1 percent from deep, the Scarlet Knights are No. 320 nationally making shots from behind the arc. Only 29.6 percent of Rutgers’ shots are threes. That comes in at No. 324, and highlights the fact that they don’t force something that they aren’t good at.
- Miller Previews Rutgers on Radio Show
- Pikiell Previews Indiana
- Q&A about Rutgers basketball
- Have intensity, will travel
MILLER SEES NO DAYS OFF IN PHYSICAL BIG TEN
With a deep league where winning on the road has been just about impossible, Indiana head coach Archie Miller doesn’t see anyone cruising to a gaudy record in the Big Ten.
While Michigan State and Purdue ended up tied at the top last year with 16-4 marks, Miller believes it will take less wins this year to be in the hunt.
“If you are asking me, based on what I’m looking at, what teams are doing on the road, I think 14 wins are going to have you in the hunt,” Miller said on his weekly radio show. “I think the league is more difficult this year than it was a year ago, and I think the number 14 and up is going to be a number that if you can get to it, you are going to be involved in the conversation to win the regular season.”
Part of the formula for success, Miller believes, is not letting the losses steamroll your confidence.
Everyone is going to go through a rough patch. as evidenced by league favorite Michigan State’s 29 points loss at Purdue on Sunday.
“You can get consumed with what’s ahead or what you just did or what somebody else did,” Miller said. “You have to zone in on one opportunity at a time and let the chips fall where they may. It’s a very difficult league right now.”
The third year Indiana coach sees the teams that are focused on winning rather than individual agendas as the ones that will emerge from the gauntlet in March.
“There is always that old adage when you go into a game, ‘Don’t ever underestimate how messed up the opponent is,’” Miller said. “Everyone’s got problems. We all got the same amount of players. We all got the same-aged players. Everybody wants to play and shoot. I think the quest is to have the most tight-knit group that’s about the right things, and that’s sometimes harder than going out there and shooting jumpers.”
One constant in the league is the physical style that the officials allow.
It has been that way in the Big Ten for a long time, and only the teams that adjust from the way games were called during the nonconference will survive the next two months.
“You are playing a different style of game right now, everybody knows how it’s going to be played, Miller said.
“I don’t care who the coach at Indiana is right now or in 700 years, but whenever the Big Ten starts in January, the written rule is everything you try to accomplish from a style of play is out the window because the game is going to be called and played a certain way,” Miller said.
If there is one thing that Miller hopes does translate from the nonconference to the league, it is Indiana’s ability to draw fouls and get to the line.
“That’s why the free throw line is so important for us,” MIller said. “If we keep getting to the foul line, home or away … you are getting those easy ones, and you are able to get two points on the board. That’s big.”
If the Hoosiers can continue getting to the foul line on the road in Big Ten play, that should give them a chance to stay in games. IU leads the nation with 27.3 free throw attempts per game. but getting those whistles on the road could be a challenge.
Thus far IU is under their average in Big Ten road games, getting 22 free throw attempts per contest.
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