As Indiana opens Big Ten play on Wednesday night in Bloomington, one thing is already abundantly clear.
There will be no nights off in the league in 2020-21.
First up, a Northwestern team coming off a stunning 79-65 manhandling of former No. 4 Michigan State over the weekend.
The Wildcats have IU’s undivided attention as conference action begins for the Hoosiers.
GAME DAY ESSENTIALS
Northwestern (4-1, 1-0) at Indiana (5-2, 0-0)
- Tip time: 8:30 p.m. ET
- Location: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.
- Television: Big Ten Network (Brandon Gaudin and Jess Settles)
- IU Radio Network (Don Fischer, Errek Suhr, Joe Smith)
- Series: Indiana leads 119-52 (Indiana won last meeting 66-62 in 2020)
- Point Spread: Indiana is an 8.5-point favorite
- KenPom has No. 17 Indiana by 7 points over No. 56 Northwestern
Northwestern’s Chris Collins is in his 8th season in Evanston and has a 113-118 record.
While the Wildcats do not have a senior on the roster this season, they are nevertheless deeply experienced. The Wildcats bring back four starters from last season in addition to 68.4% of its total minutes and 71.9% of its total points from 2019.
Following a career performance on Sunday, 6-foot-2 point guard Boo Buie was named the Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday. He scored a career-high 30 points while shooting 9-of-15 from the field and 5-of-6 from deep in the win over Michigan State. Buie’s 28 assists through the first five games are the most for a Wildcat since Bryant McIntosh had 29 assists to open the 2017-18 season.
Versatile forward Pete Nance finished with a season-high 15 points and 12 rebounds in the win over MSU, notching his first double-double of the season and the fourth of his career. The 6-foot-10 junior has now grabbed at least seven rebounds for five-consecutive games, the longest streak of his career. Nance is averaging 11 points and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 41.7 percent from distance.
6-foot-7 junior forward Miller Kopp is averaging 14.0 points per game this season while shooting 51.4% (19-of-37) from the field, and 50% (10-of-20) from behind the arc. In addition to his shooting prowess, Kopp plays a very clean game, with just 3 turnovers and 1 foul all season thus far.
Robbie Beran is a third skilled forward starting for Northwestern. He started 18 games last season as a freshman. Beran is shooting 56 percent from the field overall including 7-of-15 from three-point range. A 6-foot-9 sophomore, Beran is averaging 9 points and 4 rebounds per game and has yet to commit a turnover in 22 minutes of action per contest this season.
Chase Audige is a 6-foot-4 transfer guard from William and Mary. He is averaging 13.2 points per game, the third-best mark on the team. After sitting out a year, Audige has struggled out of the gate from three-point range, making just 23.3 percent, and just 36.9 percent of his overall field goal attempts.
Off the Bench
6-foot-3 first-year guard Ty Berry is averaging 10.6 points per game and ranks fourth in the conference among qualified shooters with a 57.1% three-point percentage (12-of-21).
Ryan Greer is a solid junior guard coming off the bench with a 3-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. The 6-foot-2 Greer hasn’t been a major threat to score to this point in his career.
Guard Anthony Gaines returns as a redshirt junior. His 1,818 career minutes with the Wildcats are the most on the roster. After missing the final 21 games of the 2019-20 season with a shoulder injury, the 6-foot-4 Gaines is averaging 16.4 minutes off the bench and contributing 3.6 points and 1.6 assists.
6-foot-10 forward Ryan Young gives the Wildcats frontcourt depth and a more traditional post presence. Young started all 31 games last year and has been highly productive in 14 minutes of action thus far in 2020-21. Not a threat from the perimeter, Young is averaging 8.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
WILDCATS’ SPREAD OFFENSE A MAJOR CONCERN
It will be strength against strength when Northwestern has the basketball.
Northwestern is averaging 90.4 points per game this season, the second-highest mark in program history through five games.
The Wildcats are shooting 57-of-131 from beyond the arc and rank first in the conference in threes per game (11.4) and third in three point percentage (43.5%). It is the highest number of made threes through the first five games in the Chris Collins era (and since at least 2010-11), as well as the highest three-point percentage to start a season since the Northwestern’s historic 2016-17 season.
Northwestern scored an astounding 1.15 points per possession against a good Michigan State defense, something that really stood out to IU head coach Archie Miller.
“They put on as good of an offensive performance as you’re going to see. Michigan State clearly had a difficult time guarding them,” Miller said earlier this week. “Chris (Collins) has done a great job with this team early in the year as you watch him – they’re playing fast, they’re making the most threes in the league at almost 12 a game.”
Slowing down Northwestern from behind the three-point line will be a major point of emphasis. The Wildcats were just 8-of-28 in their lone loss of the season on the road in the Big Ten / ACC Challenge against Pittsburgh.
Northwestern typically has five capable perimeter scorers on the floor, something that will challenge Indiana’s pack-line defense that strives to stay compacted in the paint.
“They’re playing a five-out Princeton style offense which has really opened the floor up for them,” Miller said. “They got me up right now trying to figure out what to do with these guys because the performance they put on the other night against Michigan State – they were very impressive.
“They’re five-out around the 3-point line a lot. They have a lot of read and react cutting. A lot of open cuts, which opens the floor up. It puts you in a lot of predicaments because their shooting is prolific and a lot like the Princeton offense, you have to take away something and you’re going to give up something else up.”
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