IU-Ball State Gameday Preview: 3 Key Things to Watch

On Sunday at 6:00 ET, the top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers (5-0) will host the Ball State Cardinals (2-1) on the Big Ten Network.

As always, Jerod, Ryan, Zach, and Andy will be here with another episode of The Assembly Call after the game.

IU-Ball State Gameday Info

IU-Ball State Preview

Ball State: Three Things to Watch

1. Free Throw Rate

The Cardinals have not shot the ball well this season, ranking outside the Top 200 in two-point shooting and outside the Top 250 in three-point accuracy.

However, they have made up for that by earning frequent trips to the free throw line, as evidenced their gaudy 61.7 free throw rate, which ranks third in the nation. Ball State has taken at least 27 free throws in each of their three games, but they haven’t taken full advantage given a 64.1 percent conversion rate from the stripe.

IU struggled with foul trouble in the first half of the Georgia game, so it will be important not to fall into that trap again.

2. Majok Majok

Majok, a 6-8 junior college transfer, has been Ball State’s best player this season and leads the Cardinals with 14.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. He has posted a pair of double-doubles and has already taken 28 free throws through just three games.

Majok ranks among the nation’s best in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, free throw rate, and defensive rebounding percentage. So far, Majok is shooting just 41.4 percent from the field, so the Hoosiers need to force him to make shots as opposed to giving him freebies at the stripe.

3. Perimeter Defense

Ball State opponents are shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc over their first three contests, with each of their first three opponents making at least seven three-pointers. That is particularly disturbing news against the Hoosiers, who have connected on 41.4 percent of their long-range attempts.

In the Legends Classic Final, IU made 10-of-17 from beyond the arc against Georgetown, led by Jordan Hulls, who was named the event’s MVP. Hulls has at least three made triples in each game so far and comes into the game shooting over 55 percent from deep.

If the Cardinals hold out any hope of springing the upset, they need to stay close to IU’s glut of perimeter shooters.

Indiana: Three Things to Watch

1. Free Throw Rate

As mentioned above, Ball State currently ranks third nationally in free throw rate, but the Hoosiers are first with a 63.9 mark. And while the Cardinals have done a nice job of getting to the stripe, they’ve also shown a propensity for sending their opponents there, ranking outside of the Top 200 in opponents’ free throw rate.

The Hoosiers have been relentless in attacking the basket this season, and there is no reason to expect a change in their approach on Sunday night.

2. Jordan Hulls

After tallying 31 points in IU’s two wins in Brooklyn, Hulls was deservedly named the MVP of the Legends Classic, but that point total doesn’t tell the full story of his importance in those games.

He knocked 7-of-12 from beyond the arc, and it seemed nearly all of them came during key stretches of each game. Hulls also dished out six assists and racked up five steals in those contests, and he logged 39 minutes in the overtime win over Georgetown.

Against Georgia the night before, Hulls took control during the second half, scoring or assisting on 18 of 20 IU points during an important second half stretch, which allowed the Hoosiers to pull away.

For all the talk about the new faces on the IU roster over the past couple seasons, it’s hard to overestimate the importance of senior leadership from someone like Hulls, a guy who has seen things at rock bottom and helped turn the program around.

3. Offensive Rebounding

Through five games, the Hoosiers have grabbed over 40 percent of their own misses, placing them inside the Top 50 in offensive rebounding percentage.

But second chance points may be hard to come by against a Ball State squad that boasts one of the top defensive rebounding rates, led by Majok, who is posting an impressive 30.9 DReb%. The Cardinals’ dominance on the defensive glass is even more impressive when you consider just three players in their rotation stand over 6-5.

Some of their early season success may be a result of the level of competition, so it will be interesting to see what Cody Zeller and company do on the offensive glass in this one.

Final Thought

On paper, this one looks to be a mismatch, as evidenced by the point spread and Pomeroy numbers.

The Cardinals have done some nice things over the first few games, but they are coming off a 20-point loss to Indiana State on Tuesday. In addition to Majok, guards Jesse Berry and Jauwan Scaife are also scoring in double figures, and coach Billy Taylor has nine players logging at least 14.7 minutes per game.

Tom Crean’s Hoosiers bounced back from a lackluster performance against Georgia to prevail in a challenging and entertaining tilt with Georgetown to win the Legends Classic, but they have to guard against looking ahead to Tuesday’s matchup with North Carolina.  They will need to avoid the kind of slow start that has plagued them early this season, but Cody Zeller looked healthy against the Hoyas and should have another productive outing in this one.

Look for the Hoosiers to overwhelm Ball State with their deep array of offensive weapons and win this b]game by at least 20 points.

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Listen to Andy Sunday on The Assembly Call. Follow him on Twitter at @AndyBottoms.

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