IU-Jacksonville Gameday Preview: 3 Key Things to Watch

On Friday at 8:00 ET, the fifth-ranked Indiana Hoosiers (11-1) will close out the non-conference schedule when they host the Jacksonville Dolphins (5-7) 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-Jacksonville Gameday Info

IU-Jacksonville Preview

Jacksonville: Three Things to Watch

1. Thee-Point Shooting

The Dolphins have struggled to both make and defend three-pointers this season.

Jacksonville comes into the game shooting a paltry 23.6 percent from beyond the arc, which ranks among the worst 10 teams in the nation. To their credit, the Dolphins appear to recognize this weakness and don’t take a high volume of their shots from long range. In fact, just five players have attempted more than 10 three-pointers with only Dylan Fritsch (32.5 percent) making over 30 percent from distance.

On the other end of the floor, the Dolphins have struggled to defend the three-point line. Opponents are shooting 37.3 percent from long range, which ranks nearly 300th in the country. The Hoosiers come in making nearly 42 percent from beyond the arc, which should lead to a huge advantage in perimeter scoring for IU.

2. Depth

According to KenPom, bench players have logged 41.3 percent of Jacksonville’s minutes, which is one of the highest marks in the country. While a few Dolphins have missed games this season, they have 11 players averaging at least 11 minutes per game and no one logging more than 26 minutes per contest.

Jacksonville’s adjusted tempo ranks inside the Top 50, and the fact that coach Cliff Warren is willing to play so many players is a big reason why. Obviously the Hoosiers aren’t afraid to get out and push the tempo while going deep into their bench as well, so expect a fast-paced game with a revolving door of players at the scorer’s table.

3. Jarvis Haywood

With so many players logging double-digit minutes, just two Dolphins are scoring in double figures, led by 6-4 freshman Jarvis Haywood who is averaging 11.2 points to go with 4.0 rebounds.

After a somewhat slow start Haywood has heated up in recent games with at least 12 points in six of his last seven contests.  He’s not much of a long range shooter but has been adept at drawing fouls and getting to the stripe where he hits nearly 74 percent of his free throws.

Indiana: Three Things to Watch

1. Christian Watford

It’s worked twice so why not leave Watford here for the Hoosiers?

In the two games following IU’s loss to Butler, he’s totaled 32 points and canned 5-of-9 from long range.

In last Friday’s win over Florida Atlantic, Watford tallied 17 points in 28 minutes of action, hitting all five of his free throws and adding two steals and two assists. Oddly enough, he was shut out on the glass in a game the Hoosiers dominated on the boards.

Still, Watford seems to have responded well to his struggles against the Bulldogs, and IU definitely needs him on top of his game heading into the Big Ten season.

2. Inside Scoring

For all of Jacksonville’s depth, the Dolphins don’t have any height at all.

The only player in their rotation who stands over 6-6 is 6-9 freshman Tyler Alderman, who interestingly enough hails from Indiana. Alderman plays barely over 11 minutes per game though, so for the majority of the game the Dolphins will be at a substantial size disadvantage.

With a huge edge on the frontline, look for the Hoosiers to pound it inside early and often.

Cody Zeller scored a season-high 24 points against Florida Atlantic last Friday, and perhaps most importantly, he made 12-of-13 from the free throw line.  Look for another big game from him in this one.

The Dolphins have also posted an ugly defensive rebounding percentage so far this season, which should lead to another advantage in second chance points for the Hoosiers, who have mauled their last two opponents on the boards.

A couple rebounding efforts that stood out from the Florida Atlantic game came from Victor Oladipo and Hanner Perea. Oladipo grabbed five of his eight rebounds on the offensive end, and Perea snatched 10 boards in just 14 minutes.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Perea challenge that rebounding total in this one as he continues to earn more playing time leading up to conference play.

3. Turnovers

Coming into this season, the biggest question surrounding the Hoosiers was whether they would be able to show enough improvement defensively to challenge for a National Title. The good news is that they enter this game ranked 10th in adjusted defensive efficiency and are in the Top 50 in three of the “four factors.”

The bad news is that to a certain extent the non-conference schedule hasn’t been tough enough for the numbers to completely squash the notion that defense is no longer a concern.  Even so, there have definitely been positive signs on the defensive end, but improvement has to continue heading into the Big Ten season.

The only one of the four factors where IU ranks outside the Top 50 is turnover rate where their 22.6 mark places them just inside the Top 100. Jacksonville comes into the game ranked 255th in offensive turnover rate, which suggests the Hoosiers will have a chance to force their fair share of miscues on Friday.

I’ve been impressed with IU’s defensive intensity to start the last couple games, so if they are able to carry that over for a third straight contest, they should be able to jump on Jacksonville early.

Final Thought

Much like the last two games, there really isn’t much intrigue for this matchup.

The Hoosiers have a huge size advantage inside, and with the roster intact (with the exception of the Jeremy Hollowell situation), Indiana is just as deep as Jacksonville. There no reason to believe the Hoosiers won’t be able to score at will against a defense that ranks outside of the Top 300 in defensive efficiency, so look for IU to score in the 90s once again.

Barring a serious holiday hangover, the Hoosiers should win this one handily, so put me down for another 30-plus point victory as they close out the non-conference slate.

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

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