Here’s what you should be watching for in Saturday’s Crossroads Classic.
Game 1: Butler vs. Purdue
Time, TV: Noon ET, FOX
The last time they played: Butler 74, Purdue 68
When Purdue is on offense.... What can Butler do to slow down Purdue's shooters?
Purdue is capable of bombing 3s at will. And while Butler’s defense has been solid – it’s ranked 39th, and has been particularly good as of late – the Bulldogs struggle to defend the 3-point line. Opponents are shooting 39.7 percent against them from out there, which ranks 314th in the country.
The Bulldogs recently made a starting lineup switch that should help them on the perimeter — with Sean McDermott’s ankle injury, Paul Jorgensen is back into the starting five, so LaVall Jordan starts him alongside two quality perimeter defenders in Kamar Baldwin and Aaron Thompson. There’s no awful individual matchup for Butler here; in theory, it should be able to contain dribble-penetration, which is how Purdue creates most of its 3-point looks.
Isaac Haas is always a concern, but Butler has three big bodies to throw at him in Tyler Wideman, Nate Fowler and Joey Brunk. Wideman, the starter, is the least physically imposing of the three. Those guys need to be able to hang without help — otherwise, Haas can kick the ball out, and the Boilermakers are excellent at swinging it around the arc until they find the open shooter.
This end of the floor will be won or lost at the 3-point arc.
When Butler is on offense.... Who wins the Kelan Martin-Vince Edwards battle?
This is a fascinating matchup. Butler and Purdue are built similarly – they play three guards, a small-ball four and a traditional center. Martin and Edwards are the small-ball fours.
Martin can be inconsistent, but when he’s on, he’s one of the toughest covers in the game. The senior is averaging 17.7 points and is hot – Martin has scored 20 or more points in three of his last four games.
Edwards has the physical tools to annoy Martin. He’s 6-8, athletic and stronger than he gets credit for. Judging by those factors alone, he should be Purdue’s best defender.
In Butler’s two losses, Martin is a dismal 9-for-34 from the field. If Purdue (and Edwards) can hold him below 40 percent, it will likely win easily.
Prediction: Purdue 74, Butler 70
Game 2: Indiana vs. Notre Dame
Time, TV: 2:30 p.m. ET, FOX
The last time they played: Indiana 80, Notre Dame 73
When Indiana is on offense... Who's hitting 3-point shots?
The mark of recently successful Indiana teams has been 3-point shooting. Suffice it to say that’s not a strength of these Hoosiers.
Indiana is shooting 32.3 percent from 3, which ranks 260th. Josh Newkirk is the only guy who’s been taking and making 3s regularly – he’s shooting 38.9 percent from range. Robert Johnson, who’s been a reliable perimeter sniper during his career, is at 30.2 percent. Indiana would love for his regression to the mean to begin against Notre Dame.
To the Hoosiers’ credit, they’re not fooling themselves. Indiana doesn’t attempt many 3s – it’s 277th in attempts. Archie Miller is playing to his strength, which is the frontcourt. Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis combine to average 25.6 points and 11 rebounds, and are each shooting better than 58 percent from the floor. Against a Notre Dame defense that sometimes struggles to contain the interior, Morgan and Davis will be busy.
But Indiana needs to hit enough 3s to keep the defense honest. If the Fighting Irish collapse onto Davis or Morgan in the post – as they should -- there needs to be a viable outlet option. That’s why Purdue is so successful – for the Boilermakers, posting up isn’t just a vehicle to score; it’s a way to scramble the defense and use one strength to enhance another.
Indiana has been missing that this season. Collin Hartman’s return helps, and Newkirk and Johnson should be a good shooting backcourt. But the latter needs to show it.
When Notre Dame is on offense... Can Bonzie Colson dominate a tough matchup against Juwan Morgan?
Morgan is a stout defender who matches up with Colson well physically. Indiana has struggled as a team on that end, but he has the highest net rating of any Hoosier.
Colson has only had one game where he shot below 40 percent – it’s probably no coincidence that it came against Jaren Jackson, Miles Bridges and Michigan State. Morgan isn’t as good of a defender as those guys, but he’ll give Colson more problems than most of his foes thus far.
Davis could see some time on Colson, too – he’s the best shot-blocker the Hoosiers have at 2.9 per 40 minutes. But a few things: first, Davis also averages 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes to Morgan’s 3.6. Indiana needs Davis’ offense, so it would make sense to slot him on the less-threating Martinas Geben, provided Morgan can hold his own. Second, Davis’ rim-protecting will be more of a factor if he’s free to roam, which he wouldn’t be if he had to guard Colson. Regardless, Miller should have a few options.
Stopping Notre Dame starts with stopping Colson, as Michigan State showed. Indiana is 5-5, but it’s played a brutal schedule to date, and should have a ton of fans wearing its colors. If the Hoosiers can keep Colson in check and bump up their perimeter efficiency, they have a shot.
But it’s hard to pick against the clearly more talented bunch. Notre Dame is 0-1 against in-state opponents so far (shout out to Ball State), but don’t expect it to drop two in a row.
Prediction: Notre Dame 84, Indiana 77