Gregg Marshall talks about Shockers’ matchup with Indiana
A spot at Madison Square Garden will be at stake for a 6 p.m. Central time game Tuesday broadcast on ESPN between No. 6 seed Wichita State and No. 1 seed Indiana at Assembly Hall in the third round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Here are five things to know about WSU’s opponent before tip-off tonight:
1. Indiana’s blue-chip freshman a question mark
Romeo Langford was ranked as a top-five prospect in the country out of high school and the New Albany, Ind. native was billed as the savior of Indiana basketball.
It was a disappointment Indiana (17-15 before the NIT) missed the NCAA Tournament, but Langford, a 6-foot-6 wing, led the team in scoring at 16.5 points and added 5.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.
But Langford has missed Indiana’s first two NIT games after experiencing a back issue at the Big Ten Tournament. According to Indiana coach Archie Miller, Langford has not practiced in the last two weeks. His status for Tuesday’s game is undetermined.
“The kid has logged a lot of minutes this season and any time you have your back is jarred or it doesn’t feel good,” Miller said. “Anyone who’s ever experienced that, you’re very uncomfortable. So he’s not going to be able to do anything until he gets that thing feeling pretty good. So we’re hopeful.”
If the star freshman isn’t able to go, Indiana will once again have to replace a good chunk of its scoring. But the Hoosiers have been pleasantly surprised by the success of 6-3 junior Devonte Green since his promotion to the lineup. In the two NIT games, Green has averaged 15 points, 8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2 steals.
2. Indiana also has an all-Big Ten forward in Juwan Morgan
This will be the third straight team WSU has played with an elite post-up scorer. Morgan, a 6-8, 232-pound senior, averaged 15.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks playing most of his minutes as Indiana’s do-everything center.
Much like Furman’s Matt Rafferty and Clemson’s Elijah Thomas, Morgan does most of his damage on the low blocks. Per Synergy, Morgan ranks in the 93rd percentile scoring 1.09 points per possession on his post-ups.
Morgan is one of the most efficient players in the country when he’s close to the basket. On the season, Morgan has made 63.6 percent of his two-pointers, the 60th-best mark, and that percentage rises to 69.7 on shots at the rim, per Hoop-Math.com.
Unlike Rafferty and Thomas, Morgan has the ability to step out and shoot three-pointers. He was taking nearly three from beyond the arc per game, although the returns weren’t always great with his 30-percent accuracy. But Morgan did hit four threes in a game earlier this season against Butler. It should be noted that in NIT games, with the extended FIBA three-point line, Morgan has not yet attempted a three-pointer.
WSU’s three-headed monster at center with Jaime Echenique, Asbjorn Midtgaard and Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler will once again have their hands full. Morgan is playing in his final game at Assembly Hall and will surely be motivated to reach New York City. But WSU’s size and length effectively limited Clemson’s Thomas and could do the same with Morgan, especially if Echenique brings a similar locked-in effort. Even if Morgan doesn’t score he can still impact games with his passing out of the post.
But just because Morgan starts at center doesn’t mean Indiana doesn’t have size to match up with Echenique and Midtgaard. The Hoosiers have a pair of 6-10 posts they can bring off the bench in De’Ron Davis (6-10, 255) and Evan Fitzner (6-10, 225).
3. Indiana is a poor three-point shooting team
There’s no questioning that Indiana is going to produce most of its points inside the arc and at the free-throw line. A little more than a third of Indiana’s shots are three-pointers, which ranks No. 299 in the country in three-point rate, and the Hoosiers make just 31.2 percent of them, the No. 314 mark in the country.
With the three-point line extended 20 inches for NIT games, the results have so far been predictable for Indiana: a combined 12 of 43 shooting on three-pointers for 27.9 percent.
The only rotation player who doesn’t average at least one three-point shot attempted per game is Davis. But that doesn’t mean they’re making them. Starting point guard Rob Phinisee is only making 31.4 percent on 2.8 threes attempted per game and starting wing Aljami Durham is shooting 33.9 percent on 3.3 threes attempted per game.
The lone sniper on the team is Green, who would replace Langford (a 27-percent three-point shooter) in the lineup if the star freshman isn’t able to go. Green ranks in the top 125 nationally at 41.8 percent accuracy from beyond the arc and he’s making nearly two threes per game.
Expect Indiana to attack the rim aggressively. Nearly 44 percent of Indiana’s shots are at the rim, which ranks No. 17 in the country, per Hoop-Math.com, and the Hoosiers are cashing in on nearly 63 percent of those shots, another above-average mark. This play to a strength for WSU’s defense, which has done well limiting shots at the rim (33 percent, No. 93 nationally) and also defending shots at the rim (55.4 percent, No. 42 nationally).
WSU will certainly have to stay attached to Green on the perimeter. While the rest of the Shockers’ wing defenders will still have to be mindful to contest, the same pressure isn’t there to take away the three-point shot. That should allow WSU’s defenders to take an extra step back to wall off drives.
4. Indiana’s defense ranks in the top 30
Indiana’s mediocre record is deceiving because it played the the 17th-toughest schedule in the country, per KenPom.com. Yes, the Hoosiers have some eye-opening losses among their 15, most notably a 15-point loss to Nebraska at home, but they also swept Michigan State and beat NCAA Tournament teams in Wisconsin, Louisville and Marquette.
Indiana has been able to compete because of a defense that ranks No. 29 on KenPom, despite not ranking in the top 50 in any of the Four Factors. Indiana doesn’t excel at forcing turnovers or keeping teams off the glass, but it does generally hold teams under their shooting averages.
In their two NIT wins, the Hoosiers kept both St. Francis (0.98) and Arkansas (0.90) under one point per possession. Indiana’s interior defense was outstanding in both games, as St. Francis and Arkansas combined to shoot 37.1 percent on two-pointers against the Hoosiers.
Morgan and Davis are above-average shot-blockers for Indiana, but no one else is. The Hoosiers are about average when it comes to protecting the rim, so it isn’t unreasonable for WSU to find success down low or when it attacks the rim.
But scoring on Indiana has been a challenge all season for opponents. The Hoosiers are good about getting back and defending in transition and then also getting out and contesting shots on the perimeter.
5. Indiana is known for its slow starts
In its last 15 wins, Indiana has had to erase at least a four-point deficit. Some of those were early deficits, but not all of them.
Indiana fell behind by as many as 14 points before rallying to beat UC Davis. They were down by 11 to Butler and 10 to Illinois before pulling off runs to win. Even in the NIT, the Hoosiers trailed St. Francis by six and Arkansas by nine.
Regardless of the start, Indiana is used to playing close games. Nine of the last 13 games for Indiana have been one-possession games entering the final minute with three of them going to overtime.
That should be nothing new to WSU, which played in close games down the stretch of wins against Furman and Clemson.