Previewing the Crossroads Classic

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on December 14th, 2013

In a state that considers itself the mecca for hoops, Indiana’s premiere college basketball programs are set to play in the Crossroads Classic’s third edition later today. In the past two years the event has brought buzzer-beaters and an upset over a No. 1 team, but this season, all four teams desperately need a win here to help their future NCAA hopes. It’s a day for state supremacy and bragging rights at Bankers Life Fieldhouse — on a Saturday afternoon of great basketball around the country, the Crossroads Classic is unlikely to disappoint. Below you will find three keys to both games for Indiana and Purdue to notch wins in this afternoon’s event.

The Crossroads Classic

The Crossroads Classic is Becoming a Hoosier State Tradition

Notre Dame vs. Indiana 3:15 PM, ESPN

  • Take care of the ball. The Irish are the more experienced team taking on the relatively young Hoosiers. This becomes especially important in the backcourt where Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell faces Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins. These two take care of and share the ball extremely well (Notre Dame is third in the country in assists per game). Ferrell will need to match their composure and not make mistakes if Indiana hopes to walk away with the victory here.
  • Use its athleticism. Indiana struggled against Syracuse’s zone with all of its tall, athletic and physical players. Notre Dame at least has the tall and physical part going for it. This means that the Hoosiers will need to use their athleticism to get out and run. If Indiana can turn this into a track meet game, it has a better chance of winning the contest where its athleticism can outmatch Notre Dame’s experience. This also helps alleviate the Irish having a strong starting five versus Indiana typically having to rely on a couple players to explode (read: Noah Vonleh, Jeremy Hollowell, Ferrell).

  • Get ahead early. With the revelation that some Indiana players didn’t believe it could beat Syracuse, this puts a spotlight on the Hoosiers needing to get ahead early to build their confidence. Notre Dame is the more experienced team, of course, but if Indiana can build a lead, it won’t have to worry about its young players losing the faith. It also will allow for the inevitable inconsistent spell the Hoosiers seem to have every game that drives Tom Crean and Hoosier fans crazy. A big lead early will allow Indiana to get comfortable and perhaps even run away with the game.

Butler vs. Purdue 6:00 PM, Big Ten Network

  • Use its size. Of the four teams in this event, who had Purdue as the only school to not win a game yet? The number one thing the Boilermakers will need to do to get its first win here is to use its size advantage inside with Jay Simpson and AJ Hammons proficiently. Butler has nobody to match up against Hammons when he is in the game, and Simpson versus Kameron Woods and Erik Fromm is still an advantage. This may be the game where Matt Painter finally needs to reveal a large lineup with Hammons and Simpson next to each other. Butler would have no answer for that in the paint.
  • Defend the three. Butler is a solid three-point shooting team at 37 percent, but Kellen Dunham is the player to really focus on here. Dunham scores 18.7 PPG and hits 47.5 percent of his long-range shots. Purdue will desperately need to limit his looks and stop Butler from shooting well outside. The Boilers have done a decent, but not necessarily good, job in stopping three-pointers this season, as opponents have shot 34.1 percent from deep against them for 26.1 percent of points (in the 180s nationally for both stats). If the Boilers can limit three-point shooting against Butler, it can win this key game.
  • Defend Khyle Marshall and foul him late. The biggest match-up issue for Purdue will be with Khyle Marshall. His athleticism and ability to play either the three of four positions makes him troublesome. The Boilers will need a big defensive game from Errick Peck and Rapheal Davis or must hope that Simpson can keep up with him if they go big. If the game is close late, though, Purdue needs to foul him over and over again as he shoots only 53.5 percent from the free throw line.
Jonathan Batuello (61 Posts)

Jonathan Batuello is a journalist working out of Indiana and Big Ten correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow his Twitter account (@jcbatuello) for Big Ten basketball, Indiana high school sports and how to cope with losing at fantasy football.

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