Shaky Indiana awaits No. 22 Seton Hall in Gavitt Games

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No. 22 Seton Hall rides a 2-0 start into their first test against a high-major with Indiana coming to town on Wednesday as part of the Gavitt Games.

The Pirates’ start to the season has instilled confidence in fans outside of two slightly slow starts. This is in stark contrast to Indiana losing 90-69 at home to Indiana State on opening night and beating lowly Howard by just nine on Sunday.

Operating under new head coach Archie Miller, the Hoosiers were expected to have some drop-off from an 18-16 NIT campaign with Tom Crean a year ago, but I’m sure a home drubbing to a mid-major wasn’t on the menu for most.

Expect offense in this one as Indiana is ranked 57th in offensive efficiency but have looked porous defensively at times including their opponents shooting a combined 30-of-60 from three along with 34 attempted free throws.

Starting forward Juwan Morgan is a doubt after playing just five minutes against Howard after suffering an ankle/foot injury, leaving sophomore center De’Ron Davis (15.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and senior two-guard Robert Johnson (10.5 ppg), to primarily shoulder the load.

While Hoosier fans will probably go on about what their team has done wrong, they have excelled in sharing the basketball, much like their hosts. Indiana has registered 37 assists over their first two games, which is good for 30th in assist-to-FGM ratio.

Double-double machine Angel Delgado (13.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg) will go up against his toughest test yet in 6-10 De’Ron Davis while Myles Powell (14 ppg) will look to replicate his 27-point outing away at Iowa in last year’s 91-83 win in the Gavitt Games; Powell recently impressed with 18 against Monmouth.

Khadeen Carrington (11 ppg, 5 apg) has a solid ten assists to just two turnovers so far as a converted point guard, but he is 0-9 from three, a stat which he smiled about then shrugged off when I mentioned it post-Monmouth.

Kevin Willard on facing Indiana: “Tomorrow we’ll lift, we need to watch a lot of film on us & Indiana. I like being 2-0, but we have a lot of room for improvement.”

I then asked if he had seen they were blown out in their opener: “I have not watched Indiana yet, I have too much respect for King [Rice] & the job he’s done at Monmouth. I’ll watch Indiana tonight [Howard game]”

Gavitt Games Tracker (B10 1-0):

11/13 – No. 14 Minnesota (86) at Providence (74)
11/14 – Marquette at No. 19 Purdue (FS1)
11/15 – Indiana at No. 22 Seton Hall (FS1)
11/15 – Butler at Maryland (FS1)
11/15 – Creighton at No. 20 Northwestern (BTN)
11/16 – St. John’s at Nebraska (FS1)
11/16 – No. 15 Xavier at Wisconsin (FS1)
11/17 – DePaul at Illinois (BTN)

Three things to watch

Seton Hall’s defensive approach against a team that can score. Fairleigh Dickinson was missing by far their best scorer, and Monmouth was basically playing without a point guard. So while the Hall has successfully pounced on two teams that are sloppy at lead guard, Indiana is a different animal; senior Josh Newkirk (8.5 ppg, 4 apg) has plenty of experience between Indiana and Pittsburgh, while the Hoosiers have done well offensively, as mentioned.

More consistent conventional offense. Sure, Seton Hall is sitting 25th in offensive efficiency. Yes, they are scoring over 80 ppg. But, the offense has gone out of sync a bit too many times for comfort. Two slow starts followed by great sequences, which stagnated to varying degrees in the second half, perhaps due to substantial leads (shouldn’t be an excuse; Willard was not pleased about Sunday’s second half). On top of all that, the team is relying heavily on second chance points and scoring off turnovers. Of course that is part of the game and a viable strategy, but I’m just speaking about half court offense. Better opponents will be able to slow the pace and force you to score — think of Butler — this team needs to be more consistent in this area.

Attendance. Please don’t call PETA, because I’m going to keep beating this horse. Why? Because 4,000 actual attendance (tops) is too low in my book for a top-25 team in their home-opener and then their first Saturday game against local opponents. Xavier sold out the Cintas Center (10,224) against Morehead State and Rider. Butler sold out Hinkle Fieldhouse (9,100) for Kennesaw State. Marquette had a paid attendance of 13,324 for Mount Saint Mary’s. I’ve heard all of the excuses under the sun — but I’m prepared for more.

KenPom says: No. 29 Seton Hall 83, No. 84 Indiana 71

Projected Indiana starters:
PG – Josh Newkirk
G – Devonte Green
G – Robert Johnson
F – Juwan Morgan (questionable)
C – De’Ron Davis

Projected Seton Hall starters:
PG – Khadeen Carrington
2G – Myles Powell
F – Desi Rodriguez
F – Mike Nzei
F – Angel Delgado

Radio: AM970
Opening line: Seton Hall -10
Series: 1-2 SH