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Primetime showdown at Duke is a measuring stick for Indiana basketball

Indiana freshman Romeo Langford plays defense against Montana State at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers are allowing 0.93 points per possession so far this season. (Mark Timko/HN)

It’s no doubt that Indiana’s matchup at Duke will be the biggest challenge for the Hoosiers in the early going.

The No. 3 Blue Devils and their talented trio of freshmen, R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish, have taken over the college basketball world since bursting on the scene in a rout over Kentucky to start the season.

But Indiana welcomes the challenge that is ahead of them Tuesday night.

“I think every game is a measuring stick,” Juwan Morgan said. “Just whether you can stay within yourselves and do the things that’s been working for you all day or people will get out of traffic and try to do things they haven’t done all year. I think every game we’re able to hold ourselves to that.”

In order for the Hoosiers to be successful they have to contain Duke’s future NBA lottery picks defensively, limit their own turnovers and get healthy.

The health part is a big reason why Indiana has struggled the last three games with key players Zach McRoberts and Devonte Green out. Miller said he hopes to get one or both of those guys back for Tuesday’s primetime matchup, but taking care of the job defensively is the major key.

“We’re much better defensively than we were a year ago, clearly. Our veteran guys, our older guys, have a much different understanding of how to play, what needs to be done,” Miller said. “If you add Devonte and McRoberts back to the fold, our perimeter depth gets better, we should theoretically be able to be even more solid, be able to apply a hard-playing team, because sometimes fatigue is playing a role in our breakdowns.”

The Hoosiers enter Tuesday ranked 28thin adjusted defense in the nation allowing 0.93 points per possession on average through the first six games. Although six games is a small sample size, this is right around where Miller’s teams were in the final three years of his Dayton tenure.

But Duke provides a different challenge than anything the Hoosiers have seen yet this year. The Blue Devils rank second in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency scoring 1.2 points per possession on average and Miller sees that as a potential problem.

“From an inside perspective, I don’t think we’re the greatest size rim protecting team,” Miller said. “I think we have quickness and can cover for some things. Without a question, I feel this team is a better defensive team than last year team clearly at this time.”

Not only will Williamson, Barrett and Reddish be a handful for the Hoosiers offensively, but they also cause problems on defense.

Turnovers have been a concern for Indiana in the early going averaging more than 15 a game. While Duke hasn’t used opponent turnovers as a major point of domination this season (12.8 per game), the Hoosiers don’t want to get into a track meet in transition with the talented Blue Devils.

The real success Duke has found in the early going has been able to protect the rim and hold opponents to a 39-percent field goal percentage. They also have a better adjusted defense than Indiana, ranking No. 8 in the nation allowing 0.91 points per possession.

“Obviously they are really good players, elite players,” Romeo Langford said. “It’s really a team effort. We’re going to go in practice the rest of this week and get prepared for them and hopefully try our best and do what we do to get the win on Tuesday.”

Although the numbers are stacked up against the Hoosiers Tuesday night, they could use this game as an early season measuring stick to see how they matchup against one of the most elite teams in all of college basketball on the road.

“Anyone that is a little bit worried going down there probably shouldn’t go. That’s just the way that works,” Miller said. “I hope we have a mindset that our team takes the floor ready to go. That’s what a coach hopes for, the best, is the mindset. We’re working really hard to prepare them for that.”

Zain Pyarali

I am a junior from Edwardsville, Illinois majoring in Sports Media. I formerly worked for the Indiana Daily Student for two years serving as the Sports Editor and beat reporters for Men’s Basketball, Men’s Soccer, Baseball and Field Hockey during my time with the student newspaper. Currently I am the Men’s Basketball beat reporter for IU Student Television while I also broadcast games for BTN Student U. Email me: zpyarali@thehoosiernetwork.com and follow me on Twitter: @ZainPyarali

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