Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The IUPUI game.

IUPUI Jaguars
Current record: 1-1
Current RPI: 202
Current Sagarin: 118
Current Pomeroy: 258
2007-08 record: 23-7
2007-08 RPI: 70
2007-08 Sagarin: 70
2007-08 Pomeroy: 91
Series: IU leads 1-0 (IU won 86-57 on 12/22/2006 at Conseco Fieldhouse)
TV: 6:30 pm tonight, BTN

The IUPUI Jaguars make their first-ever appearance at Assembly Hall tonight. As the numbers above indicate, IUPUI put together quite a respectable season last year, finishing in the top 100 in all three computer rankings. Unfortunately, after losing to Oral Roberts in the Summit League (formerly the Mid Continent Conference) title game, the Jaguars missed out on an NIT bid. Certainly, this could be something of a rebuilding year for coach Ron Hunter, because the Jaguars lost George Hill, IUPUI's greatest player ever, to the NBA (he was drafted by the Spurs in the first round). Still, it's hard to overstate the significance of Hunter's accomplishments in Indy. When he arrived in 1994, the team was known as the "Metros" and had just made the leap from NAIA to NCAA Division II. IUPUI moved up to Division I in 1997, and reached the NCAA Tournament in 2003, in only its sixth year in Division I and less than a decade removed from NAIA. While they haven't yet returned to the Big Dance, they have become a consistently successful program, nearly always finishing in the top half of the conference standings.

The Jaugars succeeded last year with a deliberate (62 possessions per game, about #300 in Division I) but ruthlessly efficient offense. Here's their Kenpom scouting report. The Jaguars led the country in offensive efficiency (that's right, #1 of 341 Division I programs), averaging 1.17 points per possession. The Jags also led the country in three point field goal percentage (42.4 percent), finished #3 in free throw percentage (78 percent), #11 in two point field goal percentage, and second in effective field goal percentage (a computation based on points per shot). IUPUI took very good care of the ball, ranking #49 in turnover percentage and #34 in steal percentage. The Jags' defensive numbers are more pedestrian, except that they ranked #47 in steal percentage. Certainly, some of these numbers relate to George Hill, a true man among boys in the Summit League, but IUPUI's efficiency numbers are top 100 (and often much better) for as far back as Pomeroy keeps track. In short, George Hill or not, IU will be facing a motivated opponent that will take care of the ball. This game will give us a better idea of IU's style of play: IU goes from playing one of the fastest-paced programs in D-I to one of the slowest.

Still, this isn't last year's IUPUI team. Hill is in the NBA, and second leading scorer Austin Montgomery is gone. Gary Patterson is out indefinitely with a broken hand, which leaves Jon Avery as IUPUI's only returning double figure scorer. Currently, freshman Alex Young, a 6-5 wing from Northwest HS in Indianapolis, leads the way at 16 points per game. Juco forward Robert Glenn is averaging 12.5 points per game while shooting 75 percent from the field. LeRoy Nobles, who played only 10 minutes per game last season, is averaging of 10 points per game and is shooting 40 percent from behind the arc.

In short, both teams are relying almost entirely on new faces or former role players. It's hard to have a feel for this game because IU's team remains a mystery, but this game will be an interesting test before IU heads to Maui.

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