Indiana blew out Savannah State, 95-49, in its final tune-up game before facing No. 5 Louisville at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. The Hoosiers (7-1) will play a game away from Assembly Hall for the first time after playing their first eight games at home.
So, how will the Hoosiers fair in their most difficult challenge of the non-conference season?
The Cardinals (7-0) are really good again, and they will present a challenge in Montrezl Harrell unlike anything IU has seen this season. Harrell, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound junior, is an absolute monster in the paint and is a matchup nightmare for the undersized Hoosiers.
Harrell is averaging 16.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game this season with three consecutive double-doubles heading into Tuesday night's game. He has scored at least 12 points in every game and had 30 points and seven rebounds in the season opener against Minnesota.
Terry Rozier is the Cardinals' best guard, though he's not much of a passing threat. Rozier is averaging 13.0 points and 5.7 rebounds in seven games, but dishes out only 2.9 assists per game. Chris Jones leads Louisville in assists at 3.3 per game.
The Cardinals excel in transition and on the boards. They have five different players that average at least 5.7 rebounds per game. That's crazy.
"They never let up," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "The bottom line is, they never give in and they never let up. They're outstanding."
Louisville's weaknesses at this point in the season are clear: The Cardinals turn the ball over too often (14 per game), and they sometimes struggle to move the ball. Some of their players have a tendency to play 1-on-1 more than they should.
“This team is nowhere near the last three years because of their turnovers," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said after Friday night's win over Florida International. "If they just would have 10 or 11 turnovers a game, they’d be a much better basketball team. That’s our weakness and we’ve got to work on that.
“I think these guys like to score more than teams past. The other teams really loved to pass the ball, and what happens is you score more points that way. You get just as many shots but you shoot a higher percentage. This team hunts points, and that’s why they don’t look as good as the last three years.”
Indiana has struggled with turnovers at times over the last year-plus, but the Hoosiers have been much better at key times this season. One of IU's greatest strengths through eight games has been its consistent ball movement and ability to find open shooters. That will be a key on Tuesday because Louisville is a tenacious defensive team that will close out on shooters much quicker than any team the Hoosiers have seen.
Pitino said he chose to face FIU on one-day prep to have an extra day to prepare for IU.
“Indiana’s a much better team than you all think because they shoot the ball great," Pitino said. “They shoot it great. They’re a much better shooting team than us. They’re a much better passing team than us.
“Tom and I got together before the season at a function and he said they’re going to take anywhere between 25 and 35 3s per game. We gotta extend our defense. It’ll be a hell of a game.”