When Indiana and Butler met at Bankers Life Fieldhouse two years ago, the Hoosiers were the heavy favorite. They opened the season as the nation's No. 1 team and eventually earned a top-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Two years later, Indiana (8-2) enters the Crossroads Classic matchup as a slight underdog against the No. 23 Bulldogs (8-2). If IU wasn't as ready for Butler as it needed to be the first time, you can bet the Hoosiers will be this time around.
The two teams meet at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Indianapolis.
"We have a lot of respect for them and how they play," Indiana coach Tom Crean said Friday. "They are really good."
Chances are Crean didn't need to do much to get his team to understand just how dangers Butler is. The Bulldogs already own wins over North Carolina and Georgetown, and they were ranked 15th nationally before a disappointing loss at Tennessee last Sunday.
In the game against Carolina -- then a top-five team -- the Bulldogs had 29 offensive rebounds.
“It definitely caught my attention," freshman guard James Blackmon Jr. said. “I’ve been watching a lot of film on them myself, and what I saw is they crash the glass really hard. Even the guards do. That’s what I really paid attention to.
"We're ready for it."
They better be because the battle on the boards will likely be a critical factor in the game. The Hoosiers have struggled in the rebounding department for much of the season, and while they aren't much bigger, the Bulldogs are one of the nation's better rebounding teams.
“They just go," Crean said. "They’re very athletic, they’re very aggressive on the glass. They’re going to create a lot of contact when they go to the glass, and if you’re not prepared for it, you’ll end up 3, 4, 5 feet from where you started. They use their hands very well in getting to the boards.
“It’ll be a huge factor in the game. No matter who wins it, that number is probably going to have a lot to do with it.”
Butler benefits greatly by attacking the offensive glass because it is not a great offensive team. The Bulldogs rank 111th nationally in field goal percentage (45.4), but they stay in games by rebounding well and play solid defense on the other end.
“Their forwards and some of their wings go every time," Crean said. "And you’ve got to be committed to the block outs. When they’ve had big numbers in offensive rebounding, it didn’t appear to be that the opponent was very committed to blocking them out.”
Saturday's matchup is an interesting one because it pits one of the nation's most experienced teams in Butler against one of the youngest teams in Indiana. The Bulldogs start two seniors (Woods, Alex Barlow), a redshirt junior (Jones), a junior (Kellen Dunham), and a sophomore (Chrabascz). Indiana, of course, starts two juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen.
Dunham is Butler's most dangerous offensive threat, averaging a team-best 16.3 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The Pendleton, Ind. native shot a very low percentage as a sophomore because he was asked to create so much of the team's offense when Jones was sidelined with a season-ending injury. With Jones back, Dunham has found more one-on-one opportunities and has been much more efficient.
Dunham, 6-foot-6 and 185 pounds, shoots more than five 3-pointers per game but also gets to the foul line 4.6 times per contest.
“We play against great shooters all the time," Crean said. "What he does is there’s a lot of movement after he makes the catch. There’s a lot of shot faking, putting his shoulder into you, jumping into you. You have to be very, very smart with how you defend him. He’s very good at creating that contact and having it appear that the defense created the contact.
“He’s more than just a shooter, he’s a scorer. He’s a guy that can drive it, he’s got an arsenal of different things he can get to off the dribble.”