• Game 10: Indiana (8-3) vs. Notre Dame (7-2)
• Date: Dec. 19, 2015
• Place: Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Ind.
• Time: 2:00 p.m. ET
• TV: ESPN
• Opponent Nickname: Hoosiers
• Head coach: Tom Crean, 8th season (128-114; 318-210 overall)
• Conference: Big 10
• Location: Bloomington, Ind.
• 2014-15 record: (20-14; 9-9)
Winners of their last three Crossroads Classic matchups (2-0 vs. Purdue; 1-0 vs. Indiana), Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey looks for consecutive in-state win *No. 5 this afternoon when his Irish take on Tom Crean’s Hoosiers in Indianapolis.
Including Notre Dame’s win over *Butler in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, Brey and the Irish are 4-0 in their last four vs. state rivals and have won four straight against the Big 10 including a pair away from home this season.
“We have two Big 10 wins right now away from our building,” said Brey of previous victories against Iowa and at Illinois. “If we can make it three before we start (conference play) that would be a real feather in our hat.”
Much is made of no-huddle, “tempo” offenses in modern college football. Today in Indianapolis, Notre Dame will face a similar challenge in the up-tempo attack of the Hoosiers.
“They get down and they get you fast,” said Brey of Indiana’s transition offense. “We play fast, not as fast as them. Sometimes (today) we have to grind in the half-court. That is a key, changing tempos offensively for us.”
Brey noted that Indiana often fires its first shot with just 15 seconds elapsed on the play-clock. It’s a style similar to an old thorn in Notre Dame’s side from the early days of the Brey era.
“We have what we call the UConn transition drill that we started back in the old Big East days where you go 5-on-0 offense and then when the white shirts score, the blue shirts are set up (ready to sprint and attack) and they come running back down our throats,” he offered.
“I always feel transition defense is a weakness early in the season for every team,” he added. “(So) we try to concentrate on it more in practice. That’s one drill that’s lived in infamy in the program.”
PICK YOUR POISON
The Hoosiers boast the nation’s sixth-most efficient offensive attack. (Notre Dame’s is second in that regard). But in terms of simply putting the ball in the bucket, few do it better than IU.
“I’ve seen a lot of pretty good offensive numbers with my program over the years, but when you look and you see 53 percent field goal percentage and 43 percent from the three-point line, that is really powerful,” Brey marveled of Indiana’s hot start through 11 games.
The Hoosiers have connected on a remarkable 61 percent of their 2-point shot attempts. That success is ameliorated by sharp-shooting from beyond the arc.
“They can slash it hard and they’re shooting it at a high percentage,” Brey continued. “Some of those slashing guys (on other teams), you can play off them. When you do both, it’s really tricky.”
It’d be inaccurate to classify defense as “optional” today in Indianapolis, but it’s certainly set to take a backseat.
“I think it’s going to be a fun game to watch,” said Brey. “Both teams can score it, share the ball, know how to play, and have skilled guys and it will come down to who can dig in more defensively to slow the other one down.”
The Crossroads Classic is technically a neutral-site double-header, but considering the Hoosiers long-time standing in the state, not to mention the game’s location (just north of Bloomington and in Butler’s home city) there’s never a doubt regarding the contest’s outsiders.
“We know this is going to be a road game atmosphere,” said Brey. “It is not a neutral site.”
It’s a reality that irks Brey, easily the longest-tenured and most successful coach among the quartet in Indy Saturday afternoon.
“I think we’re 4-0 against this field – I count Butler in the NCAA Tournament, said Brey. “(And) we’re on a four-game winning streak against the Big 10. (Michigan State and Purdue last season; Iowa and Illinois this year).
“We’re really proud of where our program is and sometimes I think it gets lost in the (shuffle),” he offered. “And I think we’re 3-1 vs. Indiana when we’re (historically) 22-48 overall. It’s a little bit like going 4-1 against Duke and (North) Carolina (last season) when you were 4-45 (actually 7-37).
“Those are kind of good numbers.”
Brey was asked if winning at IU, a program most of the state remains “enamored with” would buoy his own program’s standing.
“They should be enamored with us, quite frankly. They really should,” he said of local hoops fans. “We’ve been winning games in that damn building for awhile. We’re the most consistent program in this state. It ‘aint even close.
“I think that you have four NCAA Tournament teams,” Brey added. “The buzz is always good (but) the buzz is going to be through the roof.”
Notre Dame opened Saturday morning as a one-point favorite over the Hoosiers. Purdue is staked as favorites of 4.5 points in the event’s nightcap thereafter.