By Derek DeBurger

Coming off of the most inspired performance since Kenny Payne has taken over as head coach, Louisville will play regional rival Indiana Hoosiers in the consolation game of the Empire Classic.

Indiana is another team that has not looked very impressive this season, coming off a loss against No. 5 UConn.

Big teams and bigger reputation

Losses against ranked teams are not the only similarities: both head coaches—Payne and Mike Woodson—were assistant coaches for the New York Knicks at the same time, both teams are two of the tallest in the country, and both teams have been criticized for their effort in games.

Indiana, despite being one of the tallest teams in the country with an average roster height of 6′ 5.7″, constantly finds itself in heated battles on the boards with teams that they tower above. Louisville, with an average height of six feet six inches, too finds themselves being beaten out for rebounds far more often than they should and is incredibly inconsistent with their effort boxing out. Louisville does the advantage, however, as they rank 32nd in the country in rebounds per game, and the Hoosiers rank 303rd.

Keeping with their reputation for being big, the best Hoosier on their roster is 7-foot center Kel’el Ware. Ware has been the top scorer and rebounder for the Hoosiers this season averaging a near double-double with 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Ware is also top-10 in the country in field goal percentage shooting an almost automatic 74.1%.

Pitt transfer Xavier Johnson is another important piece for the Hoosiers as he’s the starting point guard for a team that runs a short rotation. If things aren’t going Johnson’s way it’s easy for everything else to spiral out of control for Indiana.

Maybe the biggest difference in these teams is the pace at which they like to play. Louisville has tried to be a run-and-gun type of team since late last season, and they’re at their best when they can go up and down the court. Indiana wants to slow things down and limit possessions; they’re at their best when they’re wearing teams down inside and creating foul trouble for opposing teams.

I think the winner of this game will almost entirely hinge on which Louisville teams comes to play on Monday. If the Cards are energetic and play with a purpose like they did Sunday against Texas, we’ll likely see a Louisville victory. If the Cards come out sluggish and sloppy, like they have many times under coach Payne, then it’s hard to see the Hoosiers dropping this one.

This is a very winnable game, which is not something I thought just two days ago. I’m not expecting anything good to happen, but if Louisville plays up to their potential it would be great to see them get the best of our foes from Bloomington.

Photo Courtesy // Adam Creech, Louisville Athletics