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Scouting Notes: UConn



Indiana basketball faces UConn basketball at MSG.
A deep dive into UConn and some of the challenges it could give the Indiana basketball program in Sunday's matchup. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

The Indiana basketball program heads out east to face UConn in the Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

The Huskies are coming off of their fifth National Championship in program history as Dan Hurley enters his sixth year and brings in another talented roster this season. UConn is 3-0 this year and comes in ranked as one of the most efficient teams in the country. The Huskies are ranked sixth in offensive efficiency with a rating of 116.9 and 12th in overall field goal percentage (54.7). Defensively, they are rated seventh with a 90.2 rating. Overall, Hurley and the Huskies are rated fourth in the KenPom ratings.

Here is a deep dive into some of the challenges UConn could give the Indiana basketball program.

Key Players:

Cam Spencer is a name Indiana basketball fans are aware of. The Rutgers transfer is off to a terrific start this season, averaging 15.0 points and shooting 45.8 percent from three. Spencer’s best attribute is his shooting ability. On the season, he is shooting 45.8 percent from three on 3.7 made 3s per game. He is coming off of 7 made 3s the last time out. Spencer has proven to be efficient both on and off of the ball throughout his entire career. While he isn’t extremely athletic, he has a terrific IQ and has tremendous footwork which he uses to get his shot off immediately off of ball screens or off-ball screens. In 95 career games, Spencer is a career 40.8 percent three-point shooter. Spencer is known for his shooting but is a capable playmaker. He has a career 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and has 15 assists to just three turnovers in 85 minutes this year. Indiana absolutely has to stick to Spencer and force him to get into the paint as 24 of his 28 shot attempts this season are from three.

Tristen Newton is a physical and athletic wing who is another player who can play with the ball in or out of his hands. Newton is best, however, off of the dribble. He was tied with the highest usage-rate out of the guards on the roster with Stephon Castle, so it’s likely the ball will be in Newton’s hands even more this weekend. Unlike Spencer, however, Newton is high-risk, high-reward and is averaging 3.3 turnover per game, compared to 4.7 assists. Newton’s physicality allows him to get into the paint and finish through contact at the rim — something he like do so frequently. He’s just a 33 percent three-point shooter for his career but is averaging 35.7 percent this year on 4.7 attempts per game. Most of those will come off of high ball screens or ball reversals after over rotations from defenses — something Indiana struggles with. Defensively, Newton likes to body up his opponent and make life extremely difficult for opposing guards to get offenses into their sets.

Up front is a two-headed inside-out attack. Alex Karaban is a 6-foot-8 hybrid forward who is leading the team with 17.0 points per game. He is a versatile athlete who can make plays both off of the dribble and catch. Karaban isn’t going to be much of a back to the basket player on the block. If he is in the paint, he’s typically going to face his opponent up and either rise up for a wing jumper or attack off of the dribble. Karaban is terrific in pick-and-pops. He is shooting 38.5 percent from three after shooting 40.2 percent last year. One area he’s improved from last year is his physicality. Karaban is averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game.

In the paint is big, 7-foot-2 center Donovan Clingan. Clingan’s range does not leave the paint, but he’s extremely efficient. He’s a career 64.9 percent shooter and is shooting 65.5 percent on 2s this year. Clingan has soft touch around the rim but uses his tremendous size and frame to seal opponents and turn over either shoulder at the rim. Most of UConn’s offense runs through Clingan, however, with a usage rate of 35.9. Once double-teams come, he’s able to find open shooters all around the floor. He’s a terrific offensive rebounder as well, averaging 3.3 a game. Not only will Indiana need to keep him off the glass, but this could be a game when guys like Anthony Walker and Payton Sparks play physical with him and force him to the foul line. He’s shooting just 35 percent on 6.7 attempts per game.

Key Tendencies:

UConn is one of the most efficient teams in the country and it will make life extremely difficult on opposing defenses. The Huskies will play four around one typically and stretch the defense out, creating a ton of space for Clingan in the paint. UConn ranks first in the nation in two-point field goal percentage, second in effective field goal percentage and 12th in overall field goal percentage. While they shoot just 33.3 percent from three, a lot of their shots are good looks. The Huskies will play through Tristan Newton and Clingan all game. Indiana needs to be ready for quick ball reversals and need to ensure there are minimal off-ball breakdowns on rotations. Additionally, any missed shot will likely go to the Huskies. They have a 47.4 percent offensive rebound rate — the second-best rate in the nation. IU ranks 243rd in defensive rebounding rate. The trio of Newton, Clingan and Alex Karaban average 16.7 free throw attempts per game — with UConn ranking seventh in the nation with 30.0 free throw attempts per game.

Defensively, UConn will look a bit different without Stephon Castle at the helm. He is a tremendous on ball defender and really sets the tone for what they want to do on that end of the floor. UConn has a great combination of athletic and physical wings to pair with Clingan in the paint. Overall, teams are shooting just 36.2 percent against them and have an effective field goal rate of just 39.8 — 18th in the nation. The Huskies have the ability to switch on Indiana’s weave action, so Indiana will need to show the ability to get downhill with the ball.

Overall, UConn will go 10-deep, nine likely now without Castle, with the majority of the roster between 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-7. UConn is built off of athleticism and versatility in both the backcourt and up front, so Indiana will need to match that with some of its versatility on the wing. A healthy Xavier Johnson (ankle) is a must if Indiana wants to come out with a win.

Projected Starters:

G- Solomon Ball (Freshman; 6-3; 185)

Stats: 6.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg

G- Cam Spencer (Senior; 6-4; 205)

Stats: 15.0 ppg, 5.0 agp, 45.8% 3pt

G- Tristen Newton (Senior; 6-5, 200)

Stats: 15.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, 2.3 spg, 35.7% 3pt

F- Alex Karaban (Sophomore; 6-8, 210)

Stats: 17.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 38.5% 3pt

F- Donovan Clingan (Sophomore; 7-2, 265)

Stats: 15.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.7 bpg

Key Notes:

  • UConn ranks 1st in NCAA in 2pt field goal percentage (73.2)
  • Dan Hurley is 6-6 at MSG as UConn head coach
  • UConn has a margin of victory of 39 points per game in three games this year
  • UConn leads the all-time series 6-4

SEE ALSO: Indiana Basketball Game Preview: UConn – key storylines, injury report, how to watch

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.