Alex from Inside the Hall agreed to exchange a few questions about Thursday’s Big Ten opener in Bloomington. The guys over at Inside the Hall do a great job and they have easily one of the top team-specific basketball blogs on the internet. I also answered some questions, which can be found here on Inside the Hall.
To call it a devastating blow would be spot-on. Creek was Indiana’s one player that could consistently knock down shots from outside the three-point line and he was becoming more comfortable driving the ball each game. He was the leading freshman scorer in the country and third in the Big Ten.
Indiana doesn’t really have a choice on how to react: Tom Crean will sell this as an opportunity for teammates to step up. Christian Watford will probably try to shoulder more of the scoring load and Devan Dumes, last year’s leading scorer, will see more minutes and has the capability of getting hot from the perimeter and could carry the Hoosiers in stretches.
Has this year’s Indiana team shown the improvement that fans hoped for in Crean’s second year? The big win over Pittsburgh stands out, but how much of a step forward has this season been?
In a sense of wins and losses, the Hoosiers are just about in the same place as they were a season ago. But the big difference in watching this team versus a year ago is that you can see the pieces are starting to come together, albeit slowly.
As far as fans go, Crean has been questioned for some of the bad losses (Boston University and Loyola), but he’s done a pretty good job of setting reasonable expectations publicly. The bottom line there is that Crean has a 10-year contract and as much as fans would like Indiana to be turned around overnight, Crean is clearly looking at the restoration as a long term project which means no shortcuts or quick fixes.
What has been the strength of this year’s Indiana team? Also, what has been their Achilles heel?
Their strength has been their ability to force turnovers and that’s probably a result of the helter skelter style they’ve employed at times. A faster tempo, with an emphasis on scoring in transition, is definitely something Crean is trying to bring to the Big Ten.
Their Achilles heel is the lack of leadership. This team lacks a presence that can pull everyone together in times of adversity. This group of freshman will develop a leader down the line, but for now, it’s still a coach-led team rather than a player-led team.
Watford has played well even though he’s been forced to play out of position for the most part. He’s probably better suited as a three, but Indiana’s lack of a post presence has forced Watford to carry the load on the glass (leads team with 6 per game). He’s not particularly great at finishing in the paint, but he’s done a nice job of drawing fouls and making free throws (50 of 60).
Who guards Manny Harris on the Indiana roster? How do you expect they will fare?
I would expect Indiana will probably treat Harris much like they did Kentucky’s John Wall – which means zone and a box-in-one at times. When Indiana opts to go man, I would expect Jeremiah Rivers to draw the assignment and he’s a pretty solid on the ball defender. But with the way Michigan is shooting from the perimeter, I’m guessing zone is going be the defense of choice on Thursday.
What’s your prediction for Thursday’s game?
This game could definitely go either way. Since I really, really liked Michigan prior to the season and I think Indiana will really miss Creek, I’ll go with Michigan 73, Indiana 68. But an inspired Indiana effort – and win – wouldn’t surprise me, either.