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IndyHutch

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IndyHutch last won the day on August 10 2015

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  1. Let me begin by saying this is speculation. Educated speculation, but speculation nonetheless. If there's one thing I've learned in my 18 years covering Indiana basketball it's that nothing is as simple as you would think it is. Players come and players go. Players that you think aren't transferring end up doing just that. Players that you're sure are definitely gone end up returning for another season. And so until we have heard a final decision I won't go to the bank with any of this. But it's late March and once you're eliminated from the NCAA Tournament this is the kind of topic that begins weighing on the minds of Hoosier Nation. Should I stay or should I go? Let's throw out some names and get some opinions. Please feel free to weigh in on any of these guys. If you think I'm wrong, say so. If you think I'm right, you can agree, too. But I'm hoping we get some good discussion going on this one. 1. TROY WILLIAMS Options: He could go to the NBA, go overseas, graduate from IU at the end of this semester and transfer to another school and play right away or return to Indiana for his final season of eligibility. What I think he'll do: My guess is that Troy will be looking to collect a paycheck. Whether that's in the NBA or overseas, I'm not sure. But I'm guessing he's gone. I think the least possible option would be to transfer to another school. I think if he decides to play his final year of eligibility he would do so at Indiana. That's just my feeling. Is he ready for the NBA? I don't think so but no one is asking me either. Something just tells me though that if he hears any positive feedback at all from NBA folks that he'll probably make himself eligible for the NBA Draft. Again, it's just an opinion. 2. THOMAS BRYANT Options: He go make himself eligible for the NBA Draft or he could return for his sophomore season at IU. What I think he'll do: I think Bryant comes back. I think he likes school and he sees that he can improve if he sticks around and puts in the effort that he would need to put in. If he has a big year as a sophomore I think he's probably gone, just like Cody Zeller did. I know that Bryant has gotten some love from some of the draft boards but I just think if he had one more solid season that he could do a lot for his draft stock. Will he listen to what all of the NBA people have to say? Absolutely. But I think he's a pretty smart young man and he'll look at next year and realize how much of a dominant force he could be on that team. 3. JAMES BLACKMON JR. Options: He could make himself eligible for the NBA Draft, transfer to another school and sit out a year, or return to Indiana. What I think he'll do: I've heard the transfer rumors and they just don't make sense to me. I think Blackmon Jr. really has two options: He either goes to the NBA or he returns for one more season at Indiana. And again, I think the highest percentage here has him returning to IU. I can't imagine a lot of NBA people telling him that he should come out after what transpired from an injury standpoint this season. But the transfer rumors just make no sense to me at all. The only way he would transfer would be if he opted to go the Division II route but why would you do that? I can't imagine him transferring to a D1 school and sitting out another year. It just makes absolutely no sense to me. I think he's back in an IU uniform next season. 4. OG ANUNOBY Options: Declare for the NBA Draft or return to IU for his sophomore season. What I think he'll do: I know people cringe just seeing his name here but OG has been getting some love. I think he'll be at Indiana next season though. He may even be there a few more years. I think with a few more years of seasoning, OG could be a dynamic player both at this level and the next one. Again, I'm sure he'll listen to whatever people are saying but my guess is that he'll be back and will be part of the starting rotation. 5. TIM PRILLER Options: Stay or go. What I think he'll do: The only reason I put him on here is because I was on a radio show in Indy on Monday and was asked about him by Jake Query on 1260 WNDE. My answer there was depending on who is returning and what the scholarship numbers situation is, I guess he could be a casualty. But I really don't know. I think a lot will depend on what players leave and what players decide to stay. Unless you see him contributing at some point to this IU basketball team other than being the Victory Cigar, though, I just question how you can continue to allow him to occupy a roster spot. So those are five players to think about. What do you think? Do you they stay or do they go?
  2. There’s a simple reason why Indiana was eliminated from the 2016 NCAA Tournament by top-seeded North Carolina Friday night in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center. The Hoosiers lost to the better team. You can flip this one any way you choose, but in the end that should be your conclusion. In 18 years covering IU basketball, I've seen a lot of seasons end where you were convinced that wasn't the case. Friday night, that's exactly what happened though: IU lost to a better team. This wasn’t 2013 when Indiana was a No. 1 seed and lost to a No. 4 in Syracuse because it couldn’t solve the zone defense. This wasn't a team that lost to Cleveland State or Richmond or Kent State or a host of other opponents where IU was heavily favored. This was a No. 5 seeded Indiana team that beat a good Kentucky team to make it to the Sweet Sixteen and then simply went up against a red hot North Carolina team. A North Carolina team that when it reached the Sweet Sixteen was considered a co-favorite with Kansas to take home the national title. Indiana didn’t play poorly Friday night. North Carolina just played better. Sure, we all would have liked to have seen a contribution from Nick Zeisloft. We all would have liked to have seen Troy Williams play in the first half like he did in the second. We all would have liked to have seen what Indiana could have done had Robert Johnson been cleared to play. We would have liked to have seen what would have happened if North Carolina wasn't in the bonus in the second half before the first media timeout. We all would have liked to have seen Indiana come charging out of the second half locker room and quickly get the deficit into single digits and get back into the game. But none of that was to be because North Carolina is a really good basketball team. If the Tar Heels play the way they did Friday night against IU, I think they win the national championship. They were that good Friday night. What I don’t get is the people I’ve encountered in message board threads and Twitter today who are taking Tom Crean to task for the way the season ended. They somehow want to place all the blame there for the fact that North Carolina couldn’t miss from the field and was too much for IU inside. A buddy of mine sent me a text after Indiana beat Kentucky and asked me if I thought that victory would silence the Crean haters at least for this season? I gave him my standard, canned answer on that topic: I told him it would silence the critics until Indiana’s next loss. That’s simply the nature of the beast with IU basketball fans. But here’s my take there: I think this was Tom Crean’s best coaching job at Indiana. Hands down. If we go back to the way this team looked through the first eight games, how it played in Maui and how it looked against Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and then fast forward to IU winning the outright Big Ten title by two full games, I don’t know how you could reach any other conclusion. This wasn't a GREAT Indiana basketball team. It was a good Indiana team that played its roles really well. And Crean and his staff are responsible for getting players to accept those roles. Crean got people to buy in. Players did a great job in embracing their roles. And they days of IU playing a turnstile type of defense came to an end. And because of that, this was a fun team to watch. A team that never gave up and had three wins in games where it trailed by 10 points or more. It was a team that got IU fans excited about Indiana basketball again. A few hours before the game, I was across the street from the Wells Fargo Center and saw a crowd of more than 1,000 IU fans packed to a sports bar called McFadden's for the Big Red Warmup. It was a madhouse. People were excited. People believed that IU could do the improbable and knock off the No. 1 seed in the East. They believed in Indiana basketball and that was fun to see. But I think that's because Crean and his staff got this team to a place that few would have expected them to be, especially after that 5-3 start to the season. It was a team filled with the kinds of kids you wanted wearing the IU basketball uniform. It was the kind of team that you truly felt had a chance to win every game they played. That’s also why Friday night was disappointing. Because you got the feeling that Indiana was playing its best basketball at the absolute best possible time. You didn’t feel like the team had run out of gas like you did in the last few years with Bob Knight at the helm, or more recently, perhaps how you felt in 2013. This team had confidence, energy, focus and a cast of characters that you wanted to root for. Players like O.G. Anunoby, Thomas Bryant, Juwan Morgan, Collin Hartman, Yogi Ferrell, Max Bielfeldt, Nick Zeisloft, Robert Johnson and Troy Williams were players who endeared themselves to IU fans everywhere. In the end, however, the Hoosiers went up against a better team. And that’s the reality, plain and simple, coming out of Friday night’s 101-86 loss to North Carolina. Indiana lost to the better team.
  3. DES MOINES, Iowa – Thomas Bryant scored two points in the first 30 minutes of Saturday’s second round NCAA Tournament game against Kentucky. That was a 17 foot baseline jumper he made with about 5 minutes to play in the first half. Some of that was because he picked up two quick fouls again and would sit more than 10 minutes in the first half. The other reason is that the freshman center simply wasn’t demanding the ball enough in the post and often settling for holding the ball on the perimeter. All of that changed in the game’s final 10 minutes. Bryant would score 17 of his game-high 19 points to lead No. 5 seed Indiana to a 73-67 victory over No. 4 seed Kentucky Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Arena. Bryant had some big shots inside and also connected on 7 of 9 free throws including two with 10.4 seconds remaining that put the Hoosiers on top 71-67. Indiana (27-7) advances to the Sweet Sixteen in Philadelphia on Friday and Sunday of next week where it will first meet the winner of Saturday’s North Carolina-Providence game. For IU it’s the third Sweet Sixteen for head coach Tom Crean in the last five seasons. It’s also the third time in the last five years that Indiana has won at least 27 games in a season. The last time Indiana went to three Sweet Sixteen’s or beyond in a five year period was when the Hoosiers did so in four consecutive seasons from 1991-94. Bryant played with passion, emotion and a will where it was clear that he wanted the ball in his hands in crunch time. And when it was all over, he let his emotions spill over as yelled in the direction of the IU fans in attendance in Des Moines. Bryant was asked what he said and he replied, “I told them ‘That’s why I’m here.’’ Earlier in the second half, IU coach Tom Crean had a message for his big freshman center. He told him he wanted Bryant to attack more in the second half. “The point of emphasis I had was staying on the attack,’’ Bryant said. “Coach told me that he wanted me to attack more, you know, get a quick whip or get a quick bucket down there on the block when I can. He believes in me, and I just went with the coach's plan, you know. Luckily it turned out that way.’’ And then later, after IU saw a nine-point lead evaporate as Kentucky cut that lead to two at 69-67, Bryant was fouled with 10.4 seconds to play and had two foul shots. He had just missed two others in the previous minute but he calmly made both to put the Hoosiers on top 71-67. Fellow freshman teammate Juwan Morgan said there was no doubt in his mind that Bryant was going to make the two foul shots at the end. “We made eye contact right there and he looked at me and mouthed, ‘I’ve got this,’’’ Morgan said. “And I knew he did. Thomas is a really good free throw shooter and I had complete confidence in him in that moment.’’ Max Bieleldt said Bryant is mentally tough. Troy Williams said Bryant was a player he was happy to see go to the line in that situation. Collin Hartman said Bryant may only be a freshman but he doesn’t play like that in clutch situations. “Thomas is a really hard worker,’’ Hartman said. “And he’s a great example of that hard work paying off.’’ Bryant was asked what was going through his mind when he stepped to the free throw line with the game hanging in the balance. “I was just trying to stay calm, you know, calming down, breathing, and then not letting my adrenaline pump so much to where it was too much for me,’’ Bryant said. “I just wanted to calm down. My teammates were there talking to me. We go through this in practice all the time, so I was just lucky to make 'em.’’ Kentucky coach John Calipari said he spent a lot of time recruiting Bryant. And the thing that has impressed him the most is how much he has improved since he got on campus at Indiana. “He was right down the street from us and the biggest thing I want to tell you is his family should be proud of how much better he's gotten,’’ Calipari said. “Tom and the staff have gotten a kid that I really liked, I thought was really good. I'm going to be honest, though, I didn't realize he was that good. “Tom saw something that I'm like, well -- and we spent a lot of time recruiting him and he was on our campus. He made every play and then made those free throws after missing one. You think about a young player like he is making that play. I thought from the beginning of the year until now he got way better in pick and roll defense. But I tell you, early in the year it was a struggle for him. The kid has worked hard. He's deserved everything that's coming his way right now and the staff did a great job with him.’’
  4. I’m looking forward to finding out if we see Indiana-Kentucky intensity Saturday afternoon in Des Moines. I know we’re going to see second-round-of-the-NCAA-Tournament intensity and with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line that much is a given. And the crowd that will be on hand should make it seem closer to IU-Kentucky intensity. But here’s the reality of the situation. There is not a player on either the Kentucky or Indiana roster that has ever played in an Indiana-Kentucky game. Not one Indiana player knows what it feels like to play the Wildcats in Rupp. Not one Kentucky player knows what it feels like to play in front of 17,000 plus at Assembly Hall. And when you experience it, that’s when I think you truly understand Indiana vs. Kentucky basketball. I still remember those days when they would play on a neutral site at Freedom Hall and the court would be split right down the middle with a sea of red on one side and a sea of blue on the other. Each side would have 10,000 fans. And it was a spectacle. It was a college basketball rivalry at its best. But I just don’t it’s the same when your knowledge of IU-Kentucky is from watching replays of the Wat Shot. Troy Williams said he watched that game from home. So did OG Anunoby. Yogi Ferrell said he had a game that day but he taped it and watched it later. The Indiana and Kentucky kids that played in the annual Indiana-Kentucky high school series get it a little bit more than those who didn’t. But to expect everyone else just to get mega-hyped because it’s Indiana-Kentucky may be asking a bit much. They’ll get mega-hyped because a trip to the Sweet Sixteen is on the line. But asking this game to mean as much to the players as it does to the fan bases I think is asking a lot. Now I’ll admit I hope that these players grow to love that rivalry once again after the powers-that-be finally come to their senses and end this silliness and find a way to re-instate the IU-Kentucky rivalry. There has to be a compromise. To just say there’s no way to resolve the differences in philosophy here is a cop out. It’s time for the two schools to quit relying on the NCAA Tournament committee to do their work for them and find a way for these two historic programs to play on an annual basis. I’m happy to see IU-Kentucky facing off again Saturday in Des Moines. But it’s time for this to become an annual event, too.
  5. It’s amazing to me how much things can change in the course of less than a week. Six days ago, Indiana fans were mourning the performance that Indiana had against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament, a loss that knocked the top-seeded Hoosiers out on the first day, prevented IU from facing Purdue for a second time and likely dropped the Hoosiers a seed line or two in the NCAA Tournament. After that performance, Indiana fans worried just what team they were going to see in the NCAA Tournament. And I think that was a fair criticism. The Hoosiers didn’t look anything last Friday like they had looked for the majority of January and February this season. Fast forward to Thursday night and the 99-74 beating that Indiana put on Chattanooga, a team that had won 29 games and beaten a few decent teams along the way. But Indiana was great at times Thursday night. It played with passion, it played with energy and it was the Indiana team that Hoosier fans had hoped they were going to see last weekend in Indianapolis playing out before their eyes. Chattanooga coach Matt McCall placed heavy praise on the Hoosiers after the game almost prophesizing that he expects IU to move to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond. “We just ran into, by far, hands down, the best team that we've played all year,’’ McCall said. “No question the most talented team we've played all year and all the credit goes to Coach Crean and Indiana on how well they played tonight.’’ McCall said the Mocs had no answer for what IU was doing offensively. “We had some chances I thought we could cut into the lead,’’ McCall said. “We got it down to 13 and 12 and they always seemed to have an answer and that's by far the best team that we've faced all year and we've played some really, really good ones. So give Coach Crean and Indiana credit as far as how they played and prepared and came into this game. There is no question that I think they're going to make a really deep run into this thing with how talented with the ball, and Yogi Ferrell did an unbelievable job controlling the game. And that's why he is one of the best point guards in the country. “So give Indiana credit the year they had. It's no question they won the Big Ten for a reason because of how good they are and I could see those guys making a deep run into this thing so give them credit.’’ There were a few statistics that jumped off the page in the box score for me in this one: ****Yogi Ferrell had his FIRST CAREER DOUBLE DOUBLE with 20 points and 10 assists. Let that one sink in for a second. His first career double-double. He had two previous double digit assist games in those games had seven and nine points. ****OG Anunoby was spectacular. He had a 360 dunk early and then that last one was just sick. He made a move into the lane and then just found a way to elevate and throw down a reverse jam. He finished with 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting from the field. ****The Hoosiers shot 60.7 percent from the field in the first half and then decided that wasn’t good enough and hit 69 percent in the second half (20 of 29 field goals). They finished at 37 of 57, 64.9 percent. ****Indiana had 23 assists on 37 baskets. ****The Hoosiers made 10 of 16 3-pointers. ****Robert Johnson looked really good in his first game back. He made all three of his field goal attempts including a 3-pointer. He had seven points and six assists and no turnovers. He also had a blocked shot. In fact, he did a really nice job on the defensive end in particular. But this wasn’t one outstanding performance over another. This was a nine-man, team victory by an Indiana basketball team absolutely needed the kind of performance it exhibited Thursday night. If IU plays like this on Saturday, Matt McCall’s prediction could quite possibly come true.
  6. Robert Johnson sat in the corner of the Indiana locker room Wednesday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa and calmly and confidently answered question after question regarding his up-to-the-minute status with regard to playing Thursday in the NCAA Tournament first round game with Chattanooga. As of Wednesday, it had been 26 days since Johnson had injured his left ankle late in IU’s Assembly Hall victory over Purdue. He admitted it had been difficult just sitting there watching his teammates both in practice and in subsequent victories at Illinois and Iowa, before closing the regular season with a win over Maryland on Senior Day. It was hard watching last week’s Big Ten Tournament loss to Michigan, too. “The competitor in me wanted to be out there helping my guys but I just wasn’t ready,’’ Johnson said. “But I thought Harrison (Niego) came in and did some really good things for us and Nick (Zeisloft) really stepped up, too. That made things a little easier knowing that we had guys that could step up and get the job done.’’ As much as Johnson has yearned to play again, he didn’t want to rush things and neither did the IU medical staff. Even as it pertains to Thursday’s first NCAA Tournament game, Johnson expects to play for the first time in nearly a month but the reality is he’ll still need to get the final OK from the medical staff before he can plays against the Mocs. “I’m really close to playing and I expect to play (Thursday),’’ Johnson said. “In fact at this point I’ll be really surprised if I don’t play. But in the end it won’t really be my decision. It will be the doctor’s decision but I completely expect to play.’’ Later, when Indiana went through its public practice at the arena for 40 minutes Wednesday afternoon, Johnson didn’t appear to show any limitations on his ankle. He was able to ease into shots and cut in both directions equally well. But he wasn’t do any live scrimmaging either, at least not in that public practice setting. It was likely much different when the team held its private workout Wednesday in Des Moines. The challenge when you miss that much playing time, however, is always the conditioning aspect. Johnson isn’t expecting any problems in that regard. As he said, he has only missed less than a month of actual playing time and it hasn’t been rushed back because the medical staff wasn’t willing to take any chances. “Earlier on, if I had tried to come back, the conditioning piece might have been a challenge,’’ Johnson said. “But the staff has done a good job of easing me back into live action and simulating game movement to the point where I can get my confidence back and the explosion off my ankle that I’ll require. “As I said before, I’ll be 100 percent confident when I go out and play.’’ Before he got hurt, Johnson had been putting up solid, steady numbers in his sophomore campaign. The 6-3 guard from Richmond, Va. Had started 22 of 28 games and was averaging nearly 26 minutes of playing time per game. He was averaging 8.2 points and 3.5 rebounds. He was shooting 43.6 percent from 3-point range, having hit 48 of 100 shot attempts. Overall, his shooting percentage was 44 percent. He scored 17 points in the win over Notre Dame back in December and 16 when IU beat Michigan on the road in Big Ten play. He also had the game-winning steal in the Assembly Hall victory over Wisconsin. When he got hurt against Purdue on Feb. 20, Johnson had played 27 minutes in the game and had hit a pair of 3-pointers. But late in the game, he said he was driving to the past and as he planted his left foot he hurt his ankle. He knew it right away – pretty much in midair – and at that point was pretty much shut down until this week. Max Bielfeldt said there is no question about how much better Indiana could be if Johnson is able to be re-inserted into the lineup. “When you take someone out of your lineup who has been that important and that much of an integral part of everything you do it just makes things that much more difficult,’’ Bielfeldt said. “So absolutely we can’t wait to have him back and playing. Robert is a really good player and he can do so much for us.’’ When asked about Johnson’s status in his press conference Wednesday, Indiana coach Tom Crean was also optimistic. “Robert is doing more and I would say right now he is definitely probable as long as things continue to move in the right direction that they’re moving now,’’ Crean said. “His first time doing anything of a full court nature was (Tuesday). We worked him out Monday but it was more of a half court situation.’’ Crean said that Johnson has been making steady progress. Looking back though, even if IU had made a deep run in the B1G Tournament, Crean didn’t think Johnson could have played. “Even if we had gone all the way last weekend, I don’t think he would have been able to do that,’’ Crean said. “He’s made a lot of progress though so I think he’s probable.’’ Johnson believed there was a chance he could have played in Indianapolis last weekend. He went through the warmups prior the IU-Michigan game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse but that was as far as things were allowed to go. “I had it in my mind that there was a chance that I could have played last weekend but in the end we decided against it,’’ Johnson said. “You never want to come back too soon, especially at this time of year.’’ Johnson admitted that one of the biggest concerns at this point is from a mental standpoint. “It’s just difficult especially from the fact that at any moment you can tweak it again,’’ Johnson said. “I think it has been the bone bruise that I’ve been dealing with in my left ankle that has been the most pain I’ve been dealing with right now. I think I’m at a good place though and the doctors have really done a good job of getting me prepared to deal with various live situations.’’ Johnson said he is not expecting any limitations on how much he is able to play when he gets out there. “I think once they give me the green light, I should be able to play as much as I’m needed to play,’’ Johnson said.
  7. The question is a simple one. The answer, however, is more in the eye of the beholder. In your opinion, what has to happen for the 2015-16 Indiana University basketball season to be remembered as a successful one? As I see it, there are at least three scenarios that exist at the very least. Let’s begin with the worst case scenario: If Indiana followed up its opening round B1G Tournament loss to Michigan with a first round exit at the hands of Chattanooga on Thursday, will it have been enough that IU was the outright Big Ten regular season champion and won the conference by two full games. In your mind, will that 25-8 record have been a successful season? I’ve heard from some people who have told me they think that in and of itself has made this a successful season. Indiana had not won 15 games or more in the Big Ten is more than 20 years. And an outright Big Ten title is a big deal. Myself, however, I cannot imagine thinking of this season in successful terms if it ended with a pair of first round tournament losses. I think with most people it would leave a sour taste in their mouths and just provide ammunition for fans to be upset about the direction of the program. I think we would be hearing a lot of noise from IU fans on Thursday night and Friday afternoon on the talk shows. So let’s move on to scenario No. 2: If Indiana beat Chattanooga on Thursday but then lost to Kentucky on Saturday, would that be enough to make this season be considered a successful one by IU Nation? Think about it. If that happened, as a No. 5 seed you would have won the game you were expected to win and would have lost the one that, at least seed-wise, you probably wouldn’t have been favored in. So you could probably make the case that a 26-8 finish was a successful season. Still, I don’t know if it would be from the standpoint of having your season end at the hands of a rival like Kentucky or what, but my guess is that most people still wouldn’t be satisfied with that result. I think it was different in 2012 when IU lost to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen. Kentucky was a 1 seed and had revenge from the Wat Shot on its minds. An IU hadn’t been to the Sweet Sixteen in several years so it was a new accomplishment. Now it would be another exit before you got to the Sweet Sixteen and I think that’s different. Let’s talk about Scenario No. 3: You beat Chattanooga on Thursday and then knock off Kentucky on Saturday to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in Philadelphia. In the Sweet Sixteen you would likely play top-seeded North Carolina. If that was the case and IU lost at that point, would the season have been a success? I know a lot of people are going to say that in order for this season to have been a success that the program needs to get at least one round beyond where it has in recent years. Twice since the 2011-12 season, IU has lost in the Sweet Sixteen so making it to the Elite Eight could be the Mendoza Line for many IU fans. At the same time, if you get to the Sweet Sixteen and knock off Kentucky along the way, I somehow have to think that this year has been a successful one. Now if you get to the Sweet Sixteen and you’re facing a team other than North Carolina, that could change everything, too. But I still think if this team could get to the Sweet Sixteen it would have 27 wins, a Big Ten outright title, and a win over Kentucky along the way. That’s a pretty good year. I’ve also heard people say that nothing short of a Final Four appearance is enough in their minds for this season to be successful. I think that’s asking a lot for a 5 seed especially when you consider what IU’s road could potentially be to get there. You could potentially have to beat Chattanooga, Kentucky, North Carolina and Xavier to get there and while that would be an impressive feat, I think that may be asking a lot, too. And then if you got there, there’s a good chance you would meet Michigan State in the national semifinals. But again, we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. Thursday’s matchup with Chattanooga could be one where IU has its hands completely full. One thing in the back of the minds of IU fans this week is not to think too much about IU-Kentucky on Saturday. Remember what happened the last time you did that? You were thinking this time last week about IU-Purdue playing last Saturday and that didn’t end so well. My question for you though is a simple one: As an IU fan, is this season already a success or does IU have to do more? And if it’s the latter, how much does IU have to do for the 2015-16 season to be considered a success? I’m looking forward to your responses.
  8. Now that the dust has settled and Indiana basketball fans have begun wrapping their arms around a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, let’s take a look at IU’s first round opponent No. 12 seed Chattanooga. Indiana and Chattanooga will tip off on Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa at 7:10 p.m. ET. Here’s what we know: The Moc’s are 29-5 overall and had the same record in Southern Conference play as Indiana had in the Big Ten – 15-3. Chattanooga was 13-1 at home, 10-4 on the road and 6-0 in neutral site games. Chattanooga and Indiana had two common opponents this season – Illinois and Kennesaw State. The Moc’s beat Illinois Nov. 21 in the opening game of the Emerald Coast Classic. That’s one of those events where you play two games on a local site, in this case for Illinois the game was played in Springfield. And then you advance and play two games at another site which for this event was in Niceville, Fla. But Chattanooga defeated the Illini 81-77. The other common opponent was Kennesaw State and the Moc’s won that game 78-66. An interesting note on that one is that they played Kennesaw State on Dec. 18 which means that was four days before Indiana beat Kennesaw State 99-72. So the games were played at about the same time. Indiana beat Illinois twice, winning 103-69 in Bloomington and 74-47 when the teams met in Champaign. Chattanooga also had a good win over Georgia in Athens in the season opener, winning 92-90 in overtime. Georgia went on to have a 19-13 record overall including 10-8 in the SEC. Chattanooga’s five losses were to No. 4 (at the time) Iowa State by 20, Louisiana Monroe by 10, Furman by 15, Western Carolina by six and UNC Greensboro by 15. Here’s a little bit closer look at Chattanooga: The Moc’s have eight players averaging between 6.0 points and 12.3 points per game. The starting five is 6-10 redshirt junior Justin Tuoyo, 6-7 junior forward Chuck Ester, 6-5 redshirt junior Tre McLean, 6-2 junior guard Greg Pryor and 6-4 senior guard Eric Robertson. McLean is the leading scorer and rebounder at 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds. Tuoyo is averaging 11.1 points and 5.0 rebounds. Ester averages 7.7 points, Pryor averages 9.9 points and 4 assists per game and Robertson is averaging 8.8 points per game. Robertson shot 40.4 percent from 3-point range this season and made 80 3-pointers. As far as team numbers go, Chattanooga shot 45.6 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from 3, 73.3 percent from the free throw line. The Moc’s made more free throws (581) than their opponents attempted (566). They averaged 75.8 points per game and 35.8 rebounds. One note on the scoring, the Moc’s scored over 90 points in six games this season. But in the last 12 games, they only scored more than 80 one time. Another thing is crowds and Chattanooga averaged a home attendance of 3,530 this season. In the Southern Conference Tournament, Chattanooga won three games in a row to earn the automatic bid. But all three games were close. It beat Samford 59-54, Western Carolina 73-69 and Eastern Tennessee State 73-67. I hope to bring you more about the Moc’s when I’m on site in Des Moines beginning Wednesday.
  9. So what did we learn Sunday night when the brackets were revealed on CBS’s marathon Selection Sunday Show? We learned that the Big Ten was not taken very seriously by the committee. Michigan State was a 2. Indiana, Purdue and Maryland were all 5 seeds. Iowa and Wisconsin were all on the 7 lines. Michigan is in a play-in game and playing for an 11 spot. I think Tom Crean was a little taken aback by it when Indiana appeared on the screen as a No. 5 seed despite having won the Big Ten outright title by two full games. When we got to speak to Crean and a few players Sunday night in the press room at Assembly Hall, I asked the Indiana coach if he was surprised where the Hoosiers were seeded? I think his read-between-the-lines answer was pretty clear. “The only thing I’m really excited about is I was smart enough to bring our Big Ten Championship trophy down to the room into the team room,’’ Crean said. “I’m glad it was down there because we needed a quick visual reminder that we were a Big Ten champion. “So I’ll leave that for other people to talk about.’’ Crean said he is proud of what this team has accomplished. He said there was no question about that. But he believed what Indiana had done within the context of conference play should have amounted to more in the end. At least that’s what his read-between-the-lines answer seemed to indicate. “Villanova went 8-1 on the road in their league,’’ Crean said. “Ourselves, Michigan State, Kansas, people like that, we went 6-3 on the road in our leagues. We’ve gone through a tough league and I’m proud of the way these guys earned their championship.’’ I think Crean was expecting a little bit more to be given to the outright Big Ten champs. “In the last couple of years I know we were a 1 seed after we won it,’’ Crean said. “I know Michigan was a 2 seed after they won it. I know Wisconsin was a 1 seed after they won it. I don’t have much more to add other than that. I saw John Calipari’s interview with ESPN and he said you’ve got to play the games. He’s exactly right, so here we go.’’ I asked Nick Zeisloft if he felt like the Big Ten would head into the NCAA Tournament with a bit of a chip on its shoulder after the way the seeding turned out. “I mean, seeding-wise it might look like that, but it’s such a great conference anyways,’’ Zeisloft said. “We know it’s a battle-tested conference. It’s a great one and teams are going to see that in the conference.’’ NOTE: BtownBanners will have extensive coverage of the Hoosiers this week beginning Monday with a look at Chattanooga. I will be in on site in Des Moines to bring Btown Banners multiple articles and analysis during the week.
  10. There has been a lot of talk regarding James Blackmon Jr. as his future with Indiana after a few people went on Twitter Saturday night with the claim that IU’s sophomore guard was planning to transfer. At Btownbanners.com we choose not to publish articles with rumors and/or unconfirmed reports. Here is a confirmed report, however, from a press release that Indiana put out today where Blackmon Jr. makes it clear that he has no intentions of leaving the IU program. Here is what the release, put out by Indiana University media relations, had to say on the matter. Indiana University sophomore guard James Blackmon, Jr., is focusing on helping his team get ready for the upcoming NCAA Tournament and the rehab of his surgically repaired knee so he can return to full health and resume his playing career next season. “There is no validity to anything being said about my future other than I will be an Indiana Hoosier,” said Blackmon prior to practice on Sunday. “Besides working to get healthier, I’m going to help my teammates prepare for the NCAA Tournament. I’m obviously disappointed I can’t play, but the players and coaches have helped me through my injury and I want to be a leader for them.” He was averaging 15.8 points per game prior to being hurt before the teams Big Ten opener at Rutgers., IU is 21-0 anytime he shot 47.0 percent or higher from the field. He is the Big Ten sophomore class career leader in scoring averaging 15.7 ppg. So now we have a report with substance that we can pass along. The idea never made sense on a lot of different levels but it’s good to have Blackmon Jr. quoted on the topic to put that rumor to rest.
  11. It’s the question foremost on the minds of Indiana University basketball fans everywhere. Where will Indiana be seeded when the NCAA unveils the 68-team 2016 tournament field in its Selection Sunday Show on Sunday? A lot of people felt that Indiana was a No. 3 seed heading into Friday’s quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament. After the buzzer beating 72-69 loss to Michigan, however, the sentiment was that IU may have slipped a spot to a No. 4 seed. The sentiment was also that instead of playing closer to home Indiana might have to travel a distance for the first two games. So what do you think? Let’s begin with the seed itself. Should Indiana be a No. 3 or a No. 4? My guess is that it will be one or the other. I’m still not convinced that Indiana has slipped off of the No. 3 line. While I think a win in the Big Ten Tournament would have improved IU’s chances to stay there, I’m just not certain that Friday’s lost was damaging enough to force the Hoosiers to fall. Michigan is not a bad team. In fact, those that think the Wolverines are still on the outside looking in after the loss to Purdue Saturday may have another thing coming. I think the Wolverines have proven themselves worthy to be an NCAA Tournament team. So what do the Bracketologists say? ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Indiana as a No. 4 seed facing No. 13 Chattanooga in Spokane, Wash. On the other side of that tandem is No. 5 California and No. 12 South Dakota State. CBS Sports.com’s Jerry Palm has the Hoosiers also on the 4 line but has them in Oklahoma City where they would face No. 13 Yale. The other game there is No. 5 Iowa State and No. 12 Little Rock. A third Bracketologist, Shelby Mast of USA Today, has Indiana as a No. 3 seed and facing No. 14 Middle Tennessee State in Des Moines. The other game there is No. 6 Notre Dame versus a play-in winner. So the Bracketologists are far from a consensus in this regard, too. Plus, after last year I’m not sure what to believe. Remember last season when Joe Lunardi had Indiana on the outside looking in in his final bracket before the show and then the Hoosiers not only turned out to be in but they were in as a No. 10 seed and weren’t sweating as much as Lunardi would have had them sweat. It also didn’t hurt that Indiana was announced in one of the first brackets revealed on TV. It’s always nice when you’re on the bubble to not have to wait until that final region is revealed. If Indiana is a 4 seed, let’s look at some of the other potential 13 seeds out there. Lunardi’s other 13’s are Stephen F. Austin, Stony Brook and Northern Iowa. Palm has Stony Brook, South Dakota State and Northern Iowa. Mast has Akron, Yale, Iona and South Dakota State. So how has Indiana fared as a No. 4 seed in the past? The most recent time was 2012 when the Hoosiers were a No. 4 seed in Portland, won two games and lost to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen in Atlanta. Prior to that it was the 2001 NCAA Tournament, the first for then interim coach Mike Davis. IU lost to No. 13 seed Kent State in that one. It also wasn’t good in 1988 when the No. 4 seeded Hoosiers lost to Richmond. In 1984, IU won two games as the No. 4 seed. The only time IU has been a No. 3 seed was a bad NCAA Tournament memory for the Hoosiers. IU lost in 1986 to Cleveland State. So I still think it’s up in the air between a 3 and a 4 seed. It will depend on what the committee thinks about the Big Ten. Let’s just say I won’t be surprised if come Sunday the Hoosiers are a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. But like always I want to know what you think. Where do you think Indiana will be seeded on Sunday?
  12. I didn’t expect Indiana to win the Big Ten Tournament. I also didn’t expect the Hoosiers to bow out as the No. 1 seed against No. 8 seed Michigan on Friday afternoon. But unfortunately, of the two scenarios, I would have thought the latter had a better chance of happening than the former. For whatever reason, Indiana basketball has not fared well in the conference tournament. In 19 tournaments, the Hoosiers have been knocked out in the first game 10 times. TEN TIMES ONE AND DONE. The last time the Hoosiers played on a Saturday in the Big Ten Tournament was 2006. And now three times Indiana has lost at the buzzer in the Big Ten Tournament. It started with Iowa’s Luke Recker (when arguably the clock operator in Indianapolis started the clock a split second too slow) and later with Minnesota’s Blake Hoffarber in Dan Dakich’s interim season as coach. The third time, and the charm if you will, was Kameron Chatman’s 3 from the right corner with 0.2 seconds to play Friday that eliminated the Hoosiers 72-69. So what was Indiana’s problem Friday and how did the Hoosiers get knocked out of the Big Ten Tournament in the first game? Here are a few takes: 1. Collin Hartman has to be better: He took two shots, both 3’s, and missed them both. He had three rebounds and one turnover in 20 minutes. But he just didn’t make an impact and when Indiana has played well, Hartman has made an impact. He also looked lost on a couple of back door cuts early that resulted in Michigan layups. 2. Indiana was 4 for 17 from 3-point distance: I’m not saying that Indiana has to be connecting from deep but … in the last nine games coming in to the B1G Tournament, the Hoosiers had made at least eight 3-pointers in each game and more than 10 five times. IU relies on the long ball and if that’s not going in, then the Hoosiers simply have to be more efficient inside. And that wasn’t the case on Friday. 3. IU has to be stronger with the ball: In the last 16 games, Indiana has had 15 or more turnovers three times. One of those times was Friday. In those three games, IU was 0-3. In the other 13 games, when the Hoosiers turned it over 14 times or less, Indiana is 12-1. Indiana simply has to be stronger with the ball. So where does Indiana go from here? The answer is that the Hoosiers will likely still be a top 4 seed on Sunday when the brackets are revealed but there’s now a chance that the Hoosiers could be sent out West or somewhere a lot farther away than St. Louis or central Iowa. If that were to happen, IU would only have its self to blame after Friday’s performance .
  13. Iowa looked flat and disinterested Thursday afternoon in a 68-66 loss to Illinois. Wisconsin couldn’t shoot straight against Nebraska, hitting just 30.2 percent of its shots in a 70-58 loss to the Cornhuskers. Ohio State was lucky to get away with a victory over Penn State, and Michigan needed overtime to beat Northwestern. Bottom line: It wasn’t a great day for the favorites Thursday in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Now, with that as a backdrop, No. 1 seed Indiana will open quarterfinal action on Friday against Michigan. The Wolverines could be playing like a desperate team as Michigan likely needs a victory to have a shot at qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. Indiana fans are hoping for a rare semifinal appearance in the conference tournament with a victory on Friday against Michigan. The bigger question for Hoosier fans, though, is whether Indiana can continue to play the way it has in the final five games of the season when it beat Nebraska, Purdue, Illinois, Iowa and Maryland to close out the season? And IU will need to play well in a conference tournament that has not been a friend over the years. Indiana will be looking to advance beyond the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2006. That year, IU beat Wisconsin in the quarterfinals only to lose 52-51 to in the tournament semifinals in Indianapolis. The last time Indiana advanced to the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament was 2001 when the Hoosiers dropped a 63-61 decision to Iowa. IU’s all-time record as the No. 1 seed in the tournament is 1-1. The Hoosiers’ all-time record in the Big Ten Tournament is 11-18. Tom Crean is 3-7 in B1G Tournament play. Here’s something to chew on: Two of the teams that defeated Indiana in Big Ten play lost on Thursday in the second round: Penn State and Wisconsin. In fact, the Hoosiers are 8-1 this season against the teams still remaining in the conference tournament field. The one loss was to Michigan State, a team that IU couldn’t play until the Sunday tournament championship game. But first things first. First up is Michigan, a team that Indiana beat 80-67 back on Feb. 2 at the Crisler Center. That was the game where the Hoosiers had that crazy 27-0 run and blew the game open. Yogi Ferrell had 17 in that game and Robert Johnson had 16. It’s not certain if Johnson will play this time around and the Hoosiers may be holding him out until the NCAA Tournament. OG Anunoby had 11 the first time the teams played, Troy Williams had nine and Nick Zeisloft had eight. Zak Irvin led Michigan with 16 and Duncan Robinson had 14. One number that jumped off the statistics page was IU’s ability to control the boards. The Hoosiers outrebounded Michigan 44-30 and had 14 offensive rebounds. IU scored 44 points in the paint and had a 13-6 edge in second chance points. Thomas Bryant was limited to seven points in 21 minutes the first time the teams played. This will be a big game for Indiana in that if the Hoosiers can win one would think that they could likely hang on to a No. 3 seed when Selection Sunday comes around this weekend. A quarterfinal loss to Michigan, however, could see IU slip to a No. 4 seed. What do you think will happen? My guess is that Indiana will prevail by 10-12 points. We’ll see soon enough.
  14. Fifteen wins in the Big Ten. Think about that for a moment. Let it sink in. Now think about the names on this list: Guys like A.J Guyton, Jason Collier, Luke Recker, Kirk Haston and Michael Lewis. Throw in Jared Jeffries, Tom Coverdale, Dane Fife, Jarrad Odle and Kyle Hornsby. There’s also Bracey Wright, Marshall Strickland, Marco Killingsworth, Rod Wilmont and D.J. White. Here’s a few more: Eric Gordon, Verdell Jones III, Maurice Creek, Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Will Sheehey and Noah Vonleh. What do all of those names have in common? None of them ever won 15 Big Ten games in a single season in their IU career. That’s what makes 15 wins such an impressive accomplishment. No. 12 Indiana’s 15-3 Big Ten outright title accomplishment, capped off by Sunday’s 80-62 victory over No. 14 Maryland on Senior Day at Assembly Hall, puts this team at an elite level in Indiana lore. The last time an Indiana basketball team won 15 Big Ten games was the 1992-93 season when the Hoosiers with Calbert Cheaney, Greg Graham, Damon Bailey and Alan Henderson went 17-1 in conference play. That was the team where Henderson tore his ACL after IU had gotten off to a 13-0 Big Ten start. He tore it in practice the week before the Purdue game going up to catch a long outlet pass. That team was 31-4, which makes it also the last team in IU history to win more than 30 games. The 2013 Hoosiers came close with 29 wins. So it has been 23 seasons since an Indiana basketball team has won 15 or more games in conference. In Indiana history, it has only happened eight times. Along with ’93, IU has won 15 or more Big Ten games in a season in 1953, 1975, 1976, 1987, 1989 and 1991. Three of those seasons Indiana won the national championship. I’m not saying that this team will do that, but just trying to paint a picture here of rarified air. This team is in elite company. The most refreshing thing about this year’s Indiana team, however, is you get the feel as if Indiana is playing its best basketball of the season at exactly the right time. All the naysayers were waiting for Indiana to fold. Great start to the season against a questionable Big Ten schedule, but let’s see how Indiana fares in the second half of the year? After going 8-1 in the first nine games, IU went 7-2 in the second nine. Along the way it beat ranked foes like Iowa (twice), Purdue and Maryland. So we turn our attention toward the Big Ten Tournament which begins Friday with Indiana as the No. 1 seed playing the winner of Thursday night’s Michigan-Northwestern game. The Big Ten Tournament has never been a happy place for Indiana basketball. Perhaps that changes this season. Regardless of what happens this weekend, however, I must say that I think most IU fans will be in an optimistic place heading into Selection Sunday. I think Indiana will either get a 3 seed or possibly a 2 if it really makes some noise at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this weekend. As I’ve said before, it’s all a far cry from where we were Dec. 2 following the Duke loss and sitting at 5-3 for the year. No one could have possibly believed on that day that someday we would be sitting here trumpeting the fact that Indiana had won 15 Big Ten games. Fifteen B1G wins. Just stop and let that sink in for a moment.
  15. True show of hands please. How many people were really confident that Indiana would go into Iowa City Tuesday night and knock off the No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes and win the outright Big Ten championship? C’mon, tell the truth. How many of you really expected that to happen? I’ll be honest. I didn’t really see it coming. I thought Indiana would win the outright Big Ten title this week but I expected the Hoosiers to do it at Assembly Hall against Maryland on Sunday where IU is 16-0 this season. I expected it to happen at what would be a Hoosier Lovefest on Yogi’s Senior Night. What I didn’t expect was the final outcome Tuesday night. Indiana 81, Iowa 78. The Hoosiers are outright Big Ten champs for the second time in four seasons. In the previous 19 seasons, Indiana had shared the Big Ten title once and that was in 2002 when IU went 11-5 and shared it with several teams in Mike Davis’s second season in Bloomington. With 14 wins IU has now equaled the most wins by an IU team in close to forever. The 2013 team won 14 games. So did 2008, Kelvin Sampson’s final group before he was shown the door and team was hit with NCAA sanctions. The 1992 Hoosiers with Calbert Cheaney and company also won 14 games. And IU has one game to play to reach that 15-win Big Ten plateau. The last time IU won 15 or more Big Ten games was 1993, the year Alan Henderson tore his ACL in practice before the Purdue game at a time when IU was 13-0. That year, the Hoosiers were 17-1 in the Big Ten. But to say that I’m a little surprised that Indiana is sitting here today at 14-3 in the Big Ten and outright champs with one emotional game to be played on Sunday would be a huge understatement. Tuesday night just seemed like the Perfect Storm set up in Iowa’s favor. Iowa was reeling and in a must-win situation in order to get its season back turned around. The Hawkeyes were playing at home where the crowd at Carver-Hawkeye would certainly be able to will Iowa to a crucial home victory, right? It was Senior Night, an emotional night to send off four of its own including guys like Jarrod Uthoff, Anthony Clemons, Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell, who by himself seems as if he’s been at Iowa about 10 seasons. It seems like Jess Settles all over again. It was a national television audience and Iowa had a chance at revenge against an Indiana team that started Iowa on this bad streak it had been on over the past three weeks when the Hoosiers won on Feb. 11 at Assembly Hall. This was expected to be the perfect payback for an Iowa team that needed to win to boost its national ranking, its potential seeds in both the Big Ten and upcoming NCAA Tournaments and get back on track toward at least sharing a conference title for the first time since 1979. And it was playing an IU team that was essentially a man down with Robert Johnson missing his second game after injuring his ankle against Purdue. Often times a team can rally around the loss of player for that next game (in this case a road tilt last week at Illinois) but to have to make up for the loss of a starting guard for two games in a row was a tall order. And the first time the two teams had played Johnson had scored 11 points and knocked down three 3-pointers. He had been a solid contributor. No, it just seemed like the deck was stacked against Indiana. When asked by my friends for a pregame prediction I said I thought Iowa would cover the 5-point spread and win by around 8. It just didn’t seem like a good matchup for the Hoosiers. But take out the broom. Indiana swept Iowa. The Hoosiers will go down as the only Big Ten team that this group of Iowa seniors did not have a home victory against in their careers. Indiana did it Tuesday night by defying all the odds. The Hoosiers really shot the ball well on the road for about 35 minutes including hitting one timely long range bomb after another. IU did it despite an almost overwhelming foul differential. I’d be interested in what non-IU fans watching that game as a unbiased observer felt about the foul disparity. To me it didn’t seem like IU got a fair shake and I’ll admit it’s nice to say that after a victory so it doesn’t like sour grapes. There were a couple of plays late that made absolutely no sense including Colin Hartman’s fifth foul and that drive to the basket by Yogi where he gets slapped on the arm but there’s no call. In many ways, it felt like the officials kind of got caught up in the wave of emotion inside of Carver-Hawkeye. Again, it’s nice to be able to make those observations and not sound like sour grapes because the Hoosiers lost. And they did almost lose but found a way to overcome a couple of critical errors in the closing seconds. It didn’t hurt that Iowa missed 12 of its final 13 shots including the 3 at the buzzer to tie. I still can’t believe that Yogi missed both of those free throws late (or that Thomas Bryant got the offensive rebound after the second miss). And I just expected more out of Max Bielfeldt than that lazy pass he through in the direction of Nick Zeisloft with IU protecting a 3-point lead with 6 seconds remaining. Still, truly there were many more positives than negatives for Indiana in this one. Now, Indiana will hold its collective breath until we find out the severity of Juwan Morgan’s shoulder injury. One thing positive on that front was the mention in the postgame that this was a recurring injury for Morgan. So at least it is something he has dealt with in the past. But man, the way he has played of late Indiana really needs him in the lineup at the very least in the Big Ten Tournament and beyond. I still am curious though how many of you really saw that one coming Tuesday night? I’d like to see that show of hands for those who were really confident (not just wishful or hopeful but confident) that IU would come out of Carver-Hawkeye with the outright Big Ten title.
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