On to the next step

  • 12/04/2010 10:30 pm in

BLOOMINGTON — It has been suggested, perhaps not unfairly, that Indiana’s early-season schedule will eventually weaken it, perhaps critically. A November filled with nameless opponents, it was feared, wouldn’t provide Indiana enough tests to get the Hoosiers ready for the tough meat in the schedule.

The naysayers point to Boston College as proof, but we really can’t know yet one way or another.

What we do know is that we’re not going to get much more substantive information about Indiana from the likes of Savannah State.

Games like these — that is to say, home games against far lesser opponents in November and December — absolutely have their place. It’s difficult to get good non-conference teams to want to come to Assembly Hall, the extra revenue from concessions, parking, etc. helps the bottom line and, mostly, this is how you’re supposed to behave before Christmas. Big Ten play is rough enough; there’s no compelling reason to kill your team before they’re even there.

And Indiana will play at least enough tough opponents to make its pre-Big Ten schedule worthwhile. Another game against say, Notre Dame or Cincinnati might not have hurt, but the Hoosiers have nothing to apologize for.

But we really have come to the end of the line with meaningful candor, or valuable takeaway, from games against Savannah State, Florida Gulf Coast or North Carolina Central.

I know you can all remember a time when that wasn’t the case, when the Northeasterns and Lipscombs and Loyolas (Do I put the Maryland here if I’m trying to be plural? I really don’t know. I’m perturbed now. OK, moment passed.) on Indiana’s schedule turned into embarrassing traps into which the Hoosiers would fall. Those have to be some of the coldest days in Indiana basketball history.

Early on, we learned that Tom Crean’s Indiana, as constituted now, is through losing to those teams. Indiana is 7-0 against opponents not from a big-six conference this season, winning by an average margin of more than 20 points. All seven games have been played at Assembly Hall, and all of them were comfortably put away with strong second-half efforts.

Along the way, we managed to learn some things about Indiana …

  • The turnovers are still a problem.
  • Maurice Creek’s recovery process is slow, but showing tangible, positive signs.
  • Indiana is building an identity as a strong team defensively and out of halftime. Even against Boston College, the way the Hoosiers kick-started themselves after the break was impressive, and almost enough.
  • Jordan Hulls is evolving into a solid option in multiple facets offensively. Verdell Jones is struggling, but still scoring a ton of points.
  • Christian Watford has settled nicely into his new offensive role. He still needs to do some work defensively, but he’s probably Indiana’s best player right now.
  • There’s a lot to like about Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey. A whole lot to like.

See, we learned some rather important stuff. Mostly, we learned Indiana has reached a critical point in its rebuilding process, one in which it is no longer a punchline.

Now, though, the only tests that matter will be the hard ones. The learning curve will steepen, as it should. As it has to. The next steps Indiana takes, forward or backward, will almost exclusively hold major importance from here on out.

Filed to:

  • We also learned that the NCAA doesn’t approve of three-named foreign centers, but that’s probably neither here nor there at this point.

  • Anonymous

    My favorite part of the game tonight was seeing Watford muscle inside from the baseline for a basket in the second half. Not a big or important play but it’s nice to see him use his newfound size to use. Sometimes guys add muscle but don’t know how to use it, he took full advantage.

    Looking forward to the UK game and hope it’s decent.

  • Diesel

    We are defintely more athletic. Dunks over the past 2 games by Pritchard, Sheehey, Oladipo, and Watford…certainly nice to watch our team play above the rim and attack the basket. Really, really, really like seeing Watford and Pritch dunk it down low rather than going weak and getting blocked.

  • JerryCT

    I liked playing this team after BC because they had alot of movement on offense even if not good at scoring.

    This gave us a chance to practice our new switching strategy on defense.

    If you replay the game however you will see Hulls did not switch when defending his man ( #1) and gave up most of this kids 14 points .

    When Rivers came in he too did not switch but went through the screens instead of under them and only gave up 3 on one contested shot.

    As you say the real games are about to begin and whether switching or not , Hulls/Jones/Creek are in for some tough times on the defensive end. This is why Rivers needs more minutes and earlier in the game.

  • Anonymous

    A weak schedule early on isn’t so bad. It’s got Syracuse into the tournament for years.

  • MillaRed

    I have no problem with the schedule. We aren’t a Big Ten contender anyway. We struggled against teams like this last season. I wanted to see if we were better. And it’s quite obvious we are.

    The Kentucky game will be painful to watch. We’re better, but we’re not “at Kentucky” better.

    And I hate Calipari.

  • Exactly. This rebuilding process is a 5+ year process. That’s why I’d like to see Crean hold off on adding another player in 2011… we are building for the 2012 season and beyond.

  • Anonymous

    if anything it is getting them the feel of winning, Im sure they are aware of the weaker apponents but if it gives them a litte extra swag in their step then so be it. we all have predicted their wins and, lossesbefore the season started , so letm go into the conference with a winning record a swagg in their step and us fans with a possitive attitude. mabe if they knew how to win last year we could have had a few more wins that were close losses

  • Anonymous

    Off topic, but I went to the Broad Ripple – Cathedral game last night to see Patterson and Hartman go head to head. First observation is that there were a lot of IU sweatshirts and t-shirts in the crowd, so we obviously weren’t the only ones who thought of checking out the new recruits. The main impression I took away from the game is that Buss is a really, really good player, solid in all parts of the game and with a Big Ten-ready physique. But even better, something that has not come across in the reports about him that I have read, he can really shoot the ball. I had understood that he forced his way to the basket for the bulk of his points, which he can certainly do when he wants to, but probably won’t when he gets to the Big Ten. But he has a really nice stroke and is a solid three-point shooter, and he makes good decisions with the ball in his hand. He ended the game with 25 points (18 in the first half), including five three pointers. No hesitation at all in seeing him play the 2 position at IU. Before seeing him play, I thought he was more likely to be slotted as a 3, and he may not be tall enough to play there.

    As for Hartman, he can certainly stroke the ball too and he ended the game with 14 points, including four three pointers. There were moments in the game when he and Buss ran up and down the court exchanging three-pointers, which is what we came to the game to see, but he was not as impressive as Buss. He looks like he is still growing into his body as he looked a little awkward at times. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t grow a couple more inches too since he’s only 15 or 16 years old. In any event, he looks like he’ll be a solid addition to the program too.

  • 13th&Woodlawn

    Is Roth healthy? He looks slow. He did not contribute much on either end last night. We need him to find shots when he is on the floor.

  • Anonymous

    We also learned that Derek Elston needs more playing time. He is just as good as Pritchard and Capo on defense and MUCH better than either on offense and rebounding. He brings real energy, much like Victor and Will, to Indiana on the floor. We also learned that Rivers and Pritchard have totally bought in to the notion of being “role players” for the benefit of the team. As to the schedule, I believe that you mentioned that you are a Ga Tech fan. So write a real article on big (BCS) schools’ basketball schedules in the non-conference. Take Pomeroy’s rankings as of 11/22, or a better one if you can find it, and compare, game by game, the IU and Ga Tech schedules. I doubt that there is a meaningful difference. But show me, I have an open mind. Or do the same for all 11 of the Big 10 teams. Include Butler’s full season, since their conference is so weak, and compare IU to Butler. Then I will respect the “schedule” criticism as at least supported by some analysis. So far you have nothing to add to the discussion!

  • Anonymous

    We also learned that Derek Elston needs more playing time. He is just as good as Pritchard and Capo on defense and MUCH better than either on offense and rebounding. He brings real energy, much like Victor and Will, to Indiana on the floor. We also learned that Rivers and Pritchard have totally bought in to the notion of being “role players” for the benefit of the team. As to the schedule, I believe that you mentioned that you are a Ga Tech fan. So write a real article on big (BCS) schools’ basketball schedules in the non-conference. Take Pomeroy’s rankings as of 11/22, or a better one if you can find it, and compare, game by game, the IU and Ga Tech schedules. I doubt that there is a meaningful difference. But show me, I have an open mind. Or do the same for all 11 of the Big 10 teams. Include Butler’s full season, since their conference is so weak, and compare IU to Butler. Then I will respect the “schedule” criticism as at least supported by some analysis. So far you have nothing to add to the discussion!

  • Anonymous

    Crean will never stop recruiting, nor will he ever concede a year without big improvement in his team until IU makes it to the Final Four. However, he is through adding any player who can not compete for a starting role in his freshman year. So if he does add a 3rd player for 2011, it will be because he thinks the kid can play now!

  • Anonymous

    And the bench will help VJIII to realize that he must lead the team and not solo his talents to become great!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the information. I wish that ITH had a complete recap for all of our recruits once or twice each week. These kids are the future for Indiana Basketball!

  • ArtistFormerlyKnownAs_Aceman07

    Yeah, it’s nice that we’re not losing to Boston U, George Mason, or Loyola this year, isn’t it?

    There’s definitely been improvement. Those games last year were always in doubt when the game started and when you lose to Loyola at home you know you are in trouble.

    At least this year they’re winning the games they’re supposed to win.

    Maybe next year they’ll sprinkle in some wins against teams they aren’t supposed to beat?

  • ArtistFormerlyKnownAs_Aceman07

    Yes it has! And it served Michigan well for years as well.

    But I would rather see the old IU schedules where there was a nice mix between cupcakes and the UNC’s, pUKe’s, Temple’s, etc. on the tilt.

  • ArtistFormerlyKnownAs_Aceman07

    Northwestern State was a mini-defensive test. They had scored 78 at LSU and 79 at Memphis and had an average of 86 points. IU held them to 66 and 10-15 of those points were garbage time points since IU was SO far up.

    A mini-defensive test but still a possible point of optimism? Every team has a bad night just like every team has a good night. Maybe BC just had a good night when IU had a bad night? Hopefully that’s the case or pUKe is going to score 100 on us!

  • GFDave

    This team’s road to the NIT has to be paved with the wrappers from devoured cupcakes or we don’t find our way there.

    The balance of the December schedule is sufficient for getting ready for the b10, which looks very deep based on the ACC/B10 Challenge.

  • MillaRed

    And we’re beating them convincingly.

    If Zeller can do his thing next year, that brings TP off the bench in a
    supplemental role. Bring in a healthy Mo Creek and a maturing Watford and
    who knows? Maybe we are tourney bound?

    I am starting to believe Victor was a major steal. I don’t even think he
    knows how good he can be. Imagine what he will be like when he maximizes his
    athleticism in the weight room. Starts hitting jumpers etc. Plus, he is
    hungry. He is quickly becoming a highlight reel once per game. Lovin it!

  • We have a report each week on how all the recruits did. Had it all of last season, too.


  • LDIU

    I don’t consider TP as the “second Bill Russell” by any means. Therefore, since TP and DE are about equal on defense, I agree with Outoftheloop in that DE needs much more playing time. No doubt that TP and DE are not true centers, but the only options we have this year. Also, while VJIII scored nicely against a team that only has one win, I continue to be concerned about his poor free throw shooting and also his turnovers (5). What will happen when we play against some really good teams with strong guards? I almost loose sleep thinking about it. I would really like to see VO and WS get more playing time and I do think that will have to come at the expense of JR. Creek is getting stronger all the time and when you think of what he has been through with his knee, I am amazed at his progress. We are better than we have been the past couple of years, but we are still far from being a “good” team. We are making progress towards that goal, and I am fully confident we’ll reach it in due time.

  • MillaRed

    If you want to see how Verdell does against pressure defense, look no further than next Saturday. Kentucky may flip him 10 times if he doesn’t play well.

    By the way, don’t celebrate a field goal. These guys push it so hard you don’t have time to blink.

    It would be so nice if one of Verdell’s errant passes hit Cal in the face. Hey, one can hope…….

  • ArtistFormerlyKnownAs_Aceman07

    I absolutely agree with you Milla. I think VO was definitely a steal and I think Will may have been a steal as well.

    I think Zeller is a 3-5 more win type guy and the team should improve by a few more wins as well so it’s conceivable that IU could go from 15-18 wins this year to 22-25 wins next year which you think would be good for a tournament bid.

    There’s certainly a lot to look forward to.

  • Anonymous

    wasnt too long ago we were coachless and teamless. we are on our way back this schedule is ok , for now.

  • 11th and Done (Dunn)

    Victor Home-depot is already my favorite player. When he gains confidence and starts penetrating, he is going to be really good.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Alex.

  • Anonymous

    If you add a 6’7 dead-eye shooter who can run, jump, play defense= Etherington and a 6’11 very skilled and tough Big Man who should be an instant double-double=Zeller to the team we have now, we would have beaten BC by 10 on the road.

  • Anonymous

    Next year we add Notre Dame plus KY, the ACC game, and two BCS schools in a tourney. Then we switch Notre Dame for Butler and continue into the future. Sounds about right to me..

  • Anonymous

    I’m going to make a statement that might sound overboard, but I don’t think there is another player on the team who makes more of an impact than VO. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he’s the best one out there, but every time he hits the floor SOMETHING happens—not always (but very often) all positives, but if he’s out there he’s involved. I don’t think he’s ever going to be one of those guys who disappears on the court for stretches of the game.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know if it’s the weight loss, but Pritchard can get up. He’s reworked his physique, he’s cutting down on silly fouls, his hand is healthy; the next order of business is to begin catching the ball in a position to make an offensive move because now it seems like he’s not in a very good position to score. I don’t know if he’s just not expecting to get the ball or what is going on, but I want to see him get it and do something with it because I think he’s got the skill to do so.

  • Anonymous

    It’s done wonders for JR

  • Anonymous

    When we start seeing the old IU talent level I’d think we’ll see something akin to the old schedule.

  • Bleeding Crimson

    Enough about the cupcake schedule. We all knew what we were in for before the season started and WHY. CTC said, he purposely scheduled it this way so the team can experience some wins before the bulk of the schedule hit. He wanted the team to know what it feels like to win. He also said that everyone loves to win but not everyone hates to lose. He also stated that future pre-season schedules would be more tough. I can’t understand why some folks have a hard time with this. It is what it is.

    Plus our game against BC would have been different if we played the 1st half like the second. It was on the road and it is hard to beat a team that shot 22-28 FT to our 20 attempts (we used to own this stat). Plus they shot 51% and 50% for each half and the second half we had pretty good D. They beat us on the Reb and shot 10-12 FT in the last 2:00min of play. Lastly, it’s also hard to beat a team that is hitting every other three pointer.

    KY game:
    We better play like we did in the second half with fire in our @$$ if we want to pull this out. I was feeling like Kelin was “if we had Guy could pull it off”. Not going to happen. TP need only play to relieve Capo and Elston. Start Hulls, Watford, Creek and Rivers and pick a 5 spot. Vic comes in early for JR and rotate from there, sub Creek with Jones but don’t let Jones bring the ball up…just the wing. They will push and we have to keep up with rotations. Just play our intense version of our D and out rebound and we just might have a game.

  • Anonymous

    Evansville had put up some points, too

  • MillaRed

    Victor is certainly a player other coaches are not going to enjoy playing
    against. Who else on the team is willing to jump 4 feet in the air and
    sacrifice his body to dunk in your best players face?

  • Plane1972

    I agree that we’re not “at Kentucky” better, but I don’t think it will be painful to watch (unless an injury or something terrible like that occurs). I think it should be a “muck it up” game plan for us this week in practice. Make it as ugly as possible, play to our stronger suit of defensive intensity, try to capitalize on exploiting their albeit extremely talented youth, let Capo out of his cage to bang on Harrellson, get after the 50/50 balls and hope to knock down some shots and get a few breaks late and it could be a close affair.

    As always, I hate Calipari, as well.

  • MillaRed

    I was thinking about this a few weeks ago, and it was amplified when I
    watched the UK-UNC game, and perhaps I am too hard on my beloved Hoosiers,
    but it just seems to me that these top 20 teams move twice as fast as we do.
    I mean, after a made hoop, they are shoving it down your throat before you
    can react. If we are allowing bunnies to NW State etc, what are we gonna do
    on Saturday?

    Sorry about the pessimism. I too want a competitive game, but we better have
    our shizz together.

  • ArtistFormerlyKnownAs_Aceman07

    My fear for the upcoming pUKe game is that IU isn’t prepared to do what’s needed to get to pUKe.

    The best way to rattle a young, but athletic team, is to jump on them early and put them in a whole. You need to get them down and then tighten the defensive belt and out hustle them. If you can hang around against a young team like that then you have a chance because they might choke.

    The problem is that IU hasn’t gotten out of the gate fast yet this year! We need a quick start and that’s not happening this year. I feel like you have to choose either Hulls or VJ3 to start and keep the other one on the bench. You start VO or JR to create energy instead and then bring VJ3 in for Hulls when you sub or vice versa.

    I think having them on the floor together is making us too slow and causing these slow starts! With one on the floor you can still play solid defense but not with both on the floor together.

    What else can be done to fix the slow start problem???

  • Plane1972

    No, I don’t see it as pessimistic. I have been reluctant to participate in the optimistic conversation about the BC/UK games. I agree with what you’re saying. Let’s hope it is one of those playing-up-to-your-opponent days for us. Lexington will be a nasty place to dig yourself out of lax early play – unlike anything this team has seen to date.

  • MillaRed

    Certainly isn’t much to lose is there? May as well have fun!