Five takeaways from Indiana’s tour of Canada

  • 08/15/2014 11:34 am in

Indiana’s five-game tour of Montreal and Ottawa wrapped on Wednesday afternoon and the Hoosiers returned home to Bloomington with a 4-1 record, much needed experience and plenty to work on before the start of practice.

Inside the Hall was there for each of the five exhibition games and you can read all of our coverage from the trip at this link. But with so much to digest in such a short period of time, our coverage from the trip is not done.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from what we saw in Canada:

· It’s early, but the first vibe from this team is a positive one: One thing I tried to do with each of the games was not turn them into a bigger deal than what they actually were. It’s August, the competition was up (Ottawa and Carleton) and down (McGill, Laval and UQAM) and the game is different with FIBA rules.

That said, there just already seems to be a cohesiveness forming with this group that I never observed last season. That’s not to say that chemistry was the overriding issue with Indiana a season ago, but there’s value in having a group of players who genuinely like each other on and off the court.

Following Indiana’s final win in Montreal, both Troy Williams and Robert Johnson talked about the chemistry and how it’s coming along so far.

“Off the court, anyone can hang out with anyone,” Williams explained. “I can hang out with Stan (Robinson) and Devin (Davis) one day and then the next day I could hang out with Jeremiah (April) and Tim (Priller). We all get along with each other so well.”

“I think it is coming along really good,” Johnson said. “From day one, whenever we went out and did different things, we always did it as a team. From what they tell me, last year it wasn’t always like that, so from that standpoint it is good and it has helped bring us together even more.” 

· This team is going to score plenty of points: Indiana struggled to score consistently last season, particularly in conference play, but the makeup of the roster has changed significantly. Austin Etherington, Evan Gordon and Jeremy Hollowell are gone and James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson and Nick Zeisloft have arrived.

How does that change IU’s backcourt?

First, Yogi Ferrell won’t have to carry such a large scoring load. Blackmon Jr. is wired to score and will contribute in a major way from day one. Johnson’s body is college ready, he’s been well coached in both high school and AAU and can play both guard spots. And the addition of Zeisloft, a move that was criticized by some IU fans when it happened, was the surprise of the trip after he hit a team-high 11 shots from distance.

Indiana is going to have to play small quite often, but there won’t be many lineups on the floor that include any ball stoppers who can’t score, which was frequently the case last season.

· The maturation of Troy Williams is well underway: Based on our observations in Canada, it’s been a productive offseason for the sophomore wing from Hampton (Va.). While he’s still nowhere close to a finished product, his upper body has more mass and his explosiveness is right where it needs to be for an athlete of his caliber.

Williams was far more aggressive on this trip than what he was at any point last season and his final numbers are indicative of that: 18.4 points (66.1 FG%), 6.4 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 2.6 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.2 steals in 27.8 minutes per game.

The turnovers are still an area that he needs to clean up, but more often than not, Williams now tries to make the simple play and is playing to his strengths rather than forcing up perimeter shots. His ball handling also seemed to be better, which he credited to finally being totally healthy.

“Last year I had a hand injury — I always had my left hand bandaged,” he said. “Now that it is healed, it feels better. I have always been comfortable with the ball, I just couldn’t use both hands last year. Now that I have both back, it is much easier for me to handle the ball again.”

· This trip wasn’t about wins and losses, it was about the experience and teaching opportunities: Just as Indiana’s loss to Ottawa wasn’t as big of a deal as some on social media would have you believe, its win over Carleton wasn’t an indicator that Indiana is ready to contend for a Big Ten title.

More than anything else, this trip was about Indiana gaining experience, getting the ten practices in that were allowed and the coaching staff getting a chance to get a clear snapshot of where things stand heading into the start of practice next month.

Among the things we observed that you wouldn’t see during a regular season game: Johnson running the IU huddle and drawing up a play as the coaching staff observed, long discussions on the sidelines between the staff and different players throughout the games when a teaching moment arose and Tom Crean out on the floor working with the team prior to tip off.

“I just wanted to keep getting better,” Crean said. “What I’m happiest about is that the last ten minutes of this trip, we got better. It wasn’t about the score and it wasn’t about the game being in balance. These kinds of lessons will be countless for these guys going through time.”

· The frontcourt situation is still a mystery: The only negative from the trip was the absence of Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who never arrived in Canada due to visa issues. The opportunity for Mosquera-Perea to play in these games would have been invaluable given the role that he’ll likely need to take on as a junior.

Without Mosquera-Perea, Indiana played very small throughout the trip and at times, had trouble controlling the defensive glass. The Hoosiers aren’t going to have a post presence near the caliber of Cody Zeller or even Noah Vonleh this season, but it’s going to be important that they have solid defensive rebounding up front and adequate defense around the rim.

Devin Davis had a strong trip with a team-high average of 7.6 rebounds per game, but with news breaking that IU is still looking to add to its roster for next season, it appears the staff believes it needs another piece that can rebound and help defend the post. Given the proficiency Indiana will have on the perimeter, the Hoosiers don’t need to be great inside, but they also can’t afford to get carved up on the boards by teams with more size in the paint.

Filed to:

  • InCreanWeTrust

    Thank you so much for what you did on this trip Alex! It’s much appreciated. Very well written piece. One of my favorite quotes:

    “Just as Indiana’s loss to Ottawa wasn’t as big of a deal as some on social media would have you believe, its win over Carleton wasn’t an indicator that Indiana is ready to contend for a Big Ten title.”

    It’s huge that Hoosier fans realize the benefits of this trip are not from wins and losses. I felt like people were easy to dismiss the Ottawa loss as just an exhibition, but treat the Carleton game as a high caliber game. I understand that it’s ok to have crimson-colored glasses, but perspective is crucial with this team. What’s more important on this trip rather than points and stats is the team bonding throughout Montreal on and off the court at such an early time.

  • David Macer

    I said in a post on another article that the Twitter verse was all a flutter over the loss to Ottawa. Fire Crean this and Fire Crean that. People can be really ignorant in social media. If more people would observe the first word of that phrase and be more sociable, more good will come of this new medium. My rule is that if you can’t say it directly to someone’s face, don’t say it behind the screen.

    I will now step down off my podium. But before I do…GO HOOSIERS !!

  • Daniel

    Honestly I think the loss was a good thing cause it’s not like we got whooped the whole game. It was back and fourth til the 4th I believe. Showed them they can’t just rely on talent and athleticism, and that were really gonna have to hustle at all times on both ends. I’m sure they already knew that but now they understand it. Most importantly it gave this young team their 1st chance to bounce back together. I’m not much one for expectations, especially this early, but I think we can rule out this team going undefeated so its good to get that kind of experience when it doesn’t necessarily count.

  • ForeverIU

    Any schmuck with an Internet connection can create a Twitter account …

  • Hoosier Pride

    agreed. any team that can knock down 18 three pointers with above average players and high bball IQ has a chance to beat just about anyone.

  • Rie

    I know it is hard to gauge without Hanner being there, but anyone know about how we looked defensively, both as a team and individual performances? I doubt there were any studs our guys were supposed to guard, but still I have no idea how we fared in this area, and I pretty much tried to keep up with all of the coverage.

  • BlakeD1223

    This season can’t come fast enough. I’m excited about this team. I definitely think we will be small but we should be fast and entertaining. In the end it’s the wins that matter but I think it’ll be a fun year to be a Hoosier.

  • BT

    It was a lot of fun getting a little dose of the Hoosiers in August, I even caught a little online stream of one of the games for a few minutes.

    But it’s good to see we have folks who can shoot this year and that the attitude is better now that the kids who don’t want to be here have moved on. I think we’re going to learn that kids who can hit jump shots can make a coaching staff look awfully better.

    I was sorry to see that not only was Hanner not on the trip to Canada, but April didn’t get any PT either. Can we keep an eye on the door to the courts of the SRSC and anyone schmuck who walks in 6’10” or taller gets immediately shuttled to Cook Hall for a workout?

  • CreamandCrimson

    I can only pass on the in-game observations from Herald-Times beat reporter Mike Miller….closing down shooters (this was the Ottawa game he was talking about…giving up 18 3’s makes that one obvious) and help defense was a problem at times. He thought the defense was very active but was hurt by not having a rim protector. I am curious about Troy Williams’ defense. His positional defense last season was a weakness. He has the athleticism and body to be a defensive nightmare for opponents and if can be a pretty good defender, I think he has a chance to be All-Big Ten.

    Miller also said he was surprised by how active Nick Zeisloft was on the defensive end and that Devin Davis (which the stats show) did a better job of not fouling.

  • ATG08

    Instead of 5 takeaways, I only have 3 on this Friday afternoon:

    1. Great job ITH. The coverage from Canada, to the eye on recruiting back here (which apparently NEVER STOPS), to the game film breakdown – you all make this site the best it can be;

    2. This trip was tailor made for April and HMP to participate in consequence-free games. What a disappointment (understatement). As someone who has dealt with international immigration issues, HMP’s situation unfortunately did not surprise me. A kid from Colombia, with papers to reside in America, trying to get a short term visa to Canada – the wheels of government turn sloooowwwwly no matter how early you start. Our front court will be our question mark (I will be less worried if we add another front court player; then we have more bodies to throw at the boards); and

    3. We don’t need a true center or glass cleaner this year, just a couple of serviceable guys in the paint, because what video I did see has shown that IU can shoot the ball this year (some quick releases too). There is a LOT of confidence to score the ball; I felt like some of the guys not named YOGI were hesitant to take the outside shot last year. Does not appear to be a problem, at all, with this group. Cautiously optimistic.

    Much in store for this season. I will, as always, tune in. Go Hoosiers.

  • Ole Man

    It was hard to judge from watching online; however, the zone seemed to be their best defense on this trip. The man-to-man, as has been noted, couldn’t stop anybody. I’m hoping that the zone develops as that could really help some on the defensive boards this year.

  • HoosierFan76

    It was actually tied at 89 with 5 minutes left, then Ottawa ended the game on a bit of a run. I liked the things the guys said after the game about learning how to close out games and making sure that doesn’t happen again.

    This year’s team seems to have a completely opposite mindset from last year’s in terms of team bond and focused thinking as a team to accomplish things as a united front. They’ll likely drop some of their games just because other teams might have more experience/overall talent at all five positions, but at least they hopefully won’t lose a ton of games because they threw them away at the end.

  • Dan

    First time poster…I just ran into ESPN’s Jeff Goodman on my vacation and he stated that kasongo to IU was a done deal.

  • chiv86

    What we as a society have to realize is not to judge perception of the masses by twitter and social media. It’s an instant gratification or release of emotion. People don’t react well when something bad happens, but learn to put things into perspective after they get a chance to relax and think it through. I think social media ends up showing the worst quality of everyone.

    Anyway…as Hoosier Pride mentioned, a team that hits 18 threes has a high chance of winning. What this loss helps us realize, even if it wasn’t intended to, is that we need better perimeter defense and hopefully CTC can focus on that over the next few weeks to really hone it in before the start of the season.

  • ForeverIU

    Did he tell you how IU might sign up both Kasongo and Holt, despite us having one scholarship to offer for 2014?

  • Snookafly

    Individually we looked athletic, but nothing stood out in particular. We weren’t putting on block-parties the way we were early last year. We turned it over in transition because of the pace, but we also stripped the other team A LOT both in transition and to start the break. It’s all hard to pin down because of the style of play and the lack of a anchor under the basket. The younger guys lost there assignments a few times, but seemed to be learning. There were a few overhelp issues, but I think we should iron those out. So somewhere in the middle.

  • SCHoosier

    North Carolina got beat in an exhibition game! Fire Roy Williams ( or at least make him stay away from recruits on the IU board:)

  • marcusgresham

    That one’s understandable, though–those Carolina kids are probably spending too much time in class to practice.

  • NateMH

    That would be welcome news

  • hgdownunder

    I follow three boards, and I didn’t notice a great deal of anti-Crean reaction.

  • HoosierPat

    Perimeter should definitely be a strength for IU this season. They have quite the collection of shooters. But the frontcourt is what scares me. There is no proven big man and Hanner is going to have to step up. This will definitely be an interesting season for the Hoosiers.