Around the Hall: Updated top 25s, Blackmon’s return, more

  • 10/06/2016 10:33 am in

Around the Hall is recommended reading from the Inside the Hall staff.

Friend of the site (and ITH founding father) Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com updated his preseason top 25 and the Hoosiers check-in at No. 12:

12. Indiana Hoosiers
Bad news first: Colin Hartman, a key role-playing piece of Indiana’s recent run-and-gun revival, underwent knee surgery in late September after suffering an injury during a non-contact drill. His timetable for return is unknown. If that wasn’t bad enough, Tom Crean has also had to begin his team’s official practice regimen without junior college transfer forward Freddie McSwain and sophomore wing Juwan Morgan, both nursing injuries of their own. Good news: Guards Robert Johnson and James Blackmon were cleared to practice in September, and it is their talent — alongside sophomore center(piece) Thomas Bryant — that will ultimately mean the most for the Hoosiers in 2016-17.

Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com also updated his preseason top 25 with Indiana at No. 10:

The loss of Yogi Ferrell hurts, undeniably. But Tom Crean still has enough good veteran pieces — Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby, James Blackmon, etc. — to make a run at winning back-to-back Big Ten regular-season championships.

Yahoo! Sports lists Josh Newkirk as one of this season’s 16 impact transfers in college basketball:

15. Josh Newkirk, Indiana (from Pittsburgh)

Comment: Is Newkirk capable of replacing Yogi Ferrell as Indiana’s starting point guard? The Hoosiers certainly hope so considering he’s the only true point guard on their roster. The Pittsburgh transfer is a capable passer and defender, but he averaged just 5.9 points per game as a sophomore for the Panthers and he’s coming off microfracture surgery.

C.L. Brown of ESPN.com runs through a list of players who were injured last season that will make the strongest comebacks. The list includes James Blackmon Jr.:

Let’s be frank here, Indiana James Blackmon Jr. isn’t a welcomed addition because of his defense. But the 6-foot-4 junior guard who averaged 15.8 points while shooting 46 percent from 3-point range will bring much needed balance to the floor offensively. He has been cleared to play since rehabbing an ACL injury that limited him to 13 games last season. Teamed with center Thomas Bryant, he’ll give IU a powerful inside-outside combination.

Most interesting conference race this coming season? The Big Ten, Dana O’Neil of ESPN.com writes:

Tom Crean coached his way off the hot seat last season by leading Indiana to the Big Ten regular-season title, a 27-8 Sweet 16 finish and an especially sweet second-round win over Kentucky. Thomas Bryant, his talented big man, surprised many by opting to stay in school, so getting him back — along with a healthy James Blackmon Jr. and the crazily athletic OG Anunoby — makes for a promising Hoosier future. But IU just lost Collin Hartman to a knee injury. There’s no timetable for his return, and most importantly, Yogi Ferrell is gone. For four years, Ferrell was the team’s anchor, not to mention point guard. Now Crean will have to see if Pitt transfer Josh Newkirk is up to the task.

One of the 64 reasons to be excited about college basketball this season is the return of Blackmon Jr., according to Sports Illustrated:

55. James Blackmon is back

Blackmon only played in 13 games last season before he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee. But in those 13 games, he showed an improvement from his already excellent freshman season. He took more of the Hoosiers’ shots and possessions while improving his offensive rating and assist rate. Now that Indiana is without Troy Williams and Yogi Ferrell on the perimeter, Blackmon should have a green light to make plays and put up points. He’ll be helped by the continued growth of second-year big man Thomas Bryant and wing O.G. Anunoby.

NCAA.com has a comprehensive list of some of the notable “midnight madness” events around the country this season:

Teams around the country are gearing up for early action with invitational tournaments galore, but the harbinger of season’s tipoff is and always has been a school’s first open practice — colloquially known as Midnight Madness.

The name of the event may change a bit from campus to campus, but the message is the same: Basketball is back. More to the point, schools hosting the events look to generate some extra excitement ahead of the start to a long season.



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  • IUDan

    I feel as though RJ gets a little overlooked – I think he’s going to have a really good season!

  • TomJameson

    Dan, I think several players at IU tend to get overlooked, depending on who is doing the looking.

    RJ, Juwan Morgan, Devonte Green, even CuJo all seem to be flying under the radar. And, after hearing some good things from the off-season, I think Grant Gelon will surprise a few folks when he ends up contributing pretty decently in those times he gets a few minutes.

  • TomJameson

    Talking about Hoosier Hysteria … “More to the point, schools hosting the events look to generate some extra excitement ahead of the start to a long season.”

    I guess it doesn’t make any sense to televise this event. Not just all the interviews on the sidelines, I’m talking about televising the basketball parts. You know, like they do at UK EVERY YEAR!!!

  • Stromboli

    I agree that lots of names don’t make their way into these single paragraph statements about the team. I have to wonder what JBJ is thinking when OG is getting tons of credit, despite his pretty low production. RoJo is a forgotten man. Juwan was a major talent coming in, and very good contributor as a freshman. And holy crap am I excited to see these new guys!!! Go watch the highlight videos of CuJo again and try not to see him using the same silky moves in the Big Ten. I can’t wait.

  • IUDan

    Yeah totally agree with you – I keep the newcomers out as it’s tough to know what to expect (but agree early indications are good).

    I am also excited to see a healthy JM in year 2 … but of all the returners, I really think RJ is ready to have a big season … is it gameday yet?!?!

  • SCHoosier

    Re: OG..I think his potential is whatever one says it is. Amazing what just a few spectacular plays on national TV against a good opponent can do for one’s “rep.” I just hope OG plays like OG with an improved touch from the FT line so he can be in there at crunch time.

  • dwdkc

    Part of it is that RJ and JM have such steady games, and we feel like we know what to expect, so we tend not to talk about them as much. JBJ can be a truly elite offensive player (I expect he will be), and is coming back from missing most of the season, DD is 6’10” with some upside, and that is exciting, so we talk about it. But I agree that I think RJ and JM are going to show improvement from what were really good players to start with. RJ was showing it late last year in between injuries. I sure wish I could have seen the NoCar game with RJ on Paige.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Lyonel Anderson is one of the best Strength and Conditioning coach in the country. He will have a great upside affect this year with the IU basketball players.

  • Arch Puddington

    Harrumph. He is a nice athlete, but not a freak as he is often described, and a player who averaged 5 points/3 rebounds per game as a freshman. Clearly has the potential to become a major contributor, but the expectations for him have become awfully breathless. At least one projection had him going ahead of TB in the draft.

    If he improves his efficiency (i.e., productivity per minute), AND doubles his minutes from (from 14 to 28), that gets him in the 12/7 range. Add in elite defense and a knack for making timely, impactful plays, and you have an All-Conference player. Not saying more than that isn’t possible, but even that would be a big leap — and a great outcome! But given the more outlandish expectations, that might seem to some like a disappointment. I personally will be happy if he gets even close to that point.

  • pcantidote

    To me, the “freakish” part of OG’s game is his timing and instincts. I can’t recall someone else who had such a knack for getting into passing lanes and timing blocks.

  • Corey Dunigan

    Newkirk…. 16′ surprise of the year

    He is going to flourish under Indiana’s system.
    Pitts offense is so structured and slow it was simply not working out for Josh.

    It going to be a new world for him.

  • IUDan

    He’s another I’m really excited about watching – especially since he’s been in the system for a year, so it’s not all totally new. I really liked adding him last year and am excited to see him get after it.

  • Agreed, 100%. And where I think he’ll have the most impact is on defense. He was by far our most effective perimeter defender right before he got hurt (outside of when OG was defending someone), and he was doing a miraculous job of switching in the team defense concepts CTC implemented. I remain convinced that the UNC game would have been much more competitive if he’d been able to play–those initial three 3s hit by that UNC player who didn’t shoot well from the outside wouldn’t have happened, and we wouldn’t have needed to shift our defense and give up the inside. I think about that and sigh every time.

  • By the way, if JBJ doesn’t play decent to good defense this year, I’ll eat my hat. On video. Posted to YouTube.

  • Here’s the thing… I remember watching games start out slow, particularly on the defensive side, and thinking to myself, “It’s okay, OG isn’t in yet.” Then, OG would get on the floor, and the complexion of the game would change, especially (natch) on defense. OG didn’t have the stats, but he impacted the game every second he was on the court by simply disrupting the opponent by his presence. Hyperbole? Maybe, but I don’t think so. And I won’t forget the (Iowa? Can’t remember) player who literally stepped out of the way as OG went in for a dunk.

    Clearly, I’m excited about OG’s capabilities. I think he’s going to be a very special player.

  • Seriously, he was so incredibly disruptive last year (see my comment immediately above). And he was so deceptive–he’d look like he was moving slowly, but then he’d just be in exactly the right place at the right time. I’m excited about a lot of players this year, including JR and TB, but I might very well be most excited about OG. And he’s freaking hilarious to boot.

  • The two 3pt blocks against KY were what really sealed things nationally, I think. Against a player of that caliber, blocking shots twice like that on the perimeter in one game without fouling is pretty spectacular.

  • BL4IU

    I agree with: If he improves his efficiency (i.e., productivity per minute), AND doubles his minutes from (from 14 to 28), that gets him in the 12/7 range. Add in elite defense and a knack for making timely, impactful plays, and you have an All-Conference player. Calling him a “nice” athlete, not so much. At 6’8, 240 with serious hops, strength and lateral quickness, I would definitely call him a big-time athlete. Frankly, when you consider the entire package, not certain we’ve had a better athlete wearing candy stripes since Big Mac.

  • Berned Out

    Happy hat-eating. You’ve given me more to look forward to in case of a bad season.

  • Berned Out

    My outlook is simple. We have incredible players, if they are healthy, and thus a great team, if the team is healthy. What is there to pontificate about? Nothing.

    Now that our football team beat MSU, I hope CTC is not thinking of jumping ship to coach football (if our basketball team becomes one big hospital ward). LOL.

  • Bill Graham

    I completely agree. RJ is a solid all around player. I do feel that in terms of polished offensive talent, James is a cut above anybody we have. O.G. has the whole raw athleticism thing. TB has the nice post moves (and is excellent at establishing position. But offensively James is a cut above those guys. Explosive athleticism (at least before the injury) excellent ball handler, phenomenal shooter and slasher with a quick release, and a good ball distributor when he wants to be. James can do things on the floor that no one else on our team can do.

  • Bill Graham

    Its funny I watched a clip of a PSU transfer (just to see who they had coming in). In the clip it showed their “strength” program. And the recruit talked about how much stronger he was getting……but every clip they showed was of the team doing Yoga….

    Haha so Penn State is doing Yoga while our guys are in 100 degree heat with oxygen masks in a sandpit…..

  • Chi-Town Hoosier

    So you assume he will be bad defensively? Gotta love the optimism!

  • Arch Puddington

    I agree — “nice athlete” is too mild. I am more impressed with his savvy than his explosiveness, but as you say, he has some notable physical tools as well. His balance and footwork are great, especially when combined with great natural timing, and he is pretty physically imposing. I don’t see him as freakish in the way that, say, Vic was, but then we’ve heard that he has asked to guard PG’s this year. That is freakish in its own way.

  • Berned Out

    Yes I do, and anything else will be a pleasant surprise. Aggressive defense I assume will aggravate his injury. It’s hard to imagine that with his history of injury (three surgeries) that he will be able to play aggressive defense on top of what we expect of him offensively. I hope CTC will not have him slashing too much. But really if you reread my comment above you will see that I said “in case of a bad season”. If we have a bad season, it will be in part due to JBJ’s absence on defense, or from the game entirely (Heaven forbid!).

  • Bill Graham

    At the same time with an all around older and improved D shouldn’t that grant him a bit of leniency defensively. I mean when it was him and Nick out there thats not the best defensive backcourt but it sounds like to me like literally every kid we have can play D. Lets just let our very own James Harden be James Harden.

  • Vernon Aldrich

    Totally agree. I “felt” the same entire complexion change whenever OG entered – and left – games starting after his initial moments in the very first entry…love what this kid brings.

  • BL4IU

    Yeah, tough comparing guards and forwards. Really athletic guards will always have that quickness advantage but OG has 4 inches and 30+ pounds on VO. Probably better comparing OG to small forwards like TW who MAY be a better jumper off one foot but otherwise I give the nod to OG; more explosive off two feet, stronger, better lateral quickness. Love to see those two in a sprint; at first was thinking TW but frankly, I’m not so sure. Icing on the cake, OG has that ridiculous wingspan.

  • Chi-Town Hoosier

    Yeah it will be interesting to see how his lateral quickness is. I am at least giving him the benefit of the doubt of having a better defense around him and improving in positioning and awareness. There may be some growing pains of course as he catches up to the speed of the game again.

  • Arch Puddington

    For sure. As I noted in my original post about him, elite defense and a knack for making impactful plays are his calling cards. He is still developing offensively, but even there he has lots of potential. My comments weren’t meant to suggest I am anything other than thrilled with him, or that I think he won’t get much better. But projecting a guy to go from 5/3 one year to All-America and lottery pick the next, which some have done, is more expectation than I think is reasonable. If it happens, great, but he could make a huge leap in productivity this year and still not get that far. Like I said, 12 and 7 in addition to the defense and big plays would be plenty great for me.

  • Sure, I gotcha, and you make good sense. I think what struck me in your comment was “Harrumph. He is a nice athlete, but not a freak as he is often described…” When in fact, he’s a super-freak. Super-freak. He’s super-freaky.

    Yow.

  • Arch Puddington
  • Perfection.

  • Kwang

    People seem to forget what a good rebounder JBJ was/is.

  • Kwang

    I miss channel four’s coverage.