POTB 159: Reader questions and expectations moving forward

Podcast on the Brink is back for a new episode with host Jerod Morris of The Assembly Call. The show is now available weekly during the season.

In this edition of the show, Morris and Inside the Hall editor Alex Bozich are joined by Josh Margolis of Inside the Hall and the Assembly Hall to discuss a variety of topics. Among them:

· What’s behind the struggles of Thomas Bryant
· The playing time of De’Ron Davis and whether he should take some of Bryant’s minutes
· Indiana’s starting lineup moving forward
· The role of Josh Newkirk
· Will minutes increase for Curtis Jones?
· Juwan Morgan’s play early in the second half against Rutgers
· The craziness of the Big Ten standings
· Expectations the rest of the way for Indiana

And plenty more. As always, feel free to drop the show a note at jerod@assemblycall.com.

Listen in the audio player below, download the episode, subscribe via iTunes or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Big Ten Power Rankings: January 16

The Inside the Hall Big Ten Power Rankings are back following the third week of conference play, and parity continues to reign. Ten teams in the conference have either two or three losses, and only Rutgers remains winless. 

Here’s a look at where each team stands:

14. Rutgers (11-8, 0-6; 0.81 points per possession, 1.04 points per possession allowed; KenPom – 137, Sagarin – 132, RPI – 148) (Last Week: 14)

The Scarlet Knights are in their third season in the Big Ten and have yet to win a conference road game (0-22).

13. Illinois (12-6, 2-3; 1.06 PPP, 1.14 PPP allowed; KenPom – 65, Sagarin – 67, RPI – 44) (Last Week: 12)

After averaging 1.42 PPP in a 16-point win over Michigan early in the week, the Illini saw a double-digit lead over the Terrapins evaporate Saturday. While Maryland penetrated the Illinois defense, the Illini settled for jump shots. When those shots stopped falling in the second half, the lack of quality looks caught up with Illinois.

12. Ohio State (11-7, 1-4; 1.01 PPP, 1.11 PPP allowed; KenPom – 57, Sagarin – 55, RPI – 82) (Last Week: 13)

What got the Buckeyes out of the funk that they had been suffering through for weeks? It might have been that after a 23-point blowout loss in Madison on Thursday. The young Buckeyes’ finally got the message Thad Matta had been trying to send them for weeks. Or maybe it was the fact Matta wore a tie on the bench for the first time in years on Sunday. It probably wasn’t the tie, but Matta would be wise to stick with it again when his Buckeyes head to Lincoln Wednesday.

11. Michigan (12-6, 2-3; 1.18 PPP, 1.23 PPP allowed; KenPom – 47, Sagarin – 47, RPI – 77) (Last Week: 9)

The Wolverines are a team of wild extremes – with both the best offense and worst defense in the conference. Beilein’s team may have avoided an 0-2 week by holding off the Cornhuskers in Ann Arbor, but serious questions about Michigan continue to linger.

10. Nebraska (9-8, 3-2; 1.11 PPP, 1.12 PPP allowed; KenPom – 84, Sagarin – 85, RPI – 46) (Last Week: 8)

The Cornhuskers fell to 0-7 all-time against Michigan despite a career-high 28 points from Tai Webster. Even though Nebraska shot 56 percent from the floor, the Cornhuskers couldn’t overcome the liability that is their defense, allowing Michigan to score 51 second half points.

9. Iowa (11-8, 3-3; 1.01 PPP, 1.11 PPP allowed; KenPom – 86, Sagarin – 76, RPI – 117) (Last Week: 11)

As Peter Jok goes, so do the Hawkeyes. Just three days after eeking out a win over Purdue on Thursday behind 29 points from Jok, the Hawkeyes laid an egg in Evanston, allowing the Wildcats to average 1.33 PPP in a 35-point loss. One major difference (besides the defense) – Northwestern held Jok in check the entire game. The senior scored a season-low four points on 2-of-9 shooting, and as a result, Iowa could never find any rhythm offensively.

8. Indiana (12-6, 2-3; 1.16 PPP, 1.10 PPP allowed; KenPom – 26, Sagarin – 23, RPI – 87) (Last Week: 6)

Not much has changed in the past week regarding the Hoosiers’ predicament in the conference race. After failing to capitalize on a late lead in College Park, the path to another regular season crown remains narrow. With eight road games still remaining, Indiana is going to have to find ways to win outside of Assembly Hall if they want to get above .500 in Big Ten play.

7. Penn State (11-7, 3-2; 0.93 PPP, 0.90 PPP allowed; KenPom – 82, Sagarin – 77, RPI – 65) (Last Week: 10)

Although the offense is far from a thing of beauty, Penn State’s stellar defense has consistently put them in a position to win games late. This was the case on Saturday, when neither Penn State or Minnesota managed to shoot over 40 percent from the field, combining for 38 turnovers in a 52-50 nailbiting victory for the Nittany Lions.

6. Minnesota (15-4, 3-3; 0.95 PPP, 0.95 PPP allowed; KenPom – 38, Sagarin – 27, RPI – 14) (Last Week: 3)

The Gophers suffered their first pair consecutive defeats of the season this past week, falling to both Michigan State and Penn State on the road. Although the defense has remained stout, the offense has suddenly plummeted back to earth. Minnesota ended both losses with a 0.72 PPP, a far cry from the 1.05 PPP they were averaging a week ago.

5. Michigan State (12-7, 4-2; 1.02 PPP, 0.91 PPP allowed; KenPom – 44, Sagarin – 39, RPI – 37) (Last Week: 4)

Miles Bridges is back to full health and playing phenomenal basketball, but the Spartans are still going through the same growing pains they experienced early in the season. The next two games for Michigan State (at Indiana, vs. Purdue) should go a long way in figuring out where the Spartans stand in the Big Ten picture.

4. Northwestern (15-4, 4-2; 1.10 PPP, 0.98 PPP allowed) (KenPom – 33, Sagarin – 33, RPI – 38) (Last Week: 5)

The Wildcats have been one of the most consistent teams in the Big Ten this season, and people are starting to take notice. Before yesterday, Northwestern hadn’t started a conference season 4-2 or better since 1967-68. On Sunday, Northwestern poured it on the Hawkeyes, scoring 89 points in their largest victory over Iowa in program history.

3. Maryland (16-2, 4-1; 1.08 PPP, 0.96 PPP allowed; KenPom – 46, Sagarin – 42, RPI – 22) (Last Week: 7)

The Terrapins survived a challenge from Indiana and are a legit contender in the race for the Big Ten title. That’s in large part because they were blessed by the schedule makers – with just one game each against Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern, Michigan State, Penn State and Indiana.

2. Purdue (14-4, 3-2; 1.07 PPP, 1.02 PPP allowed; KenPom – 18, Sagarin – 13, RPI – 39) (Last Week: 1)

Purdue allowed the Hawkeyes to shoot 67 percent in the second half, while at the other end, the Boilermakers failed to score in the last 2:47 of the game. The road loss doesn’t detract much from the Boilers’ resume, but it means they no longer control their own destiny when it comes to the Big Ten title picture.

1. Wisconsin (14-3, 3-1; 1.14 PPP, 0.98 PPP allowed; KenPom – 9, Sagarin – 10, RPI– 36) (Last Week: 2)

The Badgers handled their business this week, trouncing Ohio State in their lone game. The next true test for Wisconsin will come Saturday when they head to Minnesota to face an improved Gophers team in a rivalry game.

(Photo credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images North America)

Notebook: Defense sparks win over Rutgers

IU’s performance wasn’t anything stellar on Sunday afternoon, but it was a move in the right direction. The Hoosiers’ defense was good enough to outbalance their below average offensive play to surpass Rutgers, 76-57.

After another slow start from IU (12-6, 2-3), Rutgers (11-8, 0-6) got off to an early nine-point lead. But IU fought back, responding to coach Crean’s demand for better defense. The Hoosiers forced 21 turnovers that led to 33 points and an anticipated, but much needed victory.

IU shot 4-of-22 for just 18.2 percent from behind the arc. Blackmon, a normal long-range contributor, was 0-of-8 from deep. IU found success in other ways through transition. The Hoosiers had 21 fast break points.

“That’s really what we focused on because that’s when we’re at our best,” James Blackmon Jr. said. “When we get stops and we’re able to run out because we have so many athletes on this team. That was our main focus and I thought we did that tonight.”

Leading scorers for IU were Blackmon with 16 points, OG Anunoby with 11 and Robert Johnson with 10. Off the bench, Anunoby finished with a game-high seven steals and a trio of breakaway dunks.

Curtis Jones, Devonte Green and De’Ron Davis also came in off the bench, adding the spark and energy IU needed to get back into its momentum.

“The hardest thing for any young player to really grasp is how important every possession is,” Crean said. “It takes time for that to be understood but I thought all three of those guys gave us a really good lift inside the game.”

Rutgers didn’t have much going for it offensively, which gave the Hoosiers the cushion it needed. The Scarlet Knights finished the game hitting just 46.2 percent from the free throw line and IU benefitted heavily from their 14 missed attempts.

Flashes of solid defense were refreshing to see, but it wasn’t that way the whole game. Even Anunoby was caught standing out of position. The Hoosiers were also outrebounded for the first time this season 38-29. One good thing to come from the victory was that IU only committed four first half turnovers.

The Hoosiers didn’t necessarily show a sense of urgency for a team looking to get back to .500 in conference play, but they eased back into things with a steady performance.

“Rutgers shot a better percentage at times today but we played a consistent game,” Crean said. “Not a great game, not a perfect game by any stretch. But a consistent game of being active defensively and not having too many game-plan errors.”

Moving forward, IU goes to Penn State on Wednesday night as the Hoosiers look to try and get their first road win this season in Big Ten play.

“The next game is the next challenge and that happens to be on the road,” Crean said. “We’ve been right there and we just need to get ourselves in position to learn how to win and make more winning basketball plays.”

Five takeaways from Indiana’s win over Rutgers

Indiana improved to 12-6 overall and 2-3 in Big Ten play on Sunday afternoon with a 76-57 win over Rutgers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the win over the Scarlet Knights:

· Green provides first half spark: Freshman Devonte Green didn’t play at all in losses to Louisville and Wisconsin, but has shown signs lately that he may be deserving of more minutes.

The latest example was Sunday’s first half, when Green played 10 minutes and scored four points, dished out two assists and had a steal. The Hoosiers were having a tough time containing Corey Sanders early on, but Green came in and slowed down the sophomore point guard.

The Long Island native only logged five minutes in the second half and angered Tom Crean in the game’s closing seconds when he tried to throw an alley oop to Freddie McSwain. His strong first half, however, is something Indiana may be able to build upon.

“Like we talked about yesterday,” Crean said. “Impact the game with your energy, impact the game with being in the right spot, move the ball. And just come in and literally play hard.”

· Indiana’s defense locks up Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights entered Sunday’s game with the Big Ten’s worst offense (0.82 points per possession).

Indiana held Rutgers below that average, surrendering just .77 points per trip. It was progress defensively for a group that hadn’t held a high major opponent under a point per possession since late November.

The Hoosiers forced a season-high 21 turnovers and scored 33 points off of those Rutgers miscues.

· An active Anunoby: OG Anunoby struggled in Tuesday’s 75-72 loss at Maryland, but the sophomore forward quickly put that subpar performance behind him.

Anunoby had seven of Indiana’s season-high 14 steals in the win and also added 11 points, three rebounds, two assists and a block. He also had no turnovers in 25 minutes.

“We tried to jump the gaps and be aggressive with our hands,” Anunoby said postgame.

If Indiana is going to turn things around and win games with any consistency, it needs more of the Anunoby that showed up Sunday on Branch McCracken Court.

· Indiana overcomes a poor shooting performance by taking care of the ball: Indiana, which is typically reliant on strong perimeter shooting to win, hit just 4-of-22 of its 3s against Rutgers and still won by 19.

How? It took care of the ball. Indiana had a season-low turnover percentage of 14.5 and finished well in the paint. Indiana was 25-of-40 on 2s for 62.5 percent. That’s the third time in five Big Ten games that the Hoosiers have shot better than 60 percent on 2s.

“That’s what we work at every day, making simple plays,” James Blackmon Jr. said. “And that’s when simple plays turn into big plays for us.”

Also of note: Indiana won comfortably despite rebounding only 17.6 percent of its missed shots, which was a season low.

· Bryant’s struggles at the rim continue: It’s been a season of regression for Thomas Bryant in terms of finishing plays at the rim.

Sunday was no different. Bryant was 3-of-7 on 2s, bringing his season average to 54.1 percent inside the arc. Last season, Bryant shot 70.7 percent on 2s, which ranked fourth nationally. He’s also regressed in conference games as he shot 67.9 percent on 2s in league play as a freshman and is 53.1 percent so far this season.

Combine Bryant’s struggles with the inconsistencies of Anunoby and it’s not hard to see why the Hoosiers have been so up and down through 18 games.

The Minute After: Rutgers

Thoughts on a 76-57 win over Rutgers:

Indiana’s defense has been a large factor in it failing to live up to expectations so far this Big Ten season. But in its win this afternoon against Rutgers, it was a strength.

Did Indiana start poorly on the defensive end? Yes. It helped Rutgers bust out to a nine-point lead at the 14:26 mark (15-6). But once the Hoosiers settled in — and particularly when they started turning Rutgers over — the lead for the Scarlet Knights was erased, never to return. Indiana played the passing lanes well and racked up a season-high 14 steals leading to a number of easy looks on the fast break. OG Anunoby had seven of those 14, the most from an Indiana players since Michael Lewis in 1999.

At half, Indiana had outscored Rutgers 17-3 in the points off turnovers department. By game’s end, that ballooned to 33-10, as Indiana continued to steal the ball, even when Rutgers wised up and tried going back door on IU. The Scarlet Knights turned the ball over on 28.2 percent of their possessions, the worst turnover percentage for an Indiana opponent this season. Conversely, the Hoosiers turned it over on just 14.8 of their possessions — a season-best. Rutgers also shot just 12-of-26 from the line.

Juwan Morgan played a particularly inspired stretch of rim-protecting defense to start the second half before going out with an apparent foot injury at the 14:50 mark. Add it all up and Rutgers scored just .77 points per possession, below their season average of .82.

Indiana’s defense helped make up for a game in which its offense floundered at times. The Hoosiers shot just 4-of-22 from distance. James Blackmon Jr. missed all eight of his 3-point attempts. Curtis Jones (2-of-2) and Robert Johnson (2-of-5) were the only two Hoosiers to connect from beyond the arc this afternoon. Indiana’s offensive rebounding, about the only consistent strength of this team game in and game out, wasn’t there today. The Hoosiers rebounded just 17.6 percent of their misses against Rutgers, a season low, which meant just four second-chance points.

Devonte Green’s 15 minutes were the most he’s played in a Big Ten game so far this season, and some were wondering why he didn’t get more run in the second half after some good minutes in the first. Tom Crean appears to be cultivating a growing trust for his freshman — who just might be the most skilled pure passer on the roster — but the end of the game may have evaporated some of that good will. Green tossed up an alley-oop to Freddie McSwain on the last possession of the game, a pass which McSwain mishandled as time expired. Crean stormed out onto the court and screamed at Green after going for the highlight reel play with the game already in hand.

Beyond his seven steals, Anunoby played a nice balanced game, adding 11 points (4-of-8) and three rebounds. Josh McRoberts hit two mid-range jumpers with no hesitation on his way to a four-point outing. Thomas Bryant was just 3-of-9 from the floor and continues to struggle 1-on-1 in the post.

The Hoosiers now head on the road for three of their next four games, and depending on how things shake out, it could be a season-defining stretch.

Photo Gallery: Indiana vs. Rutgers

Check out 41 photos by Jamie Owens from Indiana’s 76-57 win over over Rutgers at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Purchase prints from J. Scott Photography.

Video: Tom Crean reacts to win over Rutgers

Tom Crean met with the media following Indiana’s 76-57 win over Rutgers on Sunday afternoon at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Watch his postgame comments below:

Video: Steve Pikiell reacts to loss at Indiana

Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell met with the media following his team’s 76-57 loss to Indiana on Sunday afternoon at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Watch the full press conference below:

Video: IU players react to win over Rutgers

OG Anunoby and James Blackmon Jr. met with the media following Indiana’s 76-57 win over Rutgers on Sunday afternoon at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Watch their postgame comments below:

At the Buzzer: Indiana 76, Rutgers 57

Quick thoughts on a 76-57 win over the Scarlet Knights:

How it happened: Save for a suspect start from Indiana, Sunday’s matinee at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall went just about as expected. After Rutgers raced to a 15-6 lead with 14:26 to play in the first half, Indiana outscored the Scarlet Knights 35-17 the rest of the half to claim a nine-point halftime lead. From there, the Hoosiers were good enough defensively to overcome a poor 3-point shooting game and a below average offensive output to win comfortably. It was a much needed victory for Indiana, which moved to 12-6 overall and 2-3 in Big Ten play. With three of its next four games on the road, the Hoosiers have to hope they’ll be able to use this win as a springboard into a critical stretch of the conference schedule.

Standout performance: Sophomore OG Anunoby came off the bench to score 11 points (4-of-8 shooting). But that wasn’t the most impressive part of his stat line. The 6-foot-8 forward had seven steals to go along with three rebounds and two assists. It was the most steals in a game by an IU player since Michael Lewis had eight in 1999.

Statistic that stands out: For the first time in Big Ten play, Indiana held an opponent under one point per possession. Rutgers scored just .77 points per possession in the loss. The Scarlet Knight came in averaging .82 points per trip in conference games.

Final IU individual stats:

Final tempo-free stats: