2013-2014 ITH season preview: Wisconsin Badgers

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Wisconsin Badgers.

The brand of basketball in Madison may not always be easy on the eyes, but the results cannot be called into question. Over 12 seasons at Wisconsin, Bo Ryan has two Big Ten championships and the Badgers have never finished outside of the top four in the conference standings. That’s consistency.

Of course, that begs the question: Is this finally the year Wisconsin falls into the middle of the pack in the league? A quick survey of preseason prognostications says no. That optimism is centered largely around the upside of Sam Dekker, pictured above, and a solid nucleus of returning players in the backcourt.

Dekker, one of four true freshman to start under Ryan, appears poised for a huge year. Ryan Evans is no longer going to take minutes from Dekker and his elite athleticism, motor and ability to shoot from the perimeter make him one of the more exciting players to watch in the league. As a freshman, he shot nearly 40 percent on 3-pointers and posted an offensive rating of 116.7, the highest mark among regulars in Wisconsin’s rotation.

Also returning are Ben Brust and Josh Gasser, who missed last season with a torn ACL. Brust made a team-high 79 three-pointers last season, but rarely gets to the foul line. Gasser could start in the backcourt with Brust and Traevon Jackson as long as health isn’t an issue. Gasser played in Wisconsin’s trip to Canada, but will need some time to knock off the rust after missing an entire season. In his last full season, Gasser shot over 45 percent from distance, so he and Brust have the potential to form a potent perimeter combination for Ryan. George Marshall also figures to get a shot at backup minutes, assuming he can hold off freshman Bronson Koenig.

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Troy Williams out with right hand injury

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6-foot-7 freshman forward Troy Williams is out for “the next few weeks” after suffering a right hand injury during a workout, Indiana’s announced late Monday afternoon.

No other details were disclosed, though Indiana coach Tom Crean called the injury “a setback.”

Below is the entire release, via IU media relations:

Freshman Troy Williams (Hampton, Va./Oak Hill Academy), a 6-7 forward, will miss the next few weeks after suffering an injury to his right hand during a workout.

“Troy has been rising in all areas of his game,” said IU Coach Tom Crean. “While this is a setback, it is a minor one in the scheme of things.”

Williams came to IU after playing for head coach Steve Smith at Oak Hill Academy. He was ranked No. 47 by Rivals.com and No. 10 at his position, ranked No. 67 overall by Scout.com and No. 17 at small forward, and ranked No. 57 in the ESPN100 rankings. He scored 21 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists in just 18 minutes at the Derby Festival Basketball Classic, where he was named MVP. He was named Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Virginia and led Oak Hill Academy to a regular season record of 34-5 and an appearance in the National High School Invitational. He averaged 16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.0 blocks during the regular season, compiling nine double-doubles and played in the Jordan Brand Classic.

(Photo credit: Mike Dickbernd/IU Athletics)

2013-2014 ITH season preview: Michigan Wolverines

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Michigan Wolverines.

After a improbable run to the national championship game that ended in defeat to Louisville, Michigan is once again back on the national scene despite losing national player of the year Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA.

That’s largely because of the two guys pictured above, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. Both turned down spots in the first round of June’s NBA Draft in favor of returning to Ann Arbor. Whether returning to school was the right decision was the right call for either guy with a monster 2014 draft looming is a debate for another day. The story for now is that Michigan has one of the best young duos in college basketball.

McGary’s monster NCAA tournament has landed him on plenty of preseason All-American lists despite an otherwise underwhelming freshman campaign. Over the season’s final six games, McGary averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, and his presence transformed Michigan from a trendy upset pick to a national runner-up. Robinson, meanwhile, was one of the nation’s most efficient offensive players as a freshman. His offensive rating ranked 10th nationally and he shot 65.2 percent on 2-point field goals. Robinson has work to do in terms of making his game more consistent from the perimeter, but there’s no questioning his elite athleticism.

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Robert Johnson: Indiana is the “best fit for me”

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A bit before 3:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, Robert Johnson made the call from his school’s parking lot.

The class of 2014 Benedictine (Va.) School guard was on the phone trying to get in touch with Indiana coach Tom Crean to give his commitment to the Hoosiers. He didn’t answer, but Johnson was ready.

He walked into his school’s library and sat at a table draped in a green cloth, making his college choice public by choosing the Hoosiers over North Carolina, Virginia and Florida State.

“I want to thank all the schools that recruited me and offered me a scholarship,” Johnson said, reaching for a crimson hat below the table. “In the fall of 2014, I’m gonna be attending…” He then put on the IU basketball cap, making his commitment public.

“I just tried to talk to coach Crean but he was doing what he does best —  he was in the gym working on his players —  so I wasn’t able to get in contact with him,” Johnson added. “I’ll probably give him a call him right after this.”

By choosing Indiana, Johnson became the lone member of the Hoosiers’ 2014 class. He’s ranked as the No. 79 prospect and No. 23 shooting guard according to the 247 Composite. And he brings three immediate benefits to Bloomington, his AAU coach Boo Williams said.

“It’s a huge pickup because he solves three problems,” Williams said. “One, he can play point guard; two, he can play shooting guard; and three, he’s a shooter.

“They’re getting a hell of a player. He’s a great kid.”

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Class of 2014 guard Robert Johnson chooses Indiana

2013 NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp

Class of 2014 guard Robert Johnson is off the board.

The 6-foot-3 combo guard from Benedictine College Preparatory in Richmond, Virginia, announced that he’ll attend Indiana in a ceremony this afternoon in his school’s library.

Johnson, the No. 79 recruit nationally in the 247Composite rankings, also considered Florida State, North Carolina and Virginia.

Inside the Hall will have more on this developing story, including reaction from Johnson, his father and his high school coach.

(Photo credit: Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

2013-2014 ITH season preview: Ohio State Buckeyes

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With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

They were so close.

On March 30 in the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament, No. 2 seed Ohio State had come back on No. 9 seed Wichita State in the West Regional final. Down 13 points at halftime, the pre-game favorites had cut the deficit to three with 2:49 to go in the game. 27 seconds later, Wichita State’s Tekele Cotton would drain a 3-pointer to make the score 65-59. The Buckeyes would never get that close again, that day.

Ohio State’s NCAA tournament run ended in heartbreak at Staples Center, but coming into 2013-2014, there’s plenty of reason for optimism that a return trip deep into March could happen.

Yes, the Buckeyes lost their leading scorer and rebounder, Deshaun Thomas, to the professional ranks. But with the pieces head coach Thad Matta has returning and the young talent he has brought in, it’s already been enough for his crew to earn multiple top 15 preseason rankings.

There’s senior guard Aaron Craft, who’s the prototypical team leader and a returning all-Big Ten media first team member and consensus all-Defensive team member. Shannon Scott, a returning junior guard, was an all-Big Ten defensive team pick in 2012-2013 as well.

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Five-star guard Isaiah Whitehead picks Seton Hall

After announcing a list of five schools earlier in the week, class of 2014 Lincoln (N.Y.) guard Isaiah Whitehead ended the recruiting process in a press conference on Thursday afternoon at his high school.

The five-star guard announced that he’ll play for Seton Hall next season. Additionally, The New York Post is reporting that Seton Hall will hire Whitehead’s high school coach, Tiny Morton, next season.

“I would like to announce that I’ll be taking my talents to Seton Hall University,” Whitehead said at his press conference.

Whitehead, the No. 17 player in the 247Composite, also considered Indiana, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and St. John’s.

The 6-foot-4 guard took an unofficial visit to Bloomington in late August.

Indiana remains involved with several other backcourt options in the class of 2014, most notably James Blackmon Jr., Lourawls Nairn and Robert Johnson, who will announce his decision on Friday.

Nairn is scheduled to take an official visit to Bloomington this weekend and Blackmon Jr. has discussed using making of his five official visits to Indiana.

Australian star Dante Exum also has Indiana in his list of five finalists.

(Photo credit: Kelly Kline/Under Armour)