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Video: James Blackmon Jr. vs. East Chicago Central

This video originally appeared on the Inside the Hall premium forum:

2014 IU commit James Blackmon Jr. scored 42 points and grabbed 10 rebounds on Saturday night as Ft. Wayne Luers beat East Chicago Central 79-76 at Indianapolis Tech.

Inside the Hall was in attendance and we’ve compiled over three minutes of video of Blackmon in the embedded media player below:

Highlights of Hyron Edwards (2015) and Vijay Blackmon (2016) as well as video interviews with both Blackmon’s are available in the forum.

What to Expect: Illinois

020513ehIndiana tips off a two-game roadtrip tomorrow evening when the Hoosiers travel to Assembly Hall for the first time since March of 2011 to take on Illinois. The Fighting Illini, once ranked No. 10 in the country, are just 2-7 in the Big Ten and have dropped three in a row.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN at 7:00 p.m. with Joe Tessitore and Sean Farnham on the call.

An Illinois season that once had great promise and the virtual certainty of a NCAA Tournament bid is quickly deteriorating to the point that non-conference wins at Gonzaga and over Butler on a neutral floor in Maui might not be enough to keep the Fighting Illini from missing out come Selection Sunday.

First-year coach John Groce, who came to Champaign after leading Ohio University to the Sweet 16 last spring, quickly won over Illinois fans with an 12-0 mark out of the gate. But the bottom has fallen out since that surprising start and the Illini have dropped four in a row at home and 8 of 11 overall. The slate doesn’t get any easier this week either as No. 1 Indiana comes to town followed by a road trip to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota.

PERSONNEL

The majority of the scoring for the Illini comes out of the backcourt and it starts with senior guard Brandon Paul, who averages 17.4 points and uses 29.8 percent of his team’s possessions. More than half of Paul’s field goal attempts have come from beyond the 3-point arc, but he’s also a threat to get to the foul line with a team-high free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 49.8. While he’s hitting just 33 percent of his attempts from distance, he’s certainly capable of carrying Illinois with a hot shooting night.

Starting alongside Paul are sophomore Tracy Abrams and senior D.J. Richardson. Abrams is a below average shooter from the perimeter (28 percent on threes), and while he’s got a team-high 76 assists, his 66 turnovers are not the sign of a sound decision maker from the point guard position.

Richardson is unleashing even more 3-point attempts than Paul and connecting at a similar frequency (32.5 percent). As a team, 40.5 percent of the Illini’s field goal attempts come from behind the 3-point line, effectively making this group one that relies heavily on making threes to win games.

Sophomore Joseph Bertrand also plays significant minutes on the wing and is the team’s most effective defensive rebounder who can also finish around the basket. Bertrand is making 60.2 percent of his twos and is also shooting a team-best 35.7 percent on threes.

One glance at the Illinois frontcourt rotation paints a pretty clear picture on why this team is so reliant on the perimeter to win games. Sophomore Nnanna Egwu is the closest thing to a legitimate post presence on the roster, but is finishing just 44.7 percent of his twos despite standing 6-foot-11. Senior Tyler Griffey is taking more than half of his field goal attempts from beyond the 3-point line and Sam McLaurin, another senior, is a decent offensive rebounder who doesn’t provide much else.

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Podcast on the Brink: Back to No. 1

IUUMITH0016The Hoosiers are who we thought they were — the No. 1 team in the country.

Podcast on the Brink hosts Matt Dollinger and Justin Albers return this week to break down IU’s big win over Michigan and discuss what the team needs to do to stay on top the rest of the season.

In addition, Baltimore Sun writer and former Herald-Times sports editor Chris Korman joins the program to discuss the evolution of Tom Crean and the IU program since he covered them in Bloomington.

Finally, Alex Bozich of Inside The Hall comes on the podcast to answer some of your IU-related questions posted on the ITH premium forum.

Among the topics discussed this week:

· How Indiana took down ex-No.1 Michigan
· Victor Oladipo’s pair of superhuman dunks
· Crean’s IU tenure and his ability as a coach
· Types of teams that could give Indiana trouble
· Importance of depth on a team chasing a title

So tune in and enjoy. As always, feel free to drop us a note at podcastonthebrink@gmail.com.

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

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March Watch: Hoosiers back on the top line

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We’re now just 40 days away from Selection Sunday and the Hoosiers are sitting atop the Big Ten standings with nine conference games remaining. With that in mind, it’s time for another edition of March Watch, a look at where Indiana stands in terms of the NCAA Tournament.

Overview

Since our last update, Indiana has been on the rise, compiling a 4-0 record with wins over Penn State, Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan. As a result, the Hoosiers currently sit at No. 2 on ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s s-curve, trailing only Florida.

Nitty Gritty Profile

· Record: 20-2 (8-1 Big Ten)
· RPI: 11
· SOS: 24
· Home Record: 14-1
· Away Record: 4-0
· Neutral Court Record: 2-1
· vs. RPI Top 50: 5-2
· vs. RPI Top 51-100: 3-0

Despite meetings with Michigan and Michigan State, IU’s strength of schedule actually fell three spots since our last update. The reason: Two of their games came against Purdue (RPI: 136) and Penn State (RPI: 180). The overall RPI number for Indiana is still lower than what you might expect because 12 of IU’s 20 wins are over teams outside of the RPI top 100.

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Draft watch: Oladipo continues rise toward lottery

IUNDSITH0012It’s been a month since our last examination of the NBA Draft outlook for this year’s Indiana team and the key takeaway from the last month is the steady rise of junior Victor Oladipo toward the lottery. Let’s get to it:

Cody Zeller
ESPN: (7) Draft Express: (4) NBADraft.net: (3)

· Analysis: Zeller’s stock has remained as a high lottery pick, but the talk of him going No. 1 overall has cooled considerably since the initial 2013 mock drafts were revealed. But when you take a closer look, it’s hard to pinpoint a legitimate reason for much, if any, change in his stock. In one of the nation’s most balanced and efficient offenses, Zeller is the key cog. His recent play has him right back in the thick of things in the national player of the year and Big Ten player of the year discussion. He won co-Big Ten player of the week honors after Indiana beat Purdue and Michigan last week and through nine conference games, Zeller is averaging 16.1 points and 8.8 rebounds. Perhaps NBA scouts want to see more Zeller dominant games more frequently, but on a team with six guys who are capable of going out and scoring 20, that’s unlikely to happen.

· Expert opinion: “Zeller played with extraordinary energy and toughness against Michigan. When he plays like that, there isn’t a better offensive big man in the country. He doesn’t give that effort every night, but he does it enough that it’s hard to argue that anyone else in college basketball is obviously better.” – ESPN.com’s Chad Ford

Victor Oladipo
ESPN: (15) Draft Express: (21) NBADraft.net: (32)

· Analysis: ESPN.com draft guru Chad Ford has been leading the charge to promote Oladipo’s candidacy as a lottery pick and it’s hard to argue his point. The major hole in Oladipo’s game entering the season was his perimeter shot and he’s shooting 51.4 percent on threes as a junior. He’s also been ridiculously efficient on twos this season (67.8 percent) and his defense has also improved tremendously (5.1 steal percentage, 2.8 block percentage). His prowess as a lockdown defender was on full display Saturday night as Oladipo guarded four different Michigan players (Trey Burke, Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr.) effectively in IU’s 81-73 win. Oladipo has shined all season on the biggest stages and as a result, his draft stock has skyrocketed.

· Expert opinion: “Given his trajectory and Zeller’s fall, I don’t think it’s out of the question that Oladipo goes ahead of Zeller on draft night.” – ESPN.com’s Chad Ford

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Film Session: Second half D

Indiana’s defense held Michigan’s most efficient offense in the nation to 1.06 points per possession in its 81-73 win on Saturday night. It was the Wolverines’ second lowest output of the season on a per possession basis. In the second half, the Hoosiers often forced Trey Burke and company into contested looks out of the paint and away from the rim. The normally-efficient Burke would finish just 4-of-14 in the final 20 minutes of the contest.

A look at four second half plays highlighting what the Hoosiers did to keep the Wolverines out of their comfort zone in the latest edition of Film Session:

I. HOLLOWELL BLOCK

With 13 seconds expired and Michigan passing around the perimeter, Jon Horford passes to Glen Robinson III on the right wing.

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Robinson III passes back to Horford and makes a move left. This gets Jeremy Hollowell leaning towards the corner as Robinson III gets a handoff back from Horford:

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But Hollowell is able to recover and Robinson III decides against the 3-pointer:

mich3

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Troy Williams: Uncut

092312During the process of writing an extended feature on 2013 Indiana commit Troy Williams, I talked to a number of members of his family. What follows is a sort of oral history on Williams.

Part 1: Early experience 

BOO WILLIAMS (TROY’S UNCLE): “Troy got into basketball at an early age, I’d say between eight and nine years old. He was tall, but he wasn’t that tall. He was unorthodox. He was the kind of kid that was always around basketball because he would travel with us. He traveled with the girls team. My mom traveled with the girls team. She was the, I don’t want to say team mom, but she did all the paperwork, she kept the books. She was like the top assistant. My mom’s been in basketball for years. I played at St. Joe’s and she was in basketball there, and then my brother played football at West Point, and my other sister coached at Auburn and played basketball at Penn State. He grew up with basketball. When we used to travel all summer, he used to travel with us. He was a ball boy and he did all that stuff.”

TROY WILLIAMS: “I was about five years old. My uncle made this one team for us, it was like an 8 and under, or 9 and under team. Most of the kids were like 5 and 6 and 7, and we were all playing for that. During that time though, I was also playing football and baseball, but I wasn’t really interested in those two by the time I got to fourth grade. I started focusing on basketball, but I wasn’t too serious about it. Then in middle school, I played for the middle school team my sixth and seventh grade team. I started to gain interest in it, started to watching the NBA and college teams more.”

BOO WILLIAMS: “We tried to get him to play football but he hated football.”

TROY WILLIAMS: “Every time before practice, I used to cry because I never wanted to go. I used to always complain and be like, ‘It’s too hot’ or ‘the equipment’s too heavy.’ I just never liked it.”

PATTY WILLIAMS (TROY’S MOTHER): “That boy, he cried every day going to practice. I promised him he did not have to play the following year. Well, while we were in Florida at one of the AAU tournaments, and I came back and Boo had signed him up for football again. And I told Boo, ‘You gonna come over here and take him to practice every day because I can’t listen to this boy crying about going to practice.’ Troy said he didn’t want to hit nobody and he didn’t want nobody hitting him.

“But once he did get into basketball, he always did like it. I remember he was four years old and he said, ‘Mommy, if I sleep with a basketball in the bed it’ll make me play better.’ I said, ‘OK.’ So he did this for a couple of years. He kept the basketball in the bed with him all night long. So when he got to about six years old, one night I said, ‘Look, let me take this basketball out this bed.’ And I took the basketball out of the bed. And Lord, that child came into my bedroom screaming about four o’clock in the morning, talking about where is his ball. So I guess it helped.”

MS. WILLIAMS (TROY’S GRANDMOTHER): “Every time we would go in the gym, he would come out with a basketball. I ended up with more basketballs here. I would tell him before we went to the gym, ‘Troy, don’t you pick up another basketball.’ Somehow, eventually another one would end up at the house when he came home.”

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