2014-2015 ITH season preview: Illinois Fighting Illini


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 Illinois Fighting Illini.

As John Groce enters year three in Champaign, an intriguing mix of talent allows for some cautious optimism about a return trip to the Big Dance.

After losing seniors Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson off his first-year squad that advanced to the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament, the Illini suffered through an eight-game losing streak during conference play last season. But it rebounded to finish out the season a respectable 6-6 — a record that included an opening round victory against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament and one against Boston University in the NIT.

And while the team took a hit earlier this month when senior point guard Tracey Abrams suffered a season-ending injury (torn right ACL), there are a pair of transfers available to pick up the slack.

With Abrams out at point, Oregon transfer Ahmad Starks — who averaged 10.4 points per game in 2012-2013 — could step up and take the starter’s role. Aaron Cosby, a transfer from Seton Hall, will also be eligible to play this season and has the ability to give minutes at the point guard position as well.

The duo will be joined in the backcourt by Simeon product Kendrick Nunn. Nunn emerged towards the end of his freshman campaign, as Groce gave him more minutes during the team’s final 12 games. Nunn finished the year as the team’s second-most efficient scorer (54.1 eFG) and scored in double-digits seven of the team’s last 12 games after failing to do so once before the final stretch.

Wing Rayvonte Rice, who sat out Groce’s first year as a Drake transfer, was the team’s top scorer as a redshirt junior a season ago (15.9 points) and also led the team in minutes played (32.7). Rice could stand some shooting and efficiency improvement (48.0 eFG percentage /29.5 percent from 3-point range), but figures to be the team’s top returning offensive threat along with Nunn.


Blue Ribbon picks Indiana to finish 9th in Big Ten


Over the last month, we’ve reported on several preseason prognostications for the 2014-2015 Indiana team, including Lindy’s Sports ranking the Hoosiers the nation’s preseason No. 28 team and The Sporting News picking IU to finish 10th in the Big Ten.

Another college basketball annual, the Blue Ribbon college basketball yearbook, is scheduled to hit newsstands next month, but Brendan F. Quinn of has already provided some Big Ten related tidbits.

Indiana is picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten by the Blue Ribbon college yearbook and junior Yogi Ferrell is listed as a preseason first team All-Big Ten selection.

Blue Ribbon has five Big Ten teams in its preseason top 25: Wisconsin (3), Ohio State (15), Michigan State (20), Michigan (23) and Nebraska (24).

More details from the Blue Ribbon yearbook are available after the jump:


2014-2015 ITH season preview: Minnesota Golden Gophers

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 Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Despite the fact that he won 20 games in five of his six years at the helm of the Gophers, Minnesota fired coach Tubby Smith following the 2012-2013 season. And after a lengthy coaching search saw the program get turned down by several of its leading candidates, AD Norwood Teague ultimately settled on a coach with just one year of head coaching experience in Richard Pitino.

The first year of the Pitino-era at Minnesota ended with a NIT championship and a 25-13 record, but the team scuffled down the stretch of the regular season after amassing a 15-5 record to start the year. A postseason championship of any kind is nothing to scoff at, but after only losing one starter, there are expectations for improvement in year two for Pitino.

The Gophers return one of the better backcourts in the conference with seniors Andre Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu, two players that both made our preseason list of the top 25 Big Ten players. Hollins battled an ankle sprain during the second half of the conference schedule, but still finished as the team’s leading scorer at 13.6 points per game. And Mathieu, a 5-foot-9 guard with tremendous quickness, is the top returning player in terms of assist rate at 31.1 percent.

Chipola Junior College (Fla.) guard Carlos Morris is expected to take on a major role in his first season and could slide right into the position departed by Austin Hollins.


2014-2015 ITH season preview: Maryland Terrapins


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 Maryland Terrapins.

Entering year four under Mark Turgeon, the Maryland basketball program is awaiting the breakthrough season it has been hoping for since bringing the former Texas A&M coach on board in 2011.

After an NIT-semifinal effort at the end of the 2012-13 season, Terrapins fans were hopeful of a potential NCAA tournament appearance last season in Turgeon’s third at the helm of the program. But that never happened, as an underwhelming 17-15 mark resulted in Maryland even missing out on the NIT.

And as Turegon enters year four in College Park, patience is becoming thin amongst fans who haven’t seen an NCAA tournament berth since the 2009-2010 season — when legendary coach Gary Williams was still leading the program.


The Inside the Hall Mailbag: September 23


The Inside the Hall Mailbag is a collection of questions tweeted to us via Twitter (@insidethehall), submitted on our premium forum and sent to us via our Facebook page. Submit your questions and we’ll answer as many as we can.

mcoghlan on the premium forum writes: What do you think the ceiling and floor is for this year’s team?

Wasting no time putting me on the spot, mcoghlan. Although I do have a bit of an advantage from seeing IU’s games in Canada, those games didn’t include Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Emmitt Holt, two players I expect to have an impact on this year’s team. I certainly believe this team has the personnel to get into the NCAA tournament, assuming the turnover problem is improved upon and IU is able to hold its own defending the paint and on the glass.

The floor would likely be a repeat performance of last season’s team in which turnovers are still a major problem and a young team struggles to finish off opponents after grabbing a lead. — Alex Bozich

kmark22 on the premium forum writes: For the 2015 or 2016 class do you see IU pursuing a point guard and if so, is it more in the mold of Robert Johnson or Yogi Ferrell?

Indiana is recruiting Shake Milton, who can play either guard spot, in the 2015 class and I think it’s a fair assumption that the Hoosier staff will be looking for point guard help in the 2016 class. With Yogi Ferrell locking down the point guard position since the day he arrived on campus, it probably hasn’t been the easiest sell to recruit a pure point guard in the last few classes.


2014-2015 ITH season preview: Iowa Hawkeyes


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 Iowa Hawkeyes.

Iowa finally reached the NCAA tournament last season in year four of the Fran McCaffery era, but the Hawkeyes didn’t get there easily.

After an 82-70 win at Penn State on Feb. 15 that put its record at 19-6, Iowa dropped seven of its final eight games, including a NCAA tournament “first four” game to Tennessee. The pressure is now on McCaffery to follow up last year’s campaign with another postseason berth and it appears he has the pieces to do just that.

Despite losing leading scorer Devyn Marble to graduation and two other contributors in Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe, the Hawkeyes return a solid nucleus of talent that includes three starters. The leader of that group is senior Aaron White, who may be the most underrated player in the conference.  As a junior, he led the Big Ten in effective field goal percentage and was second in free throw rate. He shot over 63 percent on 2s and was also in the top 10 in the conference in defensive rebounding percentage.

The other two starters returning are junior point guard Mike Gesell and junior center Adam Woodbury. Gesell was third among Big Ten players a season ago in assist rate (28.6), but was a poor shooter (43.5 effective field goal percentage). Woodbury, who was viewed as a major recruiting win for McCaffery, hasn’t developed offensively but is a solid offensive rebounder (11.5 OR%) and shot blocker who is very foul prone.


2014-2015 ITH season preview: Purdue Boilermakers


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 Purdue Boilermakers.

After a CBI appearance two seasons ago and missing the postseason altogether last season, it may be a make or break season for Matt Painter in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers finished just 15-17 a season ago, which led to a candid speech from Painter following a home loss to Northwestern on March 9.

“First of all, it’s my fault,” he said. “It’s my job to get guys to play together, it’s my job to get guys to play, it’s my job to get guys to play smart, and we don’t do any of those. And so that is my fault. When you start off, people will always give you a break. But when you’re somewhere for nine years, they shouldn’t. They absolutely shouldn’t, because it is my fault we are in this position.”

If Painter is to orchestrate a turnaround this season, he’ll have to do so with a made over roster. Last season’s leading scorer Terone Johnson graduated, point guard Ronnie Johnson transferred and three other rotation players are gone.

A.J. Hammons opted to return for his junior season, which was a major offseason victory for the program and three sophomores who showed promise a season ago — Basil Smotherman, Kendall Stephens and Bryson Scott — are all back as well. Purdue also welcomes a five-man recruiting class that includes a 247Composite top 100 post player in Isaac Haas, a solid point guard in P.J. Thompson and Vince Edwards, another top 150 recruit.


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