This photo has already circulated around the Web, but Athlon Sports passed along their season preview cover with Maurice Creek, Purdue’s Robbie Hummel and Butler’s Matt Howard.
The Hoosiers were picked to finish 8th in the Big Ten and Verdell Jones was listed on the third team All-Big Ten. Here’s their complete Big Ten finish prediction: 1. Purdue, 2. Michigan State, 3. Ohio State, 4. Illinois, 5. Wisconsin, 6. Minnesota, 7. Northwestern, 8. Indiana, 9. Penn State, 10. Michigan, 11. Iowa.
It’s been a quiet couple of weeks from a news perspective, but that should change next week as the evaluation period begins Tuesday. I’ll be at the adidas Invitational in Indianapolis on Tuesday and Wednesday and will probably head to the Kentucky Hoopfest in Louisville at some point on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
It’ll be a great opportunity to watch, interview and capture video of top prospects from across the country and observe which players the IU staff are tracking the closest.
With that said, let’s dive into an early look at some of the storylines to keep an eye on with next season’s backcourt:
+ Maurice Creek’s health: This might be the No. 1 storyline leading into next season. Creek’s horrific injury probably cost the Hoosiers at least a couple more wins in 2009-2010 (if not more) and also kept one of the best young players in the Big Ten from playing in a conference game. Creek’s progress towards 100 percent, based on his comments on Twitter and updates from Tom Crean, seems to be steady. A healthy Creek in 2010-2011 gives Indiana something it lacked when the going got tough late in games: A player you can rely on for a critical basket.
+ How much will Jeremiah Rivers contribute? Prior to last season, The Herald-Times referred to Rivers as Indiana’s unquestioned leader. As the season played out, this characterization spoke more to the state of IU’s program than Rivers’ ability to lead. Rivers showed flashes of brilliance, but was inconsistent and often unreliable from the foul line. As IU’s lone senior, Rivers will enter next season as more of a question mark than a known commodity. If he plays to his skill-level, the potential is there for Rivers to make a positive impact.
+ Verdell continues to grow: As a sophomore, Jones posted an impressive 16.7 ppg in 18 conference games. His shooting percentage wasn’t great overall at just a shade under 40 percent, but Creek’s return should free up Verdell for better looks as opponents will no longer be able to key on him. The keys to Jones blossoming into an All-Big Ten level player are continuing to put on weight and adding upper body strength that will allow him to finish plays at the basket instead of relying primarily on the pull-up jumper.
To sum up how well Maurice Creek started his freshman season, let’s take a trip back to December 12, 2009. On that Saturday, No. 4 Kentucky came to Assembly Hall. And while the Wildcats won comfortably, Creek made quite the impression on John Calipari.
“How about this Creek kid?” Calipari exclaimed. “We’ve played a lot of good teams, and he’s as good as any player we’ve played.”
On that day, Creek scored 31 points. He showed off his ability to knock down shots from the perimeter (5 of 8 on 3-pointers) and got into the lane and earned points from the line (8 of 8 on free throws). And even after that brilliant performance, Creek talked more about the team’s performance than personal accolades.
“We battled hard, we gave a good effort,” Creek said. “We’ve just got a lot of things to work on as a group.”
Through 11 games, the 6-5 freshman from Oxon Hill (MD) who committed to IU before ever seeing the campus, was emerging as a silent leader of sorts. While many expected Jeremiah Rivers to take the reigns, Creek’s immediate success and competitiveness demanded the respect of his teammates.
And then, on December 28 against Bryant, this happened.
Indiana freshman guard Maurice Creek, who suffered a fractured left knee in Indiana’s 90-42 win over Bryant on December 28, continues to making progress in his rehabilitation and is ahead of schedule, according to Tom Crean.
After a caller requested an update on Creek during Crean’s Monday evening radio show with Don Fisher, the IU coach provided the following update:
“He’s been doing very well. He had a great first semester, I know that doesn’t have anything to do with his injury, but he’s continued to work very hard academically. He’s ahead of schedule. He’s still definitely a ways away from being on the court and being able to work out on the court in a hard fashion. He put up 205 six times the other day, which is real progress there. I think his body will continue to really grow. He’s on all of our trips. We have him doing different statistics for us during the games just trying to help him really learn the leadership that he’s gotta have to be successful moving forward.”
Creek, who was leading all freshmen nationally in scoring at the time of his injury, averaged 16.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg and 1.4 spg in 12 contests.
Devan Dumes certainly could make headlines last season. No, they weren’t always the kind you cut out and pin up at your desk, (or were they?) but Dumes’ confidence at least made for some memorable moments in a season mostly devoid of them.
So where did he go?
Last season’s leading scorer, it made sense when Dumes’ numbers came down in 2009 with the influx of fresh talent. And an injury to begin the season kept him from fighting for a starting place and visibly hindered his ability to get into an offensive rhythm once he was healthy.
But Dumes, who averaged 12.7 points per game last season, has seen that average fall by more than half, and his minutes-per-game average has been reduced almost as much. Worse, Dumes has lost nearly nine points off his overall field-goal percentage from last season to this one, and his 3-point shooting is down from 38.1 percent to 32.6 percent through 14 games.
Of course, none of this looked like more than an unexplained anomaly until Maurice Creek was lost for the season, cutting more than 16 points and the Hoosiers’ best offensive option out of the gameplan. And yet, in the two games since Creek’s injury, that open starting spot has gone to Jordan Hulls, not Dumes.
A couple of our readers have requested that we create a virtual get well card to pass along to freshman guard Maurice Creek as he recovers from a fractured left knee. So we’ve done just that. Post your message to Creek in the comments and we’ll send this thread along to our contacts at Indiana.