A view from the balcony: Howard

  • 11/14/2009 3:51 pm in

Editor’s Note: Matt Dollinger is a senior at Indiana University and is the former men’s basketball beat writer for the Indiana Daily Student. Please welcome him as our newest contributor on Inside the Hall. Email him at [email protected].

Like so many of you, walking into Assembly Hall brings back old memories for me.

I hear the familiar blast of the pep band and start humming the fight song. I smell the popcorn and begin to reminisce about games past. And then, I look down at my student ticket and remember, with much sadness, that I will have to climb roughly 27 flights of stairs to ascend the mountain that is section FF, row 7.

Nevertheless, sans Sherpa, I climbed, and witnessed IU’s 83-60 season-opening victory over Howard.

This season, I’m going to provide a little weekly analysis of the Hoosiers’ play (think Bill Walton, with more exclamation marks and less Grateful Dead references). Hopefully, my Hoosier hindsight can stir up some healthy discussion.

So to start, here are five things I took away from Friday’s game:

1. I Like The New Guys
And so does Tom Crean. IU’s seven new players combined to score 55 of the Hoosiers’ 83 points and showed a lot of promise. Curiosity does have me wonder though how Christian Watford, Maurice Creek and Jordan Hulls negotiated jersey number switches with their older teammates. Did Crean make the players shoot for it? And if so, how did Matt Roth lose?

2. Watford Is The Truth
What a treat Watford is going to be for Hoosier fans. A post presence with size, skill and athleticism does not come around every day. The 6-foot-9 frosh displayed a nice touch in the paint and showed he and Tom Pritchard could form into a nice 1-2 punch down low. With 14 points and 11 rebounds in his debut, Watford proved he is going to be more D.J. White than D.J. Mbenga.

3. Offense Aplenty, Defense A-lacking
The Hoosiers have an abundance of weapons on offense, but who are the team’s best defenders? It is early, and Howard doesn’t provide much of a read, but Jeremiah Rivers and Devan Dumes are the most experienced and disciplined in the backcourt. Several of the freshmen could develop into good defenders down the line, but as first-year players they will experience speed bumps along the way. What about a line-up of Rivers-Dumes-Creek-Watford-Muniru?

4. Tom Crean as Bobby Cox
I thought Crean coached a little bit like a National League manager would have. He manufactured some offense, made a few defensive switches and got all 16 players in the game. The Hoosiers will likely go 12-13 deep on a regular basis this season as Crean tries to squeeze every ounce of ability out of his players. Expect to see a lot of different looks and a little bit of everything from the Hoosiers this season.

5. The Energy
As Crean said after the game, “To me, it never gets old.”

I’ve seen Assembly Hall crowds power Hoosier teams to victories before, and Friday convinced me IU could pull off a few upsets in Bloomington this season. On a separate note, there really is something to the energy Tijan Jobe brings. When Crean puts him in the game,  fans respond second only to the free pizza giveaway. He doesn’t fill the stat sheet, but Tijan provides an undeniable spark.

More to come next week.

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  • hoostheman

    Great post Matt… Welcome to the Hall. I agree with pretty much everything you said… Here are some additional player-specific thoughts I had while watching the game:

    Derek Elston – loved his energy and nose for the ball. I think we're going to see a lot of offensive rebounds and easy put backs from this guy. He also “popped” from an athletic standpoint and should turn into an excellent off the ball / help defender.

    Mo Creek – scouts didn't lie – the kid has a fully tricked out offensive package. Beautiful jumpshot, solid finishes, and an ability to get to the line. May have gotten a bit out of control on some drives but i just love the fact that he was constantly in attack mode.

    Bawa Muniru – seems like the best dressed Hoosier is going to make a bigger impact this year than I anticipated. He played under control and brings a defensive presence at the rim that an inexperienced team will definitely need.

    All in all just a ton of things to like from the '09-'10 Hoosiers. Coach obviously has us moving in the right direction and I can't wait to see how we develop over the course of the season.

  • tkirby

    I would have been very dissapointed in you had you not mentioned Tijan Dolly. VERY dissapointed.

  • Dolly! Good to read you again. Basketblog, or HoosierHype or whatever they're calling it now, has fallen from a daily read for me to something of weekly, fleeting glance these days (Cohen is the only thing keeping that ship from sinking). Concur with your assessments, & would add that Jordy will make several stars shine during his tenure here- the kid's got great court vision & understands how to make Crean's system run on the break. Elston may well be the glue-guy that does everything needed to secure some wins for us. Capo has to defend better & hold his ground in the paint if he's going to fulfill the role we'll need him to play. I've yet to see any freshmen truly wow me with their D. It seems to be the one element of the game that takes time to develop. As for the balcony, there's a reason the concession workers leave about 8 ounces empty in those 32 oz cups & nobody in the balcony will care that you're mixing a nice Jack & Coke to start each half. And if what I'm hearing is true, Athletics has some crazy stupid ideas to spice up the balcony atmosphere. Read: blasphemous gimmicks (Crean & Glass need to run their programs & forget about the marketing ideas- it's not their strong suits, trust me).

  • hoosierboy

    Mo Creek- Looked great offensively and defensively. He needs to move his feet a little more and use less of his hands though. Beautiful stroke with a quick release. He showed his explosiveness with that crossover drive, but he needs to finish! OUR ENTIRE TEAM NEEDS TO FINISH BETTER AROUND THE RIM.

    Dumes- He is our best on ball defender. He does a great job of staying low and mirroring the offensive player. He seems way to zealous on offense. He has a great shot. I just feel he tries to hard to make things happen. He needs to let the game come to him. Some of his shot selections show he can tend to have the “imma get mine” attitude.

    Elston- He will be very hard to guard. He moves extremely well for his size. He does a great job of putting himself in good position under the basket. Also love his shooting ability.

    Watford- My only question about him is his conditioning. He seemed to almost always have a look of dyin for air. I also noticed he kinda moves around sometimes like hes got nowhere in the world to be. Maybe thats just how he plays. He reminds me of T-mac. T-mac has that sleepy look and then within a blink of an eye he's gone. He's gonna be a great one.

    Verdell Jones- Used his length well on defense. He played like he always does, which is good. However, I noticed that after Creek hit a couple of big shots, he seemed like he thought, ” I got to score then.” Like when he forced that airball 3 pointer.

    Bawa- Looked extremely nervous or uncomfortable when he first came in, but he handled himself well. He will help us down low defensively. Also showed nice touch.

    Jobe- All I have to say is that I have to turn the TV down when he comes in the game.

    Pritch- Did a great job of playing within himself and brings a lot of intangibles to the game. Loved the charges.

    Hulls- Will be a very sound pg for the hoosiers. Seems to pick up his dribble too much and telegraph his passes.

    rivers- Made some dumb decisions, but I like how he creates by penetrating the lane. The kid can play D and has some major hangtime.

  • gregmquinn

    I am officially excited about this team. While Bawa is raw, he is MUCH more athletic than I'd imagined. I think the defensive issues will work themselves out. With Rivers, Jones, Creek and Watford, we have 4 very long, athletic, guards / wings who will create havoc once they figure out how to work together.

    I've been convinced since we signed this class that Elston is the X-factor on this team. If he can stretch the defense and add some toughness and athleticism inside, we are looking good.

    THE MAN though is Watford. He reminds me of Jared Jefferies with his knack for the ball, good passing and toughness on the boards. I just hope he keeps playing down low and doesn't fall in love with the 3-point line.

  • gregmquinn

    Good analysis.

    Creek looks fantastic! I think finishing around the rim is a direct result of confidence and conditioning. Both will take time for a lot of guys on this team.

    It's gotta be strange for Dumes to be the only real senior on this team, lead us in scoring last year, but is probably our #8 scoring option this year. While I like having that “instant offense” coming off the bench, I see him as someone who is going to take a lot of dumb shots and may not make it through the year on this team.

  • tannedtommy

    Tanned Tommy says, “It's Indiana, It's Indiana.”

    You will tire of his act. Trust me.

  • Kelin Blab

    Matt….that is a helluva point about Tijan. I think it goes beyond him being a fan favorite but Tijan brings in energy and being 8foot tall built like a building helps also.

    I wonder if crean can continue going 12-13 deep, but if he gets results like he did last night so be it…..

  • goin2010

    I haven't been this excited about bball in Bloomington in quite some time. Crean's got me believing that good things happen to good people who work hard. Lets buckle up……..its going to be a fun ride!

  • DTFree

    I see your Rivers-Dumes-Creek-Watford-Muniru and raise you Rivers-Creek-Watford- Elston-Pritchard. That defensive person beside Rivers would be Elston.

  • SteveEyl

    Liked the offense- 20 asst on 32 (or so) shots. First time the O looked like IU since Mike D's first team. They were working to get easy shots, not to make hard shots. Everything I have hated about the offense over the last 10+ years can be summed up in two words: Bracey Wright. If these guys move the ball an dtry to get layups, they might win a couple of big ten games.

    On the other hand, the D sucked. WAY too many layups conceeded.