Saturday, November 14, 2009

Reflections on the IU opener

I'm watching the Hoosiers football team take on Penn State (the Hoosiers are up 10-0 early), but I'm more excited to talk about the IU basketball team.

Tom Crean's "Baby Hoosiers" beat Howard convincingly on Friday, 83-60. The game was close early, but IU made a run late in the first half and led by 17 at the break. While it's difficult to really determine how good this team will be, there are signs it could be special.

Christian Watford, the highly-touted freshman forward, has a lot of potential. He is a little lanky and probably will struggle against teams like Michigan State and Purdue, but I like his athleticism and his speed. He reminds me a little of Jared Jefferies. Last night he scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Not bad for playing only 24 minutes.

Last year, IU's post play was lacking and it showed. It already appears much improved. Freshman Derek Elston also played well underneath as did sophomore Tom Pritchard.

I really liked junior Jeremiah Rivers at point guard. He brings a lot of speed to the game that the Hoosiers did not have last year and was looking to distribute the ball all night. He also made a spectacular reverse layup that wowed the crowd.

Crean appeared to be using the game to help determine his regular starting lineup and did not play anyone longer than 26 minutes. I think Watford, Pritchard, and Rivers played like starters. The other two guard spots should rotate between Devan Dumes, Verdell Jones, Maurice Creek.

I know they are only freshmen, but I think Crean could end up starting three or four freshmen going forward this season. I could definitely see Elston and Creek starting a few games this year, and both should see a lot of playing time.

As you might expect, the Hoosiers need to improve their rebounding. They only got two more boards than Howard last night. To complete in the Big Ten, that stat will have to improve. The Hoosiers also had 16 turnovers, which can't happen against better teams.

Overall, this team already appears much improved from last year. If they continue improving throughout the year, IU will scare a lot of opponents.