Indiana opened its season by walloping a very bad Mississippi Valley State team last night 116-65. The Hoosiers were led in scoring by James Blackmon Jr. with 25 points, Max Hoetzel with 19, and Nick Zeisloft with 16. The Hoosiers shot 66% from the field and were shooting close to 80% from three until the final fourteen minutes of the game where they missed 9 in a row. Indiana also won the battle of the boards 53-26 which was expected given the extreme lack of height on the Delta Devil sideline. So what did we learn in this blowout?
James Blackmon is the real deal - Blackmon shot 7-10 from the field, 3-4 from three, and 8-9 from the line to total 25 points which was the second highest total ever for a freshman debut (Eric Gordon had 33). He again showed off his smooth jump shot and also showed off an ability to get to the rim with ease which he needs to do even more of given his ability to shoot a high percentage from the free throw line. One area he needs to clean up is turnovers as he led the team with 4 last night. This game was played at a very fast pace and Coach Crean said in the post-game that it isn't anywhere near the pace they have the capability to play at. If they are going to play fast, Blackmon and company need to have that much more focus on taking care of the basketball which I will discuss more below.
Indiana can shoot and score again - The Hoosiers were downright dismal a year ago shooting the basketball. After Game 1 this year - I think it is safe to say that won't be an issue anymore. At one point, Indiana was 11-14 from three before missing some shots down the stretch to lower their average to 48%. The Hoosiers also scored 116 points which was just two points from the all-time Indiana record of 118. Yes, a lot of this was due to the downright awful competition (let's be serious here - the D2 Indianapolis team Indiana played Monday would badly beat MVSU), but 116 points is 116 points and 66% shooting is 66% shooting. Those are astounding figures and they represent numbers not seen at Indiana for a long time (1993 to be exact). Keep in mind this was all done without Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, or Devin Davis who were viewed as three main contributors coming into the season.
Max Hoetzel is going to contribute - Coming into the season, many Hoosier fans weren't sure what they were going to get out of Hoetzel. He comes in as a very low ranked recruit, but he did win the three point competition at Hoosier Hysteria and seemed to be a very confident player at that point. Nothing seems to have changed there as he came in and put up 19 points and 9 rebounds in his Indiana debut and looked pretty good doing it. He did struggle from three as he was 1-6 there, but shot 6-12 overall and 6-8 from the line. At 6'8", if Hoetzel is able to prove he can play even average defense - he is going to see a lot of minutes this year and could become a very dangerous player by the end of the season with his ability to shoot from three.
Indiana still has a major turnover problem - The Hoosiers turned the ball over on 30% of their first half possessions, and even though that number dropped to 23.5% for the overall game - it is still extremely high and that is not even taking into account the weak competition that was being played. The Hoosiers had a turnover percentage of 21.3% a year ago which was one of the worst in the country and they cannot afford to repeat that this year given issues in other areas such as rebounding. The surprise in the turnover department in this one was Hanner Perea only had one of the team's nineteen turnovers. There were sixteen turnovers from the following group: Blackmon, Zeisloft, Johnson, Ferrell, and Hoetzel which is really surprising as the first four players listed here are typically viewed as good caretakers of the ball. This is an area that Indiana has got to improve on if they are going to have a successful year.
Tim Priller is a fan favorite - Hoosier Nation loves players that hustle and Tim Priller hustles with the best of them. If you were to just focus on Priller in the limited minutes he is in every game, you would find a guy that sprints up and down the court no matter what the situation is. He could have just had a great tip in off an offensive rebound at one end and yet doesn't take any time to soak in all the adulation that so many players do today. He simply turns around and sprints back down the court. That is Indiana basketball and the fans absolutely love him. He is the only player to have his name chanted in The Assembly Hall this year, and he had a spectacular 4 minute stretch in this one where he pulled down 2 rebounds, blocked a shot, and had an offensive put back. During that stretch he also found himself nationally trending on Twitter. Yeah - even if you play 9 minutes a game at Indiana - you can still nationally trend on Twitter. It happens. After the game, Coach Crean said "Tim knows who he is right now, but at the same time doesn't have a clue how good he can be." Crean also got a little light hearted in the post-game press conference and mentioned that he compares Priller to Shaggy from Scooby Doo a lot. Well Shaggy did pretty well for himself in this one.
Indiana will play Texas Southern next. That game, featuring former Indiana coach Mike Davis, will take place at 6pm eastern on Monday and should provide a better gauge for where this Hoosier team is headed this year.