For those that needed relief from the completely mundane football season, the Armed Forces Classic was there on Friday night to let everyone know that college basketball is back and that everything is going to be okay.
Sure, no one wants to see a game where six starters (seven players overall) are disqualified, but when the consensus seems to be that a November game felt like a March or early April game, it can’t be all that bad.
Indiana entered the season as the No. 11 team and after taking down the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks, may already see a spike in the polls on Monday. There were a lot of positives for the Hoosiers in the season opener, but certainly it was not a perfect 45 minutes from the Hoosiers. Let’s take a look at what we learned.
The Indiana Hoosiers are going to be fun to watch this season.
Indiana appeared to apply the 2K strategy last night; a lot of threes, dunks, and transition buckets, no need for anything else.
When this team is in motion and moving the ball quickly, it truly is something to behold. Of the ten Hoosiers that saw the floor on Friday night, six were making their debut for the cream and crimson, so it might be a little surprising how quickly these guys seemed to gel on the floor, but I don’t think Hoosier Nation will complain.
This team is going to miss Yogi Ferrell’s presence initially...
Pitt Panther transfer Josh Newkirk was given the nod to start at point guard on Friday night. In 35 minutes played, he recorded 7 points and 4 assists. Early on, the ball handling appears that it will be by committee this season for the Hoosiers. Although I think the solution on to this may be starting games on the bench right now, (more on this later).
Where Ferrell’s absence was most glaring was when the Hoosiers were in half court sets. Penetration inside the arc was, more often then not, turned away after a dribble or two and forced IU back to the outside. Ferrell was so good at getting around the free throw line, and either knocking down a floater, or dishing off to a teammate for an easy bucket as the defensive collapsed on Yogi. If IU can find someone that can add this element back or an offensive set that results in something similar, this team would sure up one of its few weak spots.
...but James Blackmon Jr. is back healthy and may be better than ever.
Well that is one way to make a comeback from a serious knee injury. Blackmon dropped in 26 points in his return and in doing so, sent a message to the country that he may be ready to show that he is one of the best guards in the nation.
Blackmon was vital down the stretch as players dropped out left and right with five fouls. Two key threes come to mind; one late in the 2nd where Blackmon appeared to catch and shoot all in one motion a few feet behind the line. and another with the game tied at 91-all in overtime, where he took two dribbles from the top of the key, pulled up and drilled it.
The biggest thing may be that Blackmon spent 39 minutes on the floor and showed no signs of slowing down. A healthy and productive James Blackmon Jr. bodes well for Indiana.
Umm, the defensive issues may be back.
Member when IU was awful defensively around this time last year? Ooh, I member everyone calling for Tom Crean’s job. Ooh I loved when Blackmon went down and it miraculously fixed itself.
No, I am not saying that Blackmon Jr. being back is going to make IU a bad team defensively again. You hope that the amount of fouls were an anomaly, but the way Frank Mason III was able to get to the basket, and how often he was able to do it, is concerning. Certainly no need to hit the panic button after one game, it is just something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Curtis Jones is decent at the game of basketball.
Freshman Curtis Jones scored 15 points, shooting 50-percent from the floor and 60-percent from deep in the process. As Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby, and Juwan Morgan all bowed out with 5 fouls, Jones stepped up when it was needed the most in overtime.
Freshman guard Curtis Jones scored 7 of #iubb's 14 points in overtime in its 103-99 win over No. 3 Kansas.— Stu Jackson (@Stuart_Jackson1) November 12, 2016
Scoring half of your team’s points in the extra period and helping your team to a victory over a top-5 team is pretty good start to a college career. If Jones can show some ability handling the ball, he may find himself in the starting lineup sooner rather than later.
Overall, Indiana has the best resume in the country after the first night. There is reason to be optimistic and maybe even elevate expectations, (if that is even possible) for this team. Expect some growing pains along the way, but that is okay.
With the trio of Bryant, Blackmon, and Anunoby plus the complimentary pieces that the Hoosiers have now, the talk in Bloomington of a sixth banner more than hyperbole. Games won in November certainly don’t advance you in March, but the 2016-’17 ride that is the Indiana Hoosiers should be a fun one.