If it feels like we play Indiana in every sport this fall, well, your right. We already played them in football. We take them on in the Maui Invitational later today. And don't forget, we square off versus the Hoosiers in the NCAA Tournament in soccer.
So for the second time this year (so far), we have Kyle Robbins from "The Crimson Quarry" to answer our questions about Indiana.
It feels like Yogi Ferrell has been with the Hoosiers for eight years. As a senior, he's averaging 17-7-6 through three games. How has he developed over his four years?
It's been fun watching him develop into more than just a pass-first point guard at Indiana, if he ever were that. He's a much more complete player than he was when he came to Indiana. He wasn't known as a fantastic shooter prior to coming to Bloomington, and not many would think of a 5-11 freshman as a dynamic defender. He's really added both of those things to his tool kit in a big way. Add those in with his ability to pass the basketball, you've got a guy I'll cape for as the best point guard in the country. It's not unusual for a scoring senior point guard to lead his team deep in March (see Kemba Walker, Shabazz Napier) and that's one reason Indiana fans are really, really optimistic heading into this season.
Thomas Bryant was one of Indiana's biggest recruiting snags in several years. So far he's living up to the hype shooting 80 percent!! from the field. What makes the 18-year-old so lethal?
This is going to sound super coach-speakish and cliche, but: his motor. Sure, Bryant is incredibly skilled on the offensive end and has a number of moves that you'll wonder if you're watching some big man from yesteryear. That said, his energy and passion so far this season have probably been the thing noticed most by Indiana fans -- and it's clearly been infectious to the rest of the team. He'll might miss two layups in row, keep bounding around the basket for boards undeterred, and get the third to go. Again, I know it sounds super cliche, but his energy and passion for the game separates him from being probably a great freshman contributor -- to one that might be one of the best in the country by season's end. Early returns, specifically his performance in Indiana's rout of Creighton, speak to that.
The Hoosiers have a variety of other threats on the offensive end. Besides Ferrell and Bryant, who should the Demon Deacons worry about: a team who has faced concerns/depth issues at guard?
Here's the thing that makes watching this Indiana team so incredibly fun: everyone that Tom Crean puts on the floor can score the basketball. James Blackmon Jr. is a lights-out sophomore shooter that can create for himself offensively, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that he's leading the team in scoring. Collin Hartman and Nick Zeisloft have to be mentioned as two of the best pure shooters in the country, probably. Michigan transfer Max Bielfeldt fits in fantastically for this Indiana team as a stretch-4 type that can shoot from deep. Oh, and not to mention Troy Williams, who I personally believe is Indiana's best two-way player and will be this team's best NBA prospect next season. He's a freak athlete that can score the ball in numerous ways and defend. Not to mention, he's really refined his outside shooting stroke this season, because of course he has. There's Rob Johnson, too, who will be one of Indiana's first players off the bench and can also shoot it.
TL;DR: Indiana has a ton of people that can shoot basketballs real good.
Last season, Tom Crean was in testy waters with some of the Indiana fanbase. This season, IU has elite talent and high hopes. Where does the fanbase stand with Crean right now? What will it take for Crean to lose his job this season?
Honestly, I don't know. The Iowa-Indiana game last March in Bloomington was one of the most toxic atmospheres I've ever witnessed. Booing, jeering the home team and Crean to the point I was uncomfortable. High school kids chanted "Tom Crean sucks" at one of his son's basketball games. A professor told a now-famed April Fools joke that Tom Crean had been fired while Crean's daughter was in class. They erupted into cheers. Indiana fans showed their ass to the point they embarassed themselves last spring. Indiana fans are great when things are going well, and some of the most horrible, toxic people on earth to be in the presence of when things are going poorly. Indiana fans ran Mike Davis out of town three years after he took an undermanned team to the national title game. It comes down to the reality that there's a good portion of this fanbase that still isn't over Bobby Knight's firing -- and the only way that same group will ever get past it is the hiring of Brad Stevens. Crean's goofy and weird and a bit aloof at times, just as any person that married into the Harbaugh family you'd think would be, so that probably hasn't helped him. But he gets a raw deal here, honestly. Indiana's as fun to watch as any team in the country -- but Indiana fans would rather score 50 a game with kids from New Castle and Evansville because THAT'S WHAT BOBBY DID.
In a highly-competitive Big Ten, where does Indiana stand against the other elites like Maryland and Michigan State?
Right now, I'm really high on this Indiana team. Creighton was supposed to be an improved team from a power conference -- and Indiana absolutely ran them out of the dang gym on Thursday night. I've not been all that impressed with Maryland -- but of course I've only watched them start to finish in a one-possession game win over Rider. Right now, I think you can pick any of Indiana, Purdue, or Michigan State to be the conference favorite. I'm sure Maryland's right there with them, but I'm knocking them down a peg for struggling with a MAAC team last week.
Thanks again, Kyle!