Get ready for the roller coaster, folks. While not as young and inexperienced as the 2008-09 Hoosiers, this is a young and inexperienced team by any other standard, and hoping for linear progress with this team is futile. After a solid performance in the opener against Howard, IU stepped back. For those who didn't watch the game, it wasn't quite as dicey as the score might suggest: after a reasonably competitive first half in which IU's largest lead was the seven point halftime advantage, IU expanded the lead to 20 with nine minutes remaining, and the Spartans never got closer than 8 (twice, including the final margin). Still, this was a bit of a disappointment.
Here are the stats
. Both of IU's games have been 72 possessions. IU had 18 turnovers, 9 in each half, for a horrid turnover percentage of 26.4 percent. Turnovers were the bane of IU's existence last year, and IU's turnover numbers in the games against Howard and USC-Upstate are depressingly similar to IU's turnover numbers in the first two games of last season against IUPUI and Northwestern State. The Hoosiers rebounded well, snagging 38 percent of their own misses and nearly 80 percent of USC's misses on the other end. IU shot only 45 percent from the field but a solid 44 percent from three point range. IU was only 16-30 from the line, which is simply inexcusable for a team with IU's disadvantages. Shooting free throws is the only task that is exactly the same in college that it was in high school. IU cannot succeed this year as a poor free throw shooting team. The good news on the turnover front is that as bad as IU has been, the Hoosiers' opponents have been worse. USC turned the ball over 20 times, and IU is actually in the black on TOs so far this season. IU's field goal defense has been very good this year (USC managed only 43 percent overall and 26 percent from behind the arc).
- Christian Watford continues to play well. He shot 6-10 from the field, scored 17 points, and had 10 rebounds. Unfortunately, he added 3 turnovers, which is too many for a non-guard.
- Maurice Creek was quite efficient: 14 points on 7 shots and no turnovers.
- Verdell Jones scored 13 points, but was 6-14 from the field and 1-4 from the line. On a positive note, in 28 minutes he committed only one turnover and had three steals.
- Derek Elston continues to excel: Elston scored 10 points and snagged 8 rebounds in 24 minutes and shot 4-6 from the field. I didn't have much of an impressive of Elston, positive or negative, before this season, but continues to impress with his polish and versatility. Can it continue against higher-end competition?
- Jeremiah Rivers, after a strong performance in the exhibition games, seems to be returning to his Georgetown shooting form. Rivers shot 0-4 from the field and 1-4 from the line. He did have 5 assists and 2 steals, but 4 turnovers.
- Tom Pritchard was perfect from the field (1-1) and the line (2-2) but played only ten minutes because of foul trouble.
- Devan Dumes continues to play himself out of the rotation, and showed some glimmers of an anger management problem that cost him a couple of games last season. Dumes was 1-6 from the field an turned the ball over 4 times in 20 minutes.
So, there are some things to be happy about, and things to be concerned about. On the positive side, the two elite freshmen (Watford and Creek) and Elston have played very well. This IU team has more talent and much more depth that last year's. On the other hand, some of the same problems, particularly the turnovers, continue to crop up. I don't think there's much doubt that this team has much more room for improvement than last year's, but in a week we might know whether IU will be dramatically improved, or just marginally improved.