Basketball season is welcome in Indiana. This was a rough weekend for all major college and pro football teams in the state. So, off we go. Five Big Ten schools have started already, with each conference team beating an overmatched nonconference foe (or two such foes, in Michigan's case).
For a nice overview of the Big Ten, check out Gopher Nation's Big Ten preview. He takes a look at each team and also takes a shot a predictions. I'll give him credit for bold: he picks Wisconsin to win the Big Ten, and GN is the only previewer I have seen who picks anyone other than IU or Michigan State to win the conference.
For those of you who haven't had a chance to get up to speed on the 07-08 Hoosiers, here's a quick look at the newcomers:
Jordan Crawford: 6-5 freshman guard, Detroit. (Hargrave Military/Detroit Communicaton & Media Arts HS). Apparently the IU staff hopes that Crawford will become an effective point guard, but he was an offensive force in the first exhibition game against North Alabama with 6-6 three pointers.
Jamarcus Ellis: 6-5 junior guard/forward, Chicago (Chipola JC/Chicago Westinghouse HS). Ellis was a big time recruit as a high school senior but did not qualify academically and went the juco route. He was the national junior college player of the year and, along with fellow newcomer Deandre Thomas (see below) led Chipola to the national championship. In high school, he led his team to two city titles and one state title and was CPL player of the year as a junior. Clearly, Ellis is not an ordinary newcomer. He started both exhibition games and will be a key contributor.
Brett Finkelmeier: 6-2 freshman guard, Carmel, Ind (Carmel HS). A walk-on new to the team this year. With all respect to Brett, I'm hoping our days of relying on walk-ons are over.
Eric Gordon: 6-4 freshman guard, Indianapolis (North Central HS). Yeah, you know about this guy. He's expected to be among the best freshmen in the country and will be IU's key scoring threat. He's also expected to be very rich by this time next year.
Eli Holman: 6-9 freshman center, Richmond, Cal. (Richmond HS). Holman's saga has been well-documented here. Eli has overcome much in life. Whether Holman can play effectively as a freshman is one of the key factors that will determine whether IU is merely above average or becomes a championship caliber team.
Brandon McGee: 6-7 freshman forward, Chicago (Crane HS). McGee is, to some extent, the forgotten man in this class, but he has been impressive in the exhibition games, averaging 14 points per game in limited playing time, including a 7-9 performance against Chattanooga. Like Holman, if McGee can add meaningful frontcourt depth, this team will be formidable.
Deandre Thomas: 6-8 junior forward, Chicago (Chipola JC/Westinghouse HS). No, that's not a cut and paste error. Thomas and Jamarcus Ellis have been teammates in high school and junior college. Thomas has been a prodigious scorer at his prior stops. He has lost quite a bit of weight, but he still is a very large man, weighing about 300 pounds. Kelvin Sampson had Thomas walking six miles a day during the offseason.
There's an unfortunate rumor surrounding an IU player who has had his troubles recently. Hoosier Scoop, rather than ignoring it or discussing it obliquely, puts it out there, and says this:
The last time we tried to address a rumor about A.J. Ratliff we were criticized by another media outlet for doing so. But I think we did the right thing that time — we acknowledged the rumor and then dispelled it by reporting about it — and so I’ll do the same thing this time. In this new media age, chatter of this sort spreads far more quickly than it once did. I think any newspaper or media source that believes it dictates public discourse the way it did even five years ago is incredibly naive. We do more of a public service by sorting out fact from fiction.
The rumor, in case you don't feel like clicking through, is that AJ Ratliff has been kicked off the team for testing positive for marijuana. Ratliff is sitting out the first few games because he is academically ineligible and was not on the bench Saturday night.