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The season begins: Indiana Hoosiers v. Howard Bison.

Howard Bison

Current record: 0-0
Current RPI: n/a
Location: Washington, DC
Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
Current Sagarin: n/a
Current Pomeroy: n/a
2008-09 record: 8-23 (6-10)
2008-09 RPI: 330
2008-09 Sagarin: 328
2008-09 Pomeroy: 330
Series: First meeting
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 8 pm, BTN

After a long, long offseason, IU finally has the chance to put the horrific 2008-09 season in the past.  Unfortunately, we may not know much more after tonight's game than we knew after IU's two exhibition games.  There are only 341 teams in Division I, so Howard's ratings indicate that the Bison were one of the very worst teams in college basketball last year.  Nevertheless, the Hoosiers should not overlook the Bison: one of Howard's two non-conference wins last season was an upset over Oregon State in the opening game (although that game was at Howard). 

Howard is one of the most prominent of the historically black colleges and universities.  Its alumni include late Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, writer Toni Morrison, actor Ossie Davis, and most thrillingly, CBS/Big Ten Network announcer GUS! JOHNSON!  Can you imagine Gus Johnson calling a Howard upset of Indiana?

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, Howard's website does not contain much about the school's basketball history, even in the media guide.  As far back as Ken Pomeroy's site goes (2003-04), Howard has never broken double digits in wins.  The Bison last qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 1992, when they lost to #1 seed Kansas in the first round.  Howard's only other appearance came in 1981, when they lost to Wyoming.  Perhaps IU fans should hope for a return to prominence by Howard.  Both times Howard appeared in the NCAA Tournament, IU advanced to the Final Four.

IU fans will know the feeling, but it's difficult to find any areas of strength in Howard's 2008-09 statistics.  Their offense and defense both ranked below 300.  The Bison did block a lot of shots (6.7 percent, good enough for #16 in the nation) and had very few shots blocked.  Howard plays at a slow, 64 possessions per game pace, and relies very heavily on two point shot for points.  That doesn't mean that Howard doesn't take plenty of three pointers, but the Bison shot only 28 percent from behind the arc.  One note of interest: Howard is non-terrible at forcing turnovers: its opponents turned the ball over on 19.8 percent of possessions, which is #194 nationally.  Howard also got to the line quite a bit in 2008-09. 

Howard's only double-figures scorer in 2008 was Eugene Myatt, who graduated, and second-leading scorer Chris McHenry is gone as well.  Still, four players who started 17 or more games last season return.  Curtis White, who averaged 5.9 points per game last season, is from Pike High School in Indianapolis, as is Kyle Riley, Howard's leading returning scorer at 9.4 points per game. 

An improved IU team should win this game comfortably.  Hell, an unimproved IU team should win this game comfortably.  We won't know much about the Hoosiers after tonight, except that basketball season is finally underway.  As with football, there will be a game thread posted, so please stop by.