A lot has happened to this Indiana program in the past few days and new details seem to emerge almost daily about the rocky offseason experienced by the Hoosiers. I'm sure Tom Crean and company would, if given the opportunity, hold off the start of the season for a month or so as they address issues in leadership and personal responsibility up and down the program.
Unfortunately, this season will start tomorrow whether the Hoosiers are ready or not.
Yes, it is just an exhibition game (which is, apparently, seen as very equal to a regular game down in Bloomington) but it will be competitive basketball against a different set of shirts in front of fans who paid to attend and given the events of the past few days, it would probably behoove the team to play well. There is no question that Devin Davis' continued recovery and rehabilitation remains paramount, followed by a thoughtful examination and correcting of the team's leadership void. But after those things- there is basketball.
And that's what I'm writing about today.
Knowing full well that there are far more important matters for Indiana basketball, let us take a dive into the shallow water and talk about the first four games for a little bit, where we will be missing Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, Emmitt Holt, and Devin Davis. While his long-term prognosis seems to be positive, it would seem unlikely that we see Devin Davis on the court this season. So we'll assume he isn't coming back and hope to be delightfully surprised down the road.
The two exhibition games are negligible because, obviously, they do not count. Indiana could lose this game by 800 points and I promise you it won't matter. It won't be counted in the standings and it won't be used to determine their postseason fate. It will be amazing for some #narratives and a great source of #piping #hot #taeks but the result of the game is as unimportant as the three-point shootout at Hoosier Hysteria.
The reason that I bring up the possibility of losing this game is because there will only be nine Hoosiers (at most) dressing for it: Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson, Nick Zeisloft, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Collin Hartman, Tim Priller, Ryan Burton, and Nate Ritchie. Only Hanner and Yogi have had any extended time playing college basketball games together, and even that isn't a huge amount of minutes. There are some pretty good Indiana AAU teams that would give Northwood a run for their money, I imagine, but this is far from an ideal roster situation to be in before any game, exhibition or otherwise.
Max Hoetzel is recovering from an injury sustained when trying to tomahawk a dunk over Perea. While I admire the freshman's confidence, that's probably ill-advised. The injury doesn't seem to be serious, and sitting out seems to be more precautionary than necessary. While Jeremiah April continues to carry the mantle of "tall guy with a lower extremity issue" recently vacated by Peter Jurkin.
Regardless, the rooting parameters are the same as they were for Hoosier Hysteria: if everyone comes out healthy, Indiana won the game.
First Two Games
Against Mississippi Valley State and Texas Southern, we know we'll be without Williams, Robinson, Holt, and Davis. While Robinson's absence will be softened by the plethora of talented guards already on the roster, the other three suspensions draw directly from Indiana's already shallow frontcourt depth. This likely means the Hoosiers will have to lean on the likes of Hartman, Priller and (if he's healthy) Hoetzel to hold down the open minutes until Troy Williams returns. Of those three, I would predict Hartman to get the nod from a starting standpoint, and don't be surprised to see the pair of 6'7" walk-ons, Ryan Burton and Nate Ritchie, to get in on the action as well.
Hanner Perea will be integral in these first two games, as he will be all season, but even more so with the magnified lack of depth. The longer he can stay on the court and be effective, the more freedom and flexibility IU will have across the other positions. If the Hoosiers end up in a position where four guards and a wing player are playing for extended stretches, things could get hairy.
It's helpful that MVSU isn't very big and also one of the worst teams in Division-1 Basketball according to Ken Pomeroy, clocking in at 346th out of 351 teams. Texas Southern isn't very good either, coming in at 266. Both teams will struggle to contain a backcourt of Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. no matter who else is on the court for Indiana. To their credit, though, Mike Davis' squad has some legitimate size on the roster that could make things a lot more difficult for a team that was set to rely on Troy Williams as a post defender.
These exhibitions will be more interesting than typical exhibitions, as it will give us more of a clue as to what to expect in the first two games as Indiana navigates the opening of their schedule without some key players.