It's been almost five whole months since Indiana basketball has taken the floor. Since then, the makeup of the team has changed, the outlook of the team has become further clouded, and conversations about Tom Crean's job status have produced more inane arguments than a normal episode of First Take. For the next week though, the Hoosiers will hope to leave the distractions behind, as they head to Montreal for a series of games against some Canadian competition. The Hoosiers will play five exhibition games in six days, starting on August 8. Here's a quick primer for what you need to know about this upcoming trip.
So what's been going on with the Hoosiers since they last played in March?
Well, let's see. First, Austin Etherington and Jeremy Hollowell transferred. Then Noah Vonleh declared for the draft. Next, a couple starters had a bit too much fun during Little 5 week, Peter Jurkin left the team, and Kenny Johnson took the open assistant position at Louisville. In addition, we didn't play in the CBI, and Crean fueled many an Indiana bonfire by telling the fanbase he doesn't read their tweets. Oh, and we brought in six new players. So yeah, this offseason has been pretty quiet.
You mention we brought in six new players. What do they bring to the team?
The biggest name, of course, is James Blackmon, Jr. Blackmon is the latest Burger Boy to commit to IU, and his strong shooting skills will benefit a team that had trouble scoring consistently last year. The Marion native's father played for Kentucky, who tried to snag the junior Blackmon away from IU at the last minute, but could not do so. Along with Blackmon, Hoosier fans will get their first glimpse at another highly recruited guard in Robert Johnson (aka RoJo), along with three-point sharpshooter Max Hoetzel. Two of the bigger question marks are the big men who were late recruits to Bloomington, Jeremiah April and Tim Priller. In addition, Illinois State transfer guard Nick Zeisloft should see some playing time, and his ball-handling skills should help us reduce turnovers, which we know were a major problem last season.
Now that we know the new guys, tell us more about our opponents on this trip.
The Hoosiers start play on August 8 against Laval University. I looked up Laval, and it's Canada's oldest university, located in Quebec City. However, the school has fared better in football in recent years than basketball, and the Rouge et Or finished 6-10 in hoops last season. That's right, their nickname is literally the Red and Gold.
Two days later, the tough competition begins when the Hoosiers take on Ottawa University, who went 20-2 in the CIS (short for Canadian Interuniversity Sport, or Canada's version of the NCAA), and beat TCU in an exhibition last summer. The next day, in likely our toughest test, the Hoosiers take on Carleton University, who went undefeated in CIS play last year, beat Wisconsin in an exhibition, and took Syracuse down to the wire. In short, Carleton is a worthwhile opponent, and should not be confused with the Division 3 school in Minnesota with the same name (like I did in a Twitter exchange with Dustin Dopirak a few weeks ago).
On August 12, the Hoosiers take on another strong opponent in McGill University, who went 14-2 last season. McGill is a large research university located in Montreal, and one of two Canadian universities that are part of the AAU. (An AAU member, huh? Jim Delany will be extending them a Big Ten invite in no time. Can't wait for the inevitable IU/McGill rematch in the 2025 B1G title game! It will be played on the Moon.) Finally, the Hoosiers play their last game the next day against the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM), who finished 3-13 last season.
Which player will be most under the spotlight during these games?
Aside from the new guys, I'm guessing that Hanner Mosquera-Perea will get the most scrutiny in this set of games. The lack of big men on the 2014-15 IU roster is evident, and Perea is the most experienced of the subset of guys on this team who are taller than 6-8. Perea's performances in limited play last season were varied, but he demonstrated his potential in a win over Ohio State late last season, when he picked up 8 points, 5 boards, and 3 blocks in only 15 minutes of play. With a shallow bench, he will also have to keep out of foul trouble.
Will we be able to watch these games?
Unfortunately, I don't think they'll be televised, nor will we get to hear Don Fischer broadcasting them on radio. So, when I say that IU fans will be getting their first glimpse at the new-look Hoosiers, by that I mean those select few who will be in attendance. Luckily, we'll be able to follow the Hoosier beat writers on Twitter to hear about what's happening north of the border.
What should IU fans who are going to Montreal do while the Hoosiers aren't playing?
The last time I went to Montreal was so long ago that the Expos still played there. And while the Expos are still the subject of much adulation, the fact remains that Olympic Stadium was not a great baseball venue, and an example of the cost predicaments of hosting an Olympic Games, because the city took 30 years to pay off the debts of the stadium that is rarely used anymore. Regardless, the "Big O" is still an interesting monument, along with the tilted tower next to it. And because many of the city's residents speak French, you'll have a chance to practice the language if you're a francophone.
Elsewhere in Montreal, Vieux-Montreal is the oldest part of the city and still relatively preserved from the 17th Century. The Biodome is a former Olympic cycling venue that has been converted into a museum that houses four different ecosystems. The city's namesake, Mount Royal, is a mountain that overlooks the city. Finally, if you can't wait another 3 weeks for football to start, the CFL's Montreal Alouettes have already begun their season. Remember Chad Ochocinco? He plays for them now.