After a thrilling overtime win over Kansas in Hawaii, IU convincingly won its home opener 100-78 over UMass Lowell. James Blackmon Jr. solidified the fact that he is The Guy on offense with 23 points on 5-9 shooting from behind the arc, and OG Anunoby and Devonte Green provided several phenomenal dunks. All Indiana had to do tonight was win without suffering any injuries (which fortunately is exactly what happened), but there are still some other minor takeaways from the home opener.
Thomas Bryant is this team’s vocal leader
For all the talent on this team, it wasn’t clear who would take Yogi’s place as on-court leader. Blackmon, Anunoby, and RoJo are all pretty soft-spoken guys, and Bryant has taken it upon himself to assume more of a leadership role. His on-court intensity and emotion was easily apparent last season, and one of the keys to his development is going to be working to channel that emotion positively.
Though it wasn’t a determining factor in this particular game, we saw the positive and negative outcomes that Bryant’s intensity can have. He wasn’t afraid to chew out Blackmon in the first half after the junior guard tried to switch on a screen unnecessarily, letting his man score an easy layup. It was refreshing to see players already holding each other accountable on defense this early in this season, especially when you consider last year’s disastrous start.
Bryant’s emotions can still get the best of him sometimes, such as when he and Jahad Thomas received double technicals for jawing in the second half, and how quickly he matures will go a long way towards determining just how good this team can be.
The lineup possibilities are nearly endless
This isn’t necessarily a new revelation, but one of the most fun parts of Tom Crean’s job this year will be playing around with all the different lineups that the Hoosiers’ depth and versatility allows him to use. At different times tonight there were lineups without a dedicated point guard, times when Crean went huge with a frontline of Bryant, De’Ron Davis, and Freddie McSwain Jr., and times when Anunoby and Juwan Morgan seemed like they were playing multiple positions at once. Figuring out how to match up with IU is going to be a huge challenge for opposing coaches all season.
Get used to games like this
Despite hanging around for the first 10 minutes or so, the River Hawks were overmatched and IU utilized its superior skill and athleticism to blow UMass Lowell away.
UMass Lowell is one of eight teams ranked 250th or worse by KenPom that IU will host during the non-conference season. Despite marquee games against Kansas, North Carolina, and Louisville, IU’s non-con strength of schedule is still going to be garbage. Expect to see plenty more blowouts over teams of UMass Lowell’s caliber.