Indiana powers past Nebraska and back into first place in the Big Ten behind 20 points and 5 boards from Troy Williams and 12 & 5 from freshman Juwan Morgan. What did we learn?
1. You can probably get off Troy Williams' behind now, y'all.
Hey, you. Yeah, you, reading this. You have good days at work, and some bad days. I have good days creating #content for this website, and bad days. (Most bad, but not the point here.) Troy Williams, who is a human, amateur athlete, and college kid, has good days and bad days.
Tonight, Troy Williams gave Tom Crean & Indiana fans all they can ask for -- 20 points, 5 boards, and a quality performance that buoyed Indiana through a slow start to a nonchalant home win over a team that's beaten Michigan State on the road. Does this mean Troy Williams is perfect? Hardly. He still had more turnovers than assists tonight, 4 to 3. He's struggled on the road at times, and regularly plays at such a breakneck pace that he's often too dang quick for a Tom Crean offense.
Still, the BENCH TROY WILLIAMS movement on Twitter is generally a dumb and bad one. If Indiana is to perform at the optimal level, Williams not only needs to be on the floor -- but needs to be a significant part of what Indiana does. The other young pieces are promising, in OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan, but they fit in best as young players coming off the bench as a value-add. That's part of what has allowed Indiana to run over opposing benches in recent weeks. Indiana, suddenly and unexpectedly after the James Blackmon injury, has depth -- and that depth is most effective when Troy Williams is able to perform as he did tonight in a starting role. Speaking of that bench play..
2. You know OG Anunoby. Tonight was Juwan Morgan's breakout game.
Juwan Morgan has been quietly good and serviceable for Indiana as a freshman in relief of Thomas Bryant & Max Bielfeldt down low, but tonight might have demonstrated his value most. Morgan's energy on the offensive boards takes Indiana from a good offensive rebounding team to a borderline-great one. (The Hoosiers entered tonight's game 9th in the nation in OReb%.) But tonight he showed the ability to stretch the floor and score the ball from the line and distance, making 5 of 6 free throws and knocking in a corner three on a Troy Williams kick-out.
If Indiana's going to make a deep tournament run, Morgan's continued emergence is important for such.
3. Indiana, once again, is tied for first in the Big Ten conference.
Look, here, look at this idiot that said the conference title race was down to three teams on Saturday. Here's what I wrote about Iowa, and their fairly benign path to a Big Ten title.
Even after dropping last night's contest in Bloomington, the Hawkeyes have the best shot at an outright conference title of any of the remaining contenders. Avoid stumbling at home against a surging Wisconsin team or on the road at Ohio State, and the Hawkeyes will set up a matchup in Carver-Hawkeye on Tuesday, March 1 against Indiana that's poised to be bigger than the first. But, don't overlook at trip to Ann Arbor against a Michigan team that should surely have Caris Levert back on the last day of the season, either. Still, it's hard to imagine with their remaining schedule that Fran McCaffrey's team would finish with anything below a 14-4 record in conference play. Getting the Hawkeyes to 5 losses would require a massive collapse -- to drop 3 of the above four matchups, or to somehow stumble at home against Minnesota or, uh,on the road at Penn State. I mean, hey, I guess it's happened before.
After nearly dropping a home game to Minnesota Sunday, the Hawkeyes stumbled tonight against Penn State in the Bryce Jordan Center, which is evidently a thing this season. All of a sudden, Iowa's next four matchups to finish the season (Wisconsin, at Ohio State, Indiana, at Michigan) seem hardly to be the penciled-in Ws the might have once been. I thought two weeks ago that there'd be little chance Iowa would finish any worse than 15-3 in conference play. Now, it seems reasonable to think the Hawkeyes might finish 13-5, and I am a big, giant idiot.
Of course, that leaves the door wide open once again for Indiana and Maryland. With matchups remaining against both Iowa and the Terps, the equation for Tom Crean and the Hoosiers is simple -- win the next four and take the title outright. Maryland would need another Iowa loss to do the same.
Oh, and guess who's lurking one game out of the first place tie? Wisconsin & Nigel Hayes are ready to somehow, SOMEHOW take a share of the title if the leaders continue to stumble. The door might be open for once-left-for-dead Michigan State and Purdue as well at 5 losses, especially if the Boilers are able to pick off the Hoosiers Saturday in Bloomington.
Hooooooooooooooooooooo buddy. Strap in. We're in for one helluva four-game finish to the Big Ten regular season.