Big Ten Preview Part III: Key Questions for Indiana and Penn State

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 1st, 2017

With the season just a little over a week away, Rush the Court’s Big Ten preview will tip off its coverage by posing season-defining key questions for each team. Today we address Indiana and Penn State.

#10 Indiana – Will the Hoosiers buy in defensively?

Archie Miller is preaching defense in Bloomington. (Joe Ullrich, CNHI Sports Indiana)

Over Tom Crean’s last four seasons at Indiana, the Hoosiers ranked outside of the top 50 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency three times, including a 2014-15 campaign that set the program’s worst mark in the KenPom era (106.0). During that same span, Archie Miller-coached Dayton finished in the top 50 three times, reaching the NCAA Tournament all four years and twice advancing to the second weekend. The Flyers hung their hats on disciplined man-to-man defense and opportunistic aggression, principles Miller hopes to instill right away in Bloomington. If his new team fully commits, the ceiling on Indiana — projected by KenPom to go 8-10 in the Big Ten this season — should be higher than anticipated, even if it takes a step back offensively. The Hoosiers lose their three most dynamic weapons on that end of the court, with James Blackmon (17.0 PPG), Thomas Bryant (12.6 PPG), and OG Anunoby (11.1 PPG in 16 games) all leaving early. While Robert Johnson (12.8 PPG), forward Juwan Morgan, and point guard Josh Newkirk should keep the offense afloat, it’s hard to see Indiana scoring at the eye-popping rate it has in each of the past three seasons. Greater intrigue — and room for improvement — lies on defense, where frontcourt size will be an issue, but versatility will not. On the one hand, rim protection may be a concern: with the 6’10” Bryant no longer lurking the paint, only one returning player stands taller than 6’7″. On the other hand, Miller’s Dayton squads were often defined by their lack of size, great versatility and penchant for swarming the paint. With players who can defend multiple positions like Morgan, Colin Hartman, and a slimmed-down DeRon Davis, Indiana has the potential to make a vast, immediate improvement on the defensive end. That is, of course, if Miller can get can get his offensive-minded roster to fully buy in.

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Can Indiana’s OG Anunoby Meet the Considerable Hype?

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 10th, 2016

If you’re searching the Indiana roster for the name of the best player, you can stop when you see Thomas Bryant’s. The 6’10” sophomore is one of the most, talented forwards in the country and could easily have been playing in a regular season NBA game right now instead of still residing in Bloomington. But if you’re looking for the most exciting Hoosier on this season’s roster, you’ll need to redirect your eyes to another sophomore, OG Anunoby. The 19-year old London-born but Missouri-raised athlete was thrown into the limelight last December after James Blackmon Jr.’s season-ending injury. From that point on, his role changed from that of an unheralded freshman to providing stellar perimeter defense for 17 minutes off the bench with some highlight dunks sprinkled in. Given his youth, athleticism and length, Anunoby is a fan favorite among the Hoosiers faithful – not to mention a number professional scouts – and is one of the reasons Indiana is expected to compete for a Big Ten title despite significant departures from a Sweet Sixteen team.

OG Anunoby has all the hype coming into this season that he was missing as a HS recruit. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images).

OG Anunoby has all the hype coming into this season that he was missing as a HS recruit. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

How unheralded was Anunoby going into his freshman season? According to RSCIhoops.com, there were 260 better players in the Class of 2015 than him — not exactly the pedigree of a typical freshman standout. But once Blackmon fell to injury, Tom Crean was forced to improvise and use a combination of Anunoby and Juwan Morgan to replace the veteran shooting guard. While neither freshman could adequately replace Blackmon’s prolific scoring, Indiana’s defense improved with the pair in the rotation. Anunoby particularly distinguished himself as a defensive specialist (97.6 defensive rating) with a keen ability to defend multiple positions. His contributions helped save the Hoosiers’ season after a devastating injury to one of its starters, ultimately resulting in sole ownership of the Big Ten regular season and a nice NCAA Tournament run that ended at the hands of #1 seed North Carolina. Read the rest of this entry »

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