Rushed Reactions: #1 Indiana 83, #16 James Madison 62

Posted by IRenko on March 22nd, 2013


I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #1 Indiana and #16 James Madison. You can follow him on Twitter at @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. In Case You Were Wondering, Indiana Can Score — The best offense in the country unleashed its full arsenal this afternoon, bombarding James Madison with drives, post feeds, threes, and pull-up jumpers. Getting to play their first non-Big Ten defense in 20 games seemed to release a pressure valve for the Hoosiers, and the scoring came pouring forth. The rub is that their defense remains a step behind their offense, and teams that are physical, slow the game down, and pound the glass pose a threat. Temple may not be able to pull off the upset, but looking down the line, a potential Sweet 16 matchup with Syracuse is a real concern for the Hoosiers.

    Yogi Ferrell celebrates after making a three point basket against the James Madison Dukes. (Getty)

    Yogi Ferrell celebrates after making a three-point basket against the James Madison Dukes. (Getty)

  2. IU’s Size Advantage Paid Off — The Dukes have big strong guards, but in part due to injuries, they are sorely lacking in size inside. They paid for it against IU, getting outscored 36-20 in the paint and 16-2 at the free throw line. The Hoosiers had lots of offensive tools that they deployed in this game, but a feed to Zeller in the post almost always resulted in a bucket or free throws. And at the other end, the Dukes, who normally make 65 percent of their shots at the rim, managed to shoot just 33 percent in the first half on layups. Struggling to gain traction inside, they turned into a pure jump-shooting team, taking only three shots at the rim in the second half. The Dukes’ leading scorer, 6’6″ power forward Rayshawn Goins, was particularly ineffective, scoring only two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
  3. Will Sheehey Was On His Game — Will Sheehey, the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year, is a key X-factor for Indiana. The Hoosiers’ offense is that much more complete when Sheehey is on his game. He’s been prone to disappearing lately, scoring just two points in three of IU’s last seven games, and seeing his scoring average dip into single digits. But today, he came off the bench to score 15 points on 7-of-15 shooting. If he can repeat this kind of performance against tougher opponents, IU could be Dancing all the way to Atlanta.

Star of the Game: Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell is the oft-forgotten man in IU’s formidable starting five, but he made a grand debut on the NCAA Tournament stage, scoring 14 of IU’s first 18 points and assisting on the other four by feeding Zeller for dunks. Ferrell’s one-man onslaught gave the Hoosiers an early, impregnable lead. He finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. With all four of his starting mates likely to leave IU, the former McDonald’s All-American and top 25 recruit will be Indiana’s focal point and leader in the coming years.

Quotable: Indiana coach Tom Crean on the worry that bruising Big Ten season would wear Indiana down too much:  “That goes through your head. I’d be lying to say it didn’t.”

Sights & Sounds: The NCAA allows teams a very specific number of bench seats, so Indiana was forced to put a half dozen of its players — including two scholarship athletes — in the stands behind the scorers’ table. The biggest victim of this unusual situation was the petite IU fan, decked out in a Hoosiers jersey, who got stuck sitting behind seven-foot freshman center Peter Jurkin and spent the game trying to crane her neck around him.

Wildcard: Although the Hoosiers have been the second-best three-point shooting team in the nation over the course of the season, they’ve hit just 33 percent of their attempts over the last six games, during which they’ve gone 3-3. This afternoon, they shot 9-of-22 from behind the arc.

What’s Next? Indiana will return to Dayton Arena on Sunday to face Temple, looking for the 22nd Sweet Sixteen appearance in school history.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.28.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 28th, 2013


  1.‘s Eamonn Brennan gets right to the point: What’s the matter with Michigan? It’s been a strange few weeks for the Wolverines, who were ranked No. 1 in the country at one point this season but have now been blown out by Michigan State and upset by the only team in the conference who didn’t have a Big Ten win entering play Wednesday. Penn State gave the Wolverines a run for their money in Ann Arbor on February 17 and the Nittany Lions finally finished the deal on Wednesday in State College. Before that, Michigan snuck by Ohio State in overtime and was beaten by Wisconsin in overtime prior to the MSU loss. The problem, Brennan writes, has been their defense, which is giving up 1.11 points per possession over its last seven games. Michigan’s offense is and always has been there. But the defense is fading fast. Can they figure it out in time to play like a Final Four team when it matters most?
  2. All of Tubby Smith‘s naysayers have probably grown pretty quiet for the time being. The Minnesota head coach has had doubters ever since his time at Kentucky, and they were chattering pretty loudly when the Gophers experienced their fall from grace after beginning the season 15-1 and rising as high as No. 8 in the country. But Smith says he doesn’t really listen to what people are saying — good or bad — so whether the team is on a slide or they’ve just upset the No. 1 team in the national polls, it’s not something that gets to him.
  3. Almost every team has one player who sets the tone for the rest of the team. For Michigan State, that guy is Keith Appling. As Appling goes, so go the Spartans, and Appling hasn’t been going much of anywhere lately. He’s been a non-factor in both Indiana losses this season, and he hurt more than he helped against Ohio State this week by allowing Aaron Craft to dismantle the Spartans’ backcourt. If the Spartans have any fighting chance at working their way back into the Big Ten title chase, they’ve got to beat Michigan on Sunday in Ann Arbor. And to do that, they need Appling to play like an all-Big Ten-caliber player again. Tom Izzo is confident Appling will do just that, saying that Appling has done a good job of carrying this team all year long, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t find that in him again this weekend.
  4. As Ben Axelrod writes, Thad Matta had not made a midseason starting lineup change for anything other than an injury since the 2008-09 season — that is, until he moved Evan Ravenel to the bench in December. But that move has allowed Matta to bring an experienced senior off the bench and is working well for the Buckeyes. Ravenel had a career game against Michigan State, and he’s proven to be a guy who Ohio State wants on the floor at the end of games, despite losing his starting spot to Amir Williams. “That was kind of what we were looking for, a little bit more of what Evan had brought to the table last year when he would come in,” Matta said. “I thought he was pretty effective, especially down the stretch of the Big Ten season.”
  5. Last week, ESPN broadcasters spent some time during the Michigan State-Indiana game dissecting a play that officials were reviewing in which it appeared Derrick Nix hit Cody Zeller with a cheap shot. As further review took place on the web after the game, it appeared that Zeller may have staged the incident by grabbing Nix’s arm. Either way, it was hard to draw any real conclusions. Then there was another strangely similar incident in Tuesday’s Indiana-Minnesota game in which Indiana’s Will Sheehey fell to the ground clutching his face while defending Minnesota’s Andre Hollins in a trap on the baseline. Officials again went to the monitor to review it, and many on the Internet speculated again — is there something fishy going on at Indiana, with players trying to draw attention with these “dirty” plays? We’re used to flops on charges and blocks, but is this something else, something more?
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Big Ten M5: 02.18.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 18th, 2013


  1. As we look ahead to this week’s Big Ten schedule, the Indiana – Michigan State game on Tuesday night may not only be a big game in the conference but may be the biggest match-up nationally this week as well. The Hoosiers will head to East Lansing as the top-ranked team but Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo is not comparing this game to the “David vs. Goliath” story. “I’m definitely not trying to make like it’s David against Goliath because it’s not, but it is the No. 1 team in the country, and I think earned and deserved and done consistently over the whole year,” Izzo said. The key to the game will be Derrick Nix’s defense against Cody Zeller in the paint. If Nix can stay on the floor without picking up some quick fouls, he may be able to force Zeller to defend him on the other end of the floor which could put pressure on other Hoosiers to shoot well on the road to pick up a win.
  2. Speaking of Indiana, despite the impending blockbuster game tomorrow night, the Hoosiers kept their focus by thumping Purdue, 83-55, on Saturday in Bloomington. Will Sheehey had a great game off the bench by scoring 22 points and was one of the main reasons behind IU’s big win over its intrastate rival. After Victor Oladipo went down in the first half with a sprained ankle, Sheehey stepped up to shoot 9-of-9 from the floor and the game should help boost confidence in his shot as they head to East Lansing. “I just try to stay aggressive regardless of what the situation is,” he said after the game.
  3. Even though the Michigan Wolverines have been one of the best programs in college hoops over the past year-plus, head coach John Beilein understands that he has a lot of work left to do to repair the image of his program. Beilein has talked extensively about the “fractured past” of the program and is trying to reconnect with former alumni, specifically the “Fab Five” that played in Ann Arbor in the early 1990s. “It’s a big challenge, you’ve had so many different coaches here over that time period,” he said. The basketball program hasn’t been as consistent as the football program in Ann Arbor and the four coaching changes since that era is a strong indication of its inconsistency. “Unlike football and some other programs where we’ve had a lot of consistency that holds the teams together, we’ve been a bit fragmented with basketball,” Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said.
  4. The Illini’s recent four-game winning streak has come as a result of improved offensive efficiency. Head coach John Groce has brought new energy to his team and encourages his guards to shoot from anywhere on the floor if they have a good look. When the Illini are moving the ball around and not settling for shots from beyond the arc in isolation, they have been very effective in the Big Ten. Illinois has averaged 1.19 points per possession which is higher than the Big Ten average of 1.01. Despite not having a true point guard on the roster, they have been very good with the ball as indicated by a 16.5% turnover percentage which is lower than the league average of 20.0%.
  5. It was a rough game for the Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday in Madison because they got hammered by 22 points against the Badgers. After the game, head coach Thad Matta said, “We’ve seen the results if we’re not going to play defensively. We’re not a good basketball team.” Except for a win over Michigan a month ago, the Buckeyes continue to search for a marquee win over another highly-ranked team in the Big Ten because they want to head into March with some momentum. Junior guard Aaron Craft said, “Coaches can’t get us ready to play. The responsibility is on us as individual players.” The point guard was held to 2-of-9 shooting from the field and did not have an effective game, thanks to some stifling defense provided by Ben Brust.
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Previewing this weekend’s schedule of Big Ten games

Posted by jnowak on February 8th, 2013

We’ve reached the point in the season where it feels like every game has conference implications of some kind, and there’s no better period of time to enjoy them all than Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Weekends through the end of the season will be packed with quality basketball, so let’s take a look at this weekend’s slate of games and what’s in store:

  • Michigan at Wisconsin (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN) — The Wolverines could have the misfortune of becoming the No. 1 team in the country this upcoming week if they take care of business in Madison. Yes, you read that right. Having the nation’s top ranking is obviously an honor, but it hasn’t boded well for those teams this year. The AP’s No. 1 team (including Michigan, once already) has lost already six times this season, and with a trip to East Lansing coming up for the Wolverines, that could be on the line yet again. But first, they have to get by Wisconsin. The Badgers have been unpredictable this season, suffering two home losses already (an extremely puzzling one to Virginia, and a conference loss to Michigan State). The Badgers have the frontcourt to give Michigan trouble, but the Wolverines have a backcourt that no one in the Big Ten can match. It’s the only meeting between these two teams this year, so the Badgers need to make it count if they’re going to make a run at the conference title.
Bo Ryan's defense is always a cause for concern (AP)

Bo Ryan’s defense is always a cause for concern (AP)

  • Northwestern at Iowa (Saturday, 4:30 p.m., Big Ten Network) — Iowa just cannot seem to get over the hump and they’re coming up against a team on Saturday who’s familiar with such a situation. As has been the case for Northwestern the past few years, the Hawkeyes are trying to do everything they can to sneak into the NCAA Tournament but can’t manage to pull off a significant upset or put together a stretch of outstanding games. If they want any chance at all of building some momentum and making a run at the Big Dance, games like this one have to be victories. They’ve got a favorable stretch of five very winnable games on the horizon, and it has to start here. As for Northwestern, they’ve got to find a way to defend better than they did in the first match-up this season, when Iowa hammered the Wildcats in Evanston.
  • Michigan State at Purdue (Saturday, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network) — The last time Michigan State traveled to Purdue, Boilermaker fans taunted then-freshman Branden Dawson and it backfired on them. Dawson was electric in a 76-62 win in West Lafayette, going for 15 points, 11 boards, two blocks and one emphatic slam dunk that silenced the home crowd. The Spartans will need him in a big way again on Saturday if they’re to overcome the recent slew of injuries and maintain their roll in the Big Ten. The Spartans’ 84-61 win against Purdue at Breslin Center on Jan. 5 was not as close as the final score indicated, and they’ll be in for a battle again, against a Purdue team that can be very dangerous when clicking on all cylinders. Purdue freshman A.J. Hammons going against Michigan State’s frontcourt will be an intriguing match-up to watch. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 01.25.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on January 25th, 2013


  1. Full disclosure, when I’m not writing for RTC or going to school, I run a site called InsideNU along with RTC columnist Chris Johnson. I don’t typically plug my own articles, but after Northwestern’s win over Minnesota I wrote this feature breaking down the Wildcats’ 1-3-1 defense. NU was getting dominated on the boards by Trevor Mbakwe and the Gophers in the first half and the beginning of the second half, so the Wildcats switched to the zone, stifling Minnesota’s offense and helping Northwestern get into transition. NU ended up holding the Gophers, whose previous season-low was 66 points, to a paltry sum of 48 in that game. The 1-3-1 also helped NU keep things close with Indiana, and suddenly, it appears as if the Wildcats may be able to make things interesting with respect to postseason play.
  2. A victory over Nebraska isn’t all that impressive of a win, but Illinois’ 20-point blowout against the Huskers was just what the doctor ordered. The Illini had been reeling since a win a couple of weeks ago against Ohio State — suffering losses to Wisconsin and Northwestern — so the win over Nebraska was a much-needed confidence booster. Now comes a five-game stretch that could define Illinois’ season: vs. Michigan, at Michigan State, vs. Wisconsin, vs. Indiana, at Minnesota. The Illini may not be favored in any of those five games, but it’s important that they fight through to get at least a couple of wins in order to avoid a collapse similar to last season.
  3. It doesn’t take much offense to beat Penn State this year, and Indiana’s 72 points earlier this week were more than enough to take down the Nittany Lions. Still, the Hoosiers found their offense in unexpected places. Cody Zeller finished with just two points on 0-of-4 shooting — a career low. However, IU got other players to step up, including Will Sheehey, who has struggled with consistency at times this year. Sheehey came into the game with IU up just 23-14, but he hit two threes and helped the Hoosiers eventually increase their lead to 41-19, essentially putting the game away.
  4. In Tuesday’s game against Michigan State, Wisconsin lived and died by the three-point shot. When the Badgers were hot, they were tough to stop, but there were too many cold stretches and low percentage shots for UW to escape with a win. The Badgers came out strong in the first half, but struggled to keep up that pace throughout the game. Wisconsin shot a season-low 29.6 percent from the field, mainly because half of those shots were threes. The three-point shot can be the great equalizer if it’s working, but on days that it’s not, the Badgers must find another way to score through high-percentage shots.
  5. After years of enduring second half collapses, you can’t blame Minnesota fans for getting restless in the midst of a three-game losing streak, especially following a loss to Northwestern. This year, Minnesota has enough talent to earn consideration as a top four seed or better in the NCAA Tournament, but the Gophers must be more consistent in order to reach that goal. In fear of yet another collapse, some Minnesota fans are already calling for coach Tubby Smith’s head on Twitter. It’s just a three-game losing streak and the Gophers will still be ranked, but a few more bad losses could cause Smith’s seat to get a little bit warmer.
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Big Ten M5: 01.02.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on January 2nd, 2013


  1. We’ve seen Minnesota get off to hot starts before, but this year is starting to feel a little different. The Gophers got a signature win at home on Monday against Michigan State — which had tormented Minnesota at The Barn in years past — and as Trevor Mbakwe gets back into the mix, the Gophers will only get stronger. Tubby Smith has taken his time to ease Mbakwe back into the playing rotation after he tore his right ACL just over a year ago. Playing without a knee brace for the first time this season, Mbakwe showed off the skills we’ve become used to seeing in the Big Ten the last few years — turning in a double-double and giving the Spartans trouble on both ends of the floor. As ESPN‘s Myron Medcalf wrote afterward, Mbakwe is an emotional guide for this team, which could very well compee for a Big Ten title in the toughest conference in the country.
  2. As the guys at look at the Big Ten at the midway point of the season, Jeff Goodman says the conference is the most loaded in America. Illinois and Minnesota have been much better than we ever expected, Michigan and Indiana are surefire national title contenders, and Ohio State and Michigan State are expected to do their usual damage. Goodman takes a good look at the conference with this reset, looking at best match-ups ahead, some of the conference’s top players, and several other interesting news and notes.
  3. All players have their own unique ways of getting motivated before big games. Some turn to scripture, others use music. Athletes are famously superstitious and their habits are endless. Indiana’s Will Sheehey, for one, takes the bad and turns it into good. Sheehey told the Indianapolis Star that he uses criticism, chants from opposing fans, and negative things he reads about his game to motivate himself. It clearly worked on New Year’s Even in Iowa City, as Sheehey went for 13 points, five rebounds and two assists coming off the bench in a nice Big Ten opener road win for the Hoosiers.
  4. When it comes to criticism for Wisconsin sophomore Frank Kaminsky, he admits that no one is tougher than himself. Wisconsin players are expected to play hard, and the Badgers are one of those teams that give the Big Ten a bruising reputation. So when Kaminsky feels like he isn’t playing tough enough, he’s usually the first person to tell… himself. “I know that sometimes I play soft,” Kaminsky told earlier this week, “and after I make a soft play I kind of mumble to myself about being stupid and how I need to play harder.” He’s an up-and-comer in the program and a guy Bo Ryan points to as one of the most improved in his short time in Madison.
  5. Once Big Ten play rolls around for Nebraska, the Cornhuskers are going to need as much scoring as they can find from all parts of the bench. If that means more scoring from David Rivers, that could be a huge plus for Tim Miles’ team. The sophomore wing dropped 20 points in the Huskers’ win against Central Michigan last week, after tallying only 20 points his entire freshman season. So the Omaha World-Herald asks, where has that been all this time? “It’s just been bottled up,” Rivers said with a smile. “I hope there are more of those to come.” If Nebraska is to make a reasonable showing in the Big Ten this year, Miles should hope so, too.
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Night Line: Indiana Displays Just Some Of Its Potential In 24-Point Blowout of UNC

Posted by EJacoby on November 28th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that evening’s games.

So this is why Indiana garnered the #1 preseason ranking for the 2012-13 season. Despite coming into Tuesday night’s game with a 6-0 record and 32-point average margin of victory, the AP poll’s top-ranked Hoosiers had yet to produce a statement performance to legitimize their candidacy as the best squad in all of college hoops. It took overtime to dispose of previously unranked Georgetown last week, and Tom Crean’s team faced another tough test with the Tar Heels coming to town for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Indiana did not fool around this time, easily disposing of North Carolina, 83-59, in a game that showcased a tantalizing display of offensive basketball by the Hoosiers from start to finish. All doubts about IU’s true “top-seed upside” are quelled for the time being after it ran a young-but-explosive UNC team off the floor in Bloomington by out-executing and out-smarting the Tar Heels; even in an imperfect shooting night.

Cody Zeller and Indiana soared past North Carolina on Tuesday night (AP Photo)

For long stretches of Tuesday night’s game, the Hoosiers – ranked #2 in this week’s RTC Top 25 – played a completely flawless brand of unselfish basketball. Crisp passes flew around the Assembly Hall floor at seemingly light speed, leaving the Carolina defense with no chance to rotate quick enough to challenge IU’s knockdown outside shooters or strong post finishers. Strong outlet passes from forwards reached lead guards Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls before UNC could catch up, and the Hoosiers converted time and time again in transition. Indiana totaled 21 assists on 33 made field goals through its balanced attack. The game film of this 24-point blowout ought to become its own best-selling clinic video in ball movement, as IU converted at 1.12 points per possession against the #14-ranked team in the country. Tonight’s IU assist total (21) outpaced that of the leading team in that category nationally (Maryland, 19.3 per game), and the performance boosted IU up to the top offensive efficiency rating (125.5) in the nation.

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Big Ten Team Previews: Indiana Hoosiers

Posted by jnowak on November 5th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Indiana Hoosiers.

Where We Left Off: The Hoosiers had what many figured would be this year, last year. (That confusing enough for ya?) Meaning, Indiana overreached moderate expectations for a young squad that was expected to round into a Top-10 squad this season with a more mature Cody Zeller and a highly-touted recruiting class to be mixed in with a couple veterans. But when Zeller and Tom Crean revived Assembly Hall with thrilling home victories against then-No. 1 Kentucky and then-No. 2 Ohio State (not to mention a victory against Crean’s mentor, Tom Izzo, and No. 5 Michigan State), the basketball world realized that Indiana is finally back. And they are here to stay. The Hoosiers are the consensus No. 1 team in the country, with Zeller a near unanimous preseason All-America selection and a favorite for college basketball’s player of the year. Then, couple seniors Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford with’s fifth-ranked incoming freshman class, and this team is loaded from top to bottom. The Hoosiers ended last season with a Sweet Sixteen loss to eventual champion Kentucky, but Indiana has its sights set on much more this year.

Cody Zeller is the face of the Hoosiers this season. And for good reason.

Positives: When talking about the positives, you have to start with Zeller. He’s the best big man in the country heading into his sophomore campaign, after averaging 15.6 PPG and 6.6 RPG as a freshman. He has good footwork, runs the floor exceptionally well, and has a great nose for the ball. There’s no reason the Indiana offense shouldn’t move through him on every possession. And that brings us to the roles of Hulls and Watford. As seniors on team that will get a lot of its scoring from underclassmen — namely Zeller and freshman Yogi Ferrell, and though Victor Oladipo is a junior, he doesn’t exactly have three years of solid game experience — Watford and Hulls should have the know-how and the presence of mind to get the ball in and out of the post and through Zeller every trip downcourt. This depth and balance of scoring talent and Big Ten experience will do wonders for the Hoosiers this season.

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How Will Derek Elston’s Injury Impact The Hoosiers?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 25th, 2012

Every prediction about the upcoming college basketball season ought to be made with a disclaimer: “assuming they are healthy.” This disclaimer definitely applies to the Indiana Hoosiers this year. Just a few days after being ranked as the best team in the country by the coaches, Tom Crean’s squad already has experienced its first major obstacle of the season. Forward Derek Elston will be sidelined with a knee injury for 6-8 weeks according to several sources. No team is immune to injuries and Elston’s absence for possibly the first 10-12 games will certainly impact the Hoosiers.

Elston’s knee injury will open up some minutes to the younger Hoosiers’ forwards.

Even though Elston only played 12.3 MPG last season, he was expected to provide an important role off the bench for Crean’s group this year. Averaging 2.4 RPG is definitely not all-conference worthy but he brings several intangibles to the team with his size (6’9, 216 lbs) and experience (senior). Elston, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls have been around Bloomington for a few seasons now, and their experience will help younger guys like Yogi Ferrell get up to pace very quickly amidst the intense media spotlight on the Hoosiers. Elston is another key body in the paint and would have taken the bulk of the defensive load to help keep All-America candidate Cody Zeller out of potential foul trouble. Senior forwards who have been around the Big Ten for four seasons know a thing or two about defending the paint and he will be definitely be missed during the non-conference season. Elston’s injury obviously means some shuffling within the Indiana rotation but that could also have a positive impact on the younger players in the long run.

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Breaking Down a Potential UCLA-Indiana Final in the Legends Classic

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 7th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Playing formidable competition in early season invitational tournaments is the best way to build a solid RPI foundation upon which to base the rest of your non-conference schedule. In recent years, as teams have adjusted to the notion that non-league scheduling does, in fact, have an appreciable affect on the bubble cut line come Selection Sunday, these tournaments have provided some intriguing matchups featuring national title contenders. The Legends Classic, one of the more anticipated tournaments in the early season college hoops calendar, released its bracket Monday. The 12-team field, on the whole, is a bit underwhelming, but tournament organizers did do us the favor of setting up a potentially epic finale on November 20 at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Indiana and UCLA, after staging two regional round games on their respective home courts, will need to win only one game against a power conference team before meeting in the tournament’s final game. If UCLA can sneak by Georgetown and Indiana takes care of business against Georgia, the two surefire preseason top-five outfits will put it all on the line for the Legends Classic crown.

Joshua Smith, UCLA

The Legends Classic bracket features two national championship contenders in Indiana and UCLA (Credit: Associated Press).

That’s must-see viewing for any college hoops fan, a tantalizing early season matchup of Final Four-worthy opponents. With more than three months remaining before the bracket kicks off, there’s plenty of time to salivate over this enticing showdown. But in these news-bereft late summer months, where Midnight Madness can’t come soon enough, I’m bringing you a way-too-early positional breakdown of what figures to be one of the best non-league fixtures in the upcoming season. To take this a step further, I’ll provide a prediction, score included, as a way of sparking the debate for which team is better positioned to make good on their considerable preseason hype. Remember, Georgetown or Georgia could knock off UCLA and/or Indiana in the semifinals and thus prevent the more favorable and altogether more entertaining finals matchup. But if the Hoosiers and Bruins are indeed what most preseason prognosticators are making them out to be, they should both advance to the championship round. Still, there’s no guarantee, so take this predictive exercise at face value.

Point guard: Yogi Ferrell/Jordan Hulls vs. Kyle Anderson/Larry Drew II

If Ferrell outplays hulls in preseason practice, Crean likely will insert him into the starting lineup in time for this highly-touted matchup. Ferrell is a true point guard who penetrates and finishes at the rim, but scoring won’t be his primary responsibility this season; facilitating the group of talented finishers around him—guys like Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller—is the first order of business. Hulls has been around long enough to remember discernibly darker days in Bloomington, the pre-Kentucky upset era—faraway as it may seem—and can make up for his deficiencies on defense with experience, leadership and pinpoint three-point marksmanship. He may ultimately start alongside Ferrell at the two. Countering the Hoosiers’ duo is Anderson, one of the more intriguing skills-to-size prospects in the 2012 class. At 6’7″, Anderson poses a major athletic and size advantage over most every point guard, yet he also boasts the shrewd ball handling, court vision and mid-range touch to excel at the position. He functions efficiently on the low block, posting up defenders and finding open shooters on the perimeter. Drew II, a year after transferring from North Carolina, will challenge Anderson for the starting job. Both players should see significant floor time this season, and they could split minutes in this early nonleague tournament.

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