We can guarantee you two things about Saturday’s game against Iowa:
1) Christian Watford won’t play.
2) Verdell Jones won’t play 30 or more minutes.
3) Indiana will win.
Okay, math isn’t our strong point. There’s a reason why we’re in the media and not, say, designing the space shuttle replacement.
Anyway, Watford is still recovering from last Tuesday’s hand surgery. Coach Tom Crean said the earliest he could be back is next Saturday at Michigan, which would be a huge boost in what looms as a winnable road game, perhaps the most winnable of the Hoosiers’ four remaining road games.
“Next Saturday would be a very outside, remote possibility,” Crean said. “We’re very hopeful that it would be the week after that. It could go deeper. It’s too early to tell. The surgery is too fresh, it’s too recent. We’ll have to see how it heals. But we do expect him back. It’s not like it’s a season-ending injury.”
Jones played 17 minutes in the upset win over Minnesota Saturday and scored 12 big points. Crean said he’ll try to limit the junior guard’s minutes to around 17 minutes again as he continues to recover from an inflamed knee.
“When I say it’s day to day, I’m not being evasive,” Crean said. “It’s just a matter of how he feels and how he continues to progress and rehabilitate. I wouldn’t expect much more.”
As far as the Hoosiers (12-11) beating Iowa (9-13), well, they are playing too well and the stakes are too high to lose. Yes, the Hawkeyes have won the last three meetings and pounded IU 91-77 two weeks ago in Iowa City. Yes, they did just thump Michigan State by 20 points on Wednesday after jumping out to a 30-8 lead.
Still, they’re 9-13 for a reason. They haven’t done well on the road and that’s not going to change today.
The Hoosiers understand their postseason prospects depend on this game. They will have the Assembly Hall advantage and, so you know, in the last week or so tickets are becoming must-have items again. Demand is up, at least for those below the balcony, so look for a lot of fan-fueled energy.
Yes, that will make a difference. Will it be easy? No. But then, as a wise wrestling coach once told us before making us do, like, 200 windsprints, nothing worthwhile is.
“Our team knows the task at hand with Iowa,” Crean said. “They’re a really good team. I don’t think we had to see the Michigan State game to have that etched in our minds. But when you watch them play Michigan State, the way they attacked them, you see it again. We’ve got to be really good in so many difference areas.”
IU will be good.
It’s good news for offensive tackle James Brewer, and receivers Tandon Doss and Terrance Turner. All three former Indiana football players will get their shot at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis later this month. They received and accepted invitations to the annual event, which gives scouts and coaches from every NFL team to evaluate prospects.
Brewer played in the recent Senior Bowl. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick last season, when he only allowed two sacks.
Turner played in the recent East-West Shrine Game. He finished his IU career with 143 catches (sixth in school history) for 1,436 yards and four touchdowns. He’s the 17th Hoosier to surpass 100 career receptions and 1,000 career receiving yards.
Doss got up his senior year to enter the NFL Draft. He had 63 catches for 706 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He also had 1,016 kickoff return yards, 49 punt return yards and rushed for 163 yards. He ranked fifth nationally by averaging 175.8 all-purpose yards a game.
In other football news, coach Kevin Wilson has named his new cornerbacks coach. It’s Brandon Shelby from Louisiana Monroe. He replaces Corey Raymond, who was on the staff for about a month before going to Nebraska.
Shelby has a connection to Wilson given he was an All-Big 12 defensive back for Oklahoma from 2001 to 2004. Wilson was the offensive coordinator at Oklahome before coming to IU.
Shelby coached for one year at Oklahoma. He also spent one year at San Diego, one year at Portland State and one year at Louisiana-Monroe.
Don’t forget the two other hires Wilson has made in the last week -- Brett Dierson as a defensive line coach and Jemal Singleton as the running backs coach. Dierson replaces Jerry Montgomery, who also was at IU for about a month before leaving for Michigan.
That means that Wilson has finally, finally, wrapped up his assistant coaching staff.
That assumes, of course, that nobody else leaves.