Friday, November 18, 2011
IU Basketball – Time to Get Excited? What’s Up With Jones?
So what do we make of this Indiana team that has crushed the likes of Stony Brook, Chattanooga and Evansville?
Is this really a team capable of NCAA tourney relevance?
The Hoosiers have shown consistency of effort. They defend well, push the pace and hit the open shot. They cut and pass with precision. They play with passion and purpose.
The fact they are burying teams they should bury is a good sign. Last year they struggled against mediocre teams, a sure indication of vulnerability.
Take, for instance, Purdue this season.
The Boilers are 3-0, but they barely beat High Point and Iona. A huge reason, besides both are solid teams, is that Purdue is struggling to make free throws. It is 17-for-39 in its last two games. If that doesn’t improve, it has no chance in the Big Ten.
The Hoosiers have shown no such vulnerability. They are not a powerhouse in the manner of, say, North Carolina, but the potential is obvious.
They do not play a brutal non-conference schedule like Michigan State. They face Butler, which is not the contender it was the last couple of years, and that game is at Assembly Hall. The real tests come back to back, with Notre Dame in Indianapolis as part of the Close the Gap Crossroads Classic and Kentucky in Assembly Hall.
Oh, yes, a Big Ten/ACC matchup at North Carolina State, a good but not great team.
This is, in almost every way, Tom Crean’s first real Indiana squad, a group that can play the game the way he wants it played.
If you’re an IU fan, it’s time to get excited.
Are you like us? Do you see Verdell Jones go 4-for-4 from three-point range against Evansville and think that’s one of the signs of the Mayan End of Days?
Are you, also like us, convinced that the Green Bay Packers only beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl because of a conspiracy that reached to the highest levels of government?
Jones, Indiana’s senior guard, is a career 29-percent three-point shooter. Yet suddenly he looked like Steve Alford at Evansville’s brand new Ford Center. Jones hadn’t made four three-pointers in a game since he was a freshman.
In his first three seasons Jones made 58 three-pointers. He was 0-for-2 from beyond the arc in his first two games this year. Then he couldn’t miss.
The obvious reason, Crean said, was defense.
Crean pointed out that Jones had 10 pass deflections on defense, which reflected his aggressiveness in that area, which reflected that he was in tune to the flow of the game, which made everything better.
“His defensive intent from the beginning was outstanding and all of a sudden, he nails four 3s,” Crean said.
“When you've got guys really setting the tone for themselves and their teammates on the defensive end, it's amazing how many good things can happen on the offensive end."
Kevin Wilson needs football help. Okay, that’s not rock the world news, but work with us here.
Wilson needs good players physical enough and tough enough to handle Big Ten battles.
Specifically, he needs good defensive players because if you’ve seen the Hoosiers play defense this season, you know how far they have to go. They are last in the Big Ten in scoring defense (36.0 points), total defense (452.6 yards) and mental breakdowns (250,000).
So Wilson has gotten three junior college commitments recently, all of whom are defensive players.
No, that is not an accident. Wilson will lose two starting linebackers and three safeties, and he’s got to recruit for that.
Defensive backs Tregg Waters out of Arizona and Shaine Boyle out of California, have joined Kansas middle linebacker David Cooper as oral commitments to IU. Wilson had earlier gotten junior college linebacker commitments from Darrius Stroud and Jaccari Alexander.
Boyle had 57 tackles and three interceptions last season. He has 37 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, this season.
Wilson prefers high school players because they have four or sometimes five years in the program. Junior college guys usually just have two, but they can bring a mental and physical maturity to produce early impact.
When you’re in the early rebuilding stage, you look for whatever edge you can find.