Yes, the Indiana Hoosiers say they’re ready for this outside-of-Assembly Hall experience. It comes courtesy of the Legends Classic and the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Top-ranked IU (3-0) plays Georgia (1-2) tonight and then will player either No. 13 UCLA (3-0) or Georgetown (2-0) Tuesday night, depending on the results.
“Going on the road is always fun,” senior guard Jordan Hulls said in a university release. “It’s good to see where we’re at as a team.
“We had a good energy level (in Thursday night’s win over Sam Houston State) and if we’re gong to win the way we want to, we have to have that every game.”
Georgia is not North Carolina. Let’s make that clear. The youthful Bulldogs are 1-2, have lost two straight games they were expected to win, and have a bit of a lack of confidence right now.
Still, they have talent, particularly with swingman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who leads them in scoring (20.3 points) and rebounding (6.0).
“They are a big, physical team,” associate head coach Tim Buckley said. “They have really good athleticism and they will try to attack you inside-out. They will be bigger, stronger and more athletic than the first couple of teams that we have played.”
Playing in the New York City area, Buckley added won’t be a distraction. Not with the veterans and not with the freshmen.
“(Our players) have a lot of wordly experiences with their travels in summer basketball and even the McDonald’s All-American game,” he said. “They have been in these venues before, so you don’t see the fear or intimidation.
“You want to make sure they stay focused. You have to get back to your core and your base of getting better every day and getting with your team. We have to leave those distractions where they are. We have a good group of guys that focuses and locks in when we need to.”
One of the most focused Hoosiers is freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell. He has 17 assists and six turnovers, which is basically a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
For the record, a 2-to-1 ratio is considered very good.
Yes, Georgia coach Mark Fox has noticed.
“He’s quick and he’s made good decisions,” Fox said. “It’s a transition from high school to college, but one he seems to be making pretty smoothly.”
Added Ferrell: “This is a great opportunity. It’s going to be a test to see where we are and what we need to work on. We have to keep our own energy – on the bench and on the court.”
Playing on consecutive days, as the Hoosiers will do, is good preparation for that they hope to face in the Big Ten Tournament.
“We are looking that the Big Ten Tournament and postseason play,” Buckley said. “This is a great way to do that with the quick turnaround. Guys retaining information from film and from walk-through is key.”
For coach Tom Crean, this is a business trip, although one that included watching the Indiana Pacers lose to the New York Knicks. It also was a chance to connect to the area’s large IU alumni base.
“This is a great place for our players and staff to come,” Crean said in a university release. “The city has so much to see and offer, that any trip your team takes to New York becomes a special one.”
Special starts with winning. The key to that, Crean said, starts with defense.
“Our best play comes when our defense forces the tempo. We have to be unselfish and reverse the ball and get the best shots possible. We have to defend with great energy.”
Georgia coach Mark Fox also is stressing energy and defense, and hopes this event will jump start his team into a successful season.
“I don’t think our group has established a great deal of confidence yet. We’re learning how to win. The challenge is not about how confident we are. We might not have that swagger yet. The challenge is to look at the errors that have cost us and fix them.
“When you play Indiana, you have a lot of things to deal with. You have to play well on both ends. We want to play as effectively as we can.”
Georgia has shown flashes of effectiveness.
“We have so many guys that we have a pretty versatile lineup. We can do a number of different things; we have a number of guys who can shoot and score. Rebounding has been an area of disappointment. Becoming more consistent is the key.”
Fox said he’s friends with Keith Smart, the former IU standout who hit the shot to win the 1987 national championship.
“I’ve followed Indiana a long time,’ Fox said. “They are so complete offensively. They have so many guys who can score. (Cody) Zeller is great in the middle. Christian Watford can stretch the defense with his three-point shooting. They’ve got a boatload of perimeter players playing well. Their defense has been effective.
“They’re as complete a team as there is in the country.”