Following a key commitment from 4 Star PF De’Ron Davis on Thursday, the Indiana Hoosiers defeated E. Illinois 88-49 last night in their first regular season game of the year. Being at the game, I was able to get a good look close-up at the Hoosiers. Here are some key things I noticed tonight that will give a glimpse of what is to come for this fast-paced Indiana squad:
Thomas Bryant’s Non-stop Energy
It isn’t hard to see why Thomas Bryant was so highly touted coming out of high school. From all the college basketball I have watched in my life, I don’t think I have ever seen a player with as much energy as Thomas Bryant. Whether it is jumping up off the bench after one of his teammates makes a big play, or when he dunks over a defender, yells in celebration, and receives a technical, Thomas is a player who brings a tremendous amount of life to his teammates and the entire building. Throughout the year, he will be key in keeping the team and fans upbeat through the highs and lows of the grueling college basketball season. As Bryant’s overall basketball skills develop over the course of the season, his energy and enthusiasm will be a consistent presence game in and game out. Scoring 11 points, grabbing 9 rebounds, going 4-4 from the field and 3-4 from the line, Thomas Bryant had an impressive showing last night; one that he can definitely build on going forward.
Max Bielfeldt was a HUGE Pickup for this Team
Max Bielfeldt, the 6’8″ graduate transfer from Michigan, was extremely impressive last night. Coming off the bench, Bielfeldt contributed 11 points and 8 rebounds, while also getting his hands in the passing lanes for a couple of steals. He seems so much more comfortable out on the court in Bloomington, compared to his time in Ann Arbor. Physical presence, I believe, is the greatest asset Max brings to Indiana. His strength and size, to go along with his experience will be key in the long run for this relatively inexperienced team. Look for him to make a solid impact on this team throughout the season.
This Team Will Score Points, but Can They Defend?
While posting 88 points on a below average Eastern Illinois team, by no means did this electric Indiana offense play that well. They shot 33% from 3-point land and a mere 60% from the charity stripe. There will definitely be better days shooting the basketball, and IU fans should not have anything to worry about. The real question is, however, can the Indiana Hoosiers defend? Last night, as well as in their two exhibition games, they showed glimpses of improving defense. They held Eastern Illinois to 34% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc. I noticed that they are doing a much better job of making it hard on opposing offenses to get quality looks at the basket. On the perimeter, they are progressively getting better on their close-outs, while inside they are making it hard for opposing post players to get easy looks. Don’t get me wrong, they are not anywhere near where they need to be come Big Ten play, but they have to start somewhere. They can only go up from last year. As long as we continue to see more improvement throughout /the non-conference slate, I think Indiana will be just fine.
Overall Impressions of Indiana
Yogi Ferrell will definitely be a big time player this year. He has always been able to score, but if he plays defense like he did Friday night- look out. His backcourt partner, James Blackmon Jr., also looked good last night. If he can stroke the ball from outside like he did last year, and be stronger on his attacks to the basket, you will be looking at a player who will be extremely tough to guard. Robert Johnson coming off the bench is something that I really like about this team. He seems to have more confidence in his offensive game so far this year. Not only his offense but his on-ball defense looks very impressive. Look for their backcourt to make some noise this year.
The overall depth of the frontcourt with Bryant, Bielfeldt, Morgan, Hartman, Williams, and Anunoby is one that I believe can be better than most people might expect. Thomas Bryant will become a force down low with super senior Max Bielfeldt. The hustle of Juwan Morgan and Colin Hartman will be important parts of this team. O.G. Anunoby has looked more impressive than many would have expected out of this 3 Star Freshman. Although his basketball skills are still a work-in-progress, he seems like a guy who can make a positive impact on the floor. Troy Williams will continue to make spectacular plays. If he can learn when to play at full speed, and when to relax a little, he can be even more deadly than he was last year.