The #11 Indiana Hoosiers started the 2016-2017 season off with a bang as they outlasted the #3 Kansas Jayhawks 103-99 in the Armed Forces Classic.
For many, including myself, it was the first time they got to see this new version of the Hoosiers. So with that in mind, let me give five observations, based off of last night’s game, about what the season has in store for this season’s Hoosiers:
- Blackmon Is Not Only Back, But Will Fill The Yogi Role Of “Mr. Big Shot”: It’s so great to have James Blackmon Jr. back, as his shooting and scoring turn this offense into something special (see observation number five). Yet, the most important fact to come out of last night’s win was that Blackmon looks ready to carry the team in crunch time and take over Yogi Ferrell’s role of “Mr. Big Shot”. Blackmon has always had a knack for hitting big shots but his confidence and demeanor last night were something we have never seen from him before. He was an assassin who continuously made big three-pointers, driving layups, and critical free throws. If he stays healthy, we might be in for a special season from Blackmon.
- Bryant Is The New Captain: Ever since he came to campus last year, Thomas Bryant has been one of the most passionate Hoosiers, but with Yogi Ferrell gone, I think we can finally call Bryant the “heart and soul” of Indiana Basketball. While Blackmon did take over down the stretch, there was plenty of evidence to suggest this is Bryant’s team. Bryant played whatever role was needed, whether it was scorer in the first half or glass-eater in the second half. Perhaps most telling was that Head Coach Tom Crean continuously played Bryant in the first half even after he recorded his second foul, something Crean only usually did for Ferrell.
- Jones Could Be The Spark Plug Off The Bench: On a night where the world expected to see #2 ranked freshman Josh Jackson of Kansas begin what should be his only season as a Jayhawk before he gets picked in next year’s NBA lottery, it was Indiana’s freshman Curtis Jones that stole the show with 15 points off the bench, including seven crucial points in overtime. Jones provided instant offense not only in overtime but also in the first half when he scored his other eight points. Jones also showed he wasn’t afraid of the big moment as he scored the final four points of the game for the Hoosiers.
- Morgan Has A Legit Shot At Having IU’s First Triple-Double In Over 40 Years: The last and only Hoosier to record a triple-double was Steve Downing. In his sophomore season, Downing put up 28 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 blocks against Michigan. While I am in no way saying that Juwan Morgan will have a game like that in his sophomore season, it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to end up with a statline of 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. Morgan’s skillset of being such a strong rebounder and ability to handle the ball as a point forward has already given him an opening night statline of 6 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists. You’re telling me he couldn’t get a triple-double against one of the cupcake non-conference opponents IU has on its schedule?
- This Team Might Be An Even Better Shooting Team Than Last Year’s Team: It may be hard to believe but based on what the Hoosiers just did against what should be one of the top defenses in the nation, IU’s offense might be even better this year than it was last year. Part of it will be a healthy Blackmon back and ready to prove himself. Bryant should improve as a scorer both in the post and on the perimeter. OG Anunoby will continue to improve offensively. Add all that to a roster that is full of shooters and we might be set for a record-breaking IU offense this season.