For 90 minutes on a late September afternoon, Indiana Hoosier fans were treated to an amazing spectale that was part awe-inspiring, part thought-provoking, and part hype-inducing. And that was only referring to the on-court player introductions.
Stunning opening presentation aside, where Branch McCraken Court momentarily became one of the world’s largest TV screens, there were many big takeaways from this year’s Hoosier Hysteria. One huge takeaway being the renovated Roberts Family Indiana Basketball Team Center, which includes the luxurious Oladipo Zeller Legacy Lounge which is named in honor of Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, both of whom donated money to help with the renovation.
There was also the presentation and hanging of the IU Women’s NIT Championship banner, with the two stars from that team,Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill, returning one more time to commemorate the occasion.
As for the men’s basketball that was presented to fans on Saturday, those results were much quieter in comparison but altogether just as important.
Hoosier fans were able to finally see Romeo Langford in the candy stripe pants as the freshman phenom took the dunk contest title and also showcased his ease-of-movement with the ball on offense. Yet the most promising takeaway from Langford’s showing was his pleasantly surprising intensity on defense, something people were a little worried about with Langford when transitioning to college basketball.
There was also Juwan Morgan, who returns as the beating heart of this Hoosier team, continuing where he left off last season. He also showed off an improved free throw shot and three-point shot, though take that latter one with a grain of salt. Even though Morgan joined forces with Brenna Wise to win the three-point shooting competition, there is plenty of precedent to show that means nothing when it comes to the season that follows (remember the year Zeller won the contest and then didn’t make a single three all season).
Langford wasn’t the only new Hoosier to impress during the event. Freshman forwards Jake Forrester and Damezi Anderson both showed promise scoring around the basket and hopefully can help improve IU’s length in the frontcourt during the course of the season. Then there was fifth-year senior Evan Fitzner from St. Mary’s who at 6-10 provides IU a unique weapon in the form of a tall player who can pull the defense out of the paint with his dangerous three-point shooting.
However the biggest player takeaway has to be the improvement and confidence of Aljami Durham. He looked sharp with his passes and decision-making and overall just looked much more comfortable in Archie Miller’s system than he did last season. In fact, his team won the scrimmage in large part because he took over down the stretch. If we are to see a player make a similar jump like Morgan did last season, my bets are on Durham. If he’s able to do just that, this team may become even more dangerous.