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As the Indiana Hoosiers are concluding their regular season, the question with this team is simple: will they get to the NCAA Tournament? Fortunately for the Hoosiers, they have two more games to prove it but both games are at home against Minnesota and Wisconsin. They should be winnable and for the Hoosiers, an NCAA Tournament bid is a real probability, and they need it. But, let’s not get into the idea that a deep run is everything they need.
For the Indiana Hoosiers, forward Trayce-Jackson Davis is crucial to their success. Jackson-Davis needs more than nine shots a game to get to the NCAA tournament. He needs to do exactly what he did against Minnesota on February 19 on the road where he went off for 27 points and 17 rebounds on 11-15 from the field.
If you ask me, it is not about the dominance of 27 points and 15 rebounds. It is about getting 15 attempts to create plays for himself. This Indiana team is fantastic when they commit to playing on the block. There is nothing else that is more crucial than that since, after all, he is THE BEST PLAYER.
Yet, there is plenty to think negatively about. Let’s look at the road record this season for the Hoosiers. It is terrible when it is a big deal that they need a win against Minnesota on the road, not to mention that the only other road game they won is against an incompetent Nebraska team. This is a situation where if Indiana wants to get back to where they believe they should be, road games should be finished off with a win.
IU needs its “J.R. Smith” to be more consistent. Devonte Green needs to be a factor that remains reliable for this Hoosier team. The preparation every day from someone like Green is crucial to IU and their success. For example, Green on Dec. 3, 2020, against a legit Florida State team goes off for 30 points, yet in the next game against Wisconsin, he finished with 10 points. The consistency needs to be better. If it isn’t, then, unfortunately, De’Ron Davis and Green won’t see an NCAA Tournament berth as a Hoosier in their four years. That hasn’t happened to a class of players since the ‘70s.
For Hoosier fans, that should be inexcusable. Yet, they need to be understanding. The foundation that Indiana coach Archie Miller is providing is improving, particularly with his recruiting (Khristian Lander, Anthony Leal). It all leads to hope, but patience for Hoosier fans is crucial.
The foundation is coming along and the idea of Jackson-Davis staying another year while only losing two scholarship players on their roster leads me to think that an NCAA Tournament trip in the next two seasons is absolutely a goal that needs to be accomplished.
The Indiana Hoosiers are one young team, and the “cupcake” games show that they are blowing teams out. However, I think the expectations and what we have seen from Indiana need to take a pause.
Justin Smith has been dominating in his first couple of games. His energy, hustle and discipline helped him stand out in these two games. Smith is averaging 16 points a game and his athleticism is exceptional and was a factor for how former Indiana coach Tom Crean brought him in. But his mid-range shooting and his 3-point shooting are still showing some weaknesses.
The schedule the Hoosiers face for the three games are Princeton, Louisiana Tech, and South Dakota State. While the latter two of those can be a little more competitive, those defenses will have a struggle finding a way to defend how athletic Smith is. So I suggest we wait, and see what he can be on December 3 against Florida State where his athleticism can be matched.
However, I can’t be negative all the time. There are some bright spots on this team that have been showing. Let's take a look at Al Durham, who’s been nothing but sensational for the Hoosiers. Indiana this season has had to deal with Rob Phinisee and Devonte Green being hurt. Those two players are significant for the backcourt and will eat minutes for Indiana. Still, Durham is doing everything he can, averaging 17 a game and is taking more responsibility being a playmaker, so that step in his game will be something to watch this season because Durham is showing he is all about winning.
Meanwhile, Trayce-Jackson Davis is starting to figure it out as well. In his first four games, he is averaging nearly a double-double (14 points and 9.5 rebounds). Jackson-Davis is exceeding my expectations for how he would start this season. To have that start is super good for his confidence and he will need a lot of it in the Big Ten. With the Big Ten being a conference that consists of lots of physicality, it takes a while to adjust. If the confidence can lead to him being better in the long run, then IU should be okay with it. In fact, they should love it. It will be a huge key to how they finish this season and for all the fans that think they can make the NCAA Tournament, TJD can be a big reason.
So overall, I think it will be about how Indiana can perform on Dec. 3 against the Seminoles. They do not have a ridiculously hard non-conference schedule and the test will help them evaluate where they are at.
For the state of Indiana, schools are looking to return to once great heights. Purdue finished with an Elite Eight appearance, Indiana fought through a talented team but could not figure it out, Notre Dame battled the injury bug, and Butler had a season of ups and downs. Despite the fact that it seems the state may not be as great this season, I believe the opposite.
First off, let’s start with the Purdue Boilermakers. The Boilermakers are ranked in this year’s AP poll at 23. Even without Carsen Edwards (who left for the NBA) and Ryan Cline (graduated), there is still a possibility for a big run in this group. The Purdue lineup will be consisting of players who are experienced and look to build on an Elite Eight run.
One player to keep an eye on with the Boilermakers is Aaron Wheeler Jr. I have been consistently watching his development as I feel he has some NBA potential. He has the ability to defend all kinds of forwards, a skill which is needed in the NBA today. A sleeper to think about for Purdue is Stasha Stefanovic. Stefanovic came into the roster last season being known as a shooter. This year, they will need that more than ever, especially since Purdue is 13-3 when Stefanovic makes a 3-point shot.
For the Hoosiers, this season could be tough to overcome. They are already getting bit by the injury bug as Devonte Green was ruled out for the opener and Robert Phinisee is dealing with abdominal pain. Those two guards had significant roles for this team and it could be a factor to how they get going early on. Fortunately, the Indiana Hoosiers have revamped a front court that could possibly be the best in the Big Ten with their depth.
Someone to keep an eye on for the Hoosiers is Joey Brunk. Brunk, a graduate of Southport High School, spent three years at Butler and he transferred into Indiana to give them experience. Brunk, at 6-11 and 245 pounds, looks to be a force in the block along side newcomer Trayce Jackson-Davis who wants to show why he was ranked as the 16th best prospect in the country for the 2019 class.
However, I can’t forget the team that has gone under the radar in terms of big picture for the college basketball season. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, led by head coach Mike Brey, always seem to figure out whatever needs to happen, not to mention that it can help to get positive news to the roster. Rex Pflueger suffered an ACL injury this past December and he will stay one more year to help T.J. Gibbs and Joe Mooney get back to the NCAA Tournament.
Personally, I think the man to keep an eye on for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is Mike Brey. Brey is a coach who has always found a way to compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) despite injuries, suspensions, or what seems like everything. With him at the helm, Irish fans should not panic as he can bring a successful mindset to any situation.
However, a team that ended up being competitive last season but did not make the NCAA Tournament was the Butler Bulldogs. The Bulldogs are a team that, in recent memory, are constantly in the NCAA tournament. So as they look to get back to the Big Dance, they will turn to their terrific point guard Kamar Baldwin. He averaged 17.2 points a game last season as he looks to give Butler a leader for head coach LaVall Jordan.
Meanwhile, Baldwin gets the hype, I believe Jordan Tucker will show why his transfer to Butler can be impactful. Tucker was ranked 42nd in the class and Butler has never had a player that highly ranked. His impact in his second year in the Big East could make a huge difference as I see him averaging much more than 9.7 points a game.
The Purdue Boilermakers are coming off an Elite Eight appearance and they are losing star players Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline. Yet, I don’t care about that--I believe Purdue will be right at the top of the Big Ten conference once again.
Obviously, losing Cline and Edwards hurts Purdue. However, let’s not forget about what head coach Matt Painter has done for his Boilers. His overall record is 321-159 and he has made the NCAA Tournament 11 times since ascended to the head coaching position in 2005. He knows how to coach and he’s right up there with some of the best in the country.
That’s not all though; Painter’s development of guards and other players in the past has been nothing short of astounding. Take a look at Edwards, for instance: in his freshman year, the idea of becoming the best player on an Elite Eight team may have seemed like a strange idea. Meanwhile, this year could be a special year for Purdue, and especially for point guard Nojel Eastern.
Eastern is a freakish defensive specimen for the Boilers and they are going to need his defensive abilities this season. However, they need him to improve offensively more than anything. Eastern took a step up last season by averaging 7.5 points a game, but there needs to be much more than that this coming season. I believe we’ll see it happen; if you look up any recent stud from the Boilers, then you see improvement.
Let’s also not forget about Purdue and their tradition with centers either. Matt Haarms is the center for this Purdue team and he is similar to Eastern with how he can be an elite defensive player, but he needs to be stronger offensively.
Haarms has been able to sit and watch personnel such as Isaac Haas initiate everything on the block. This year, he has to be willing to take the next step. Players and coaches already have the utmost confidence in his abilities, but the confidence needs to flow through Haarms himself offensively. Man, if they figure out how to incorporate a 15 points, 10 rebounds a game player, then they will be scary for all teams in the conference.
To me, all of this means that Purdue will be sitting as a top five seed in the Big Ten. They might not win the conference like they did last season, but I have learned to never underestimate the Boilers when it seems that they are not the same team. They always find a way and this year I have no doubt that they go down another solid path to the NCAA Tournament.
In light of the recent preseason poll for Horizon League men’s basketball, Campus Citizen columnist Caleb Lynn takes an in-depth look at each team in the conference, including the new-look Jaguars.
IUPUI Jaguars--- Projection: 9th place
The IUPUI Jaguars will look a whole lot different this upcoming season. They now have an interim head coach in Byron Rimm II after the firing of Jason Gardner and they also lost a 20 points per game scorer in Camron Justice. However, there are still some solid players from last year’s squad, such as guards Jaylen Minnett and Grant Weatherford, both of whom have the opportunity to fill Justice’s role on a team that looks to have a balanced attack.
Under the radar player: How about Elyjah Goss? Goss is a 6-7 Forward who could be a factor down low for IUPUI this season. The frontcourt also had a shakeup as D.J. McCall and Evan Hall both graduated, so someone has to step up.I believe Goss has the ability to be that player.
Final Thought: I like IUPUI as an interesting team that’ll be competitive throughout the Horizon League this season. The conference will be competitive and the loss of Justice is going to show. But this team has a chip on their shoulder and I would not be surprised to see them outperform their projections.
Wright State--- Projection: 1st place
Wright State looks to be a force in the Horizon League, particularly down low on the block. They have a combination of center Loudon Love (15.0 pts and 8 rebounds), and forward Bill Wampler (15.0 pts and 3 rebounds) can top any frontcourt in the league. The leader is the fourth-year head coach Scott Nagy, who guided the Raiders to the NCAA Tournament in 2018--they’re looking to get back to the big dance this coming season.
Under the radar player: Jaylon Hall is a 6-5 guard and could potentially contribute in a big way for a Wright State team that loves the paint. That could mean that Hall has a chance to be super effective offensively and give this team a reliable playmaker.
Final Thought: Wright State is going to want to get back to the NCAA Tournament--that’s just a fact. They are favored to be the top team in the conference and, to me, that says everything as the frontcourt of Love and Wampler will be too much for the conference to handle. Look for the Raiders to reclaim their spot in the tourney.
Northern Kentucky--- Projection: 2nd place
The Northern Kentucky Norse look to make back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament after losing coach John Brannen to Cincinnati. Not to mention that they also won’t have Drew McDonald, who averaged 19 points and five rebounds a game last season. However, they do have their dynamic duo at the guard positions with senior Tyler Sharpe (14.0 ppg) and redshirt junior Jalen Tate (14.0 ppg).
Under the radar player: Dantez Walton has a massive opportunity in front of him with Drew McDonald gone--if he can control the Norse paint presence, then watch out. Walton, with the dynamic guard duo intact, will have space to work down low, which could be crucial for how they get them going.
Final Thought: NKU is a very good team despite their losses. First-year coach Darrin Horn has a squad that will be ready to compete at the top of the league this season, which could definitely lead to a similar situation they were in last year where they got hot at the right time.
UIC---Projection: 3rd place
Former IU assistant coach Steve McClain has been with UIC for four years and he is slowly but surely starting to build his program. One crucial piece for UIC and their rebuild is Tarkus Ferguson, who averaged 15 points and five assists last season for the Flames and gives them a steady presence. But let’s not forget about his partner Marcus Ottey--the senior from Canada averaged 14 a game and also delivers a punch that’s tough for any Horizon League team to handle. Don’t sleep on the Flames at all this season.
Under the radar: Jordan Blount, the senior forward from Ireland, has a chance to be a much- needed presence on the block. He had over 29 starts last season to go with 48 offensive rebounds last season, making for one active big man on the glass, something that’s always crucial for any team.
Final thought: I am a fan of any team with an elite backcourt, and this UIC team certainly has that. Under McClain, this team will be heading in the right direction and will have their impact felt throughout the league.
Oakland---Projection: 4th place
The Oakland Golden Grizzlies have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2011. However, the next star is Xavier Hill-Mais and coach Greg Kampe has been there for 36 seasons. I believe that Hill-Mais is a talented forward who provides a physicality that many don’t grow up with. He averaged 18 points and seven rebounds last season and he looks to get the Golden Grizzlies back into the fold this season.
Under the radar: Tray Maddox Jr. has an opportunity to dominate opposing guards with his athleticism this season. He averaged 6.7 points last season but he dropped 21 points in a game against IUPUI on January 24. I look for him to build on that as this season approaches.
Final thought: Oakland will be a team that can sneak up on the Horizon League. When you have a coach as experienced as Kampe and a player as talented as Hill-Mais, then you will be in every game. I’d expect them to be in the middle of the pack in the conference when it is all said and done.
Green Bay-- Projection: 5th place
Green Bay will be an experienced squad as five seniors will lead the squad. Head coach Linc Darner is seeing lots of continuity with this squad as over 75 percent of their scoring came back from last season. The scoring output is led by senior JayQuan McCloud, who was second on the team last season with 14 points a game.
Under the radar: Shaquan Hemphill is a forward who has been super reliable for Green Bay. The product from Gary did not miss a single game last season and is the only player who started every game. He is a player that can be a focal point option offensively alongside McCloud.
Final thought: This is a middle of the pack team that has lots of experience. I am very interested in how this team ends up, but it needs McCloud to become a First Team player.
Youngstown State--Projection: 6th place
The Penguins are led by Darius Quisenberry (14 points a game) and finished with a six-game winning streak last season. They are looking to build off of that streak this coming season, and who knows, maybe it could possibly be Youngstown State’s first NCAA Tournament selection.
Under the radar: Can I go with a coach? Head coach Jerrod Calhoun led his team to a four-win improvement from his first season at the helm. He is slowly trying to make this program respectable in the Horizon League and his efforts should be more appreciated.
Final thought: This season will be difficult for the Penguins and they will most likely need to keep building this program to get it into a position where they can be at the top of the Horizon League.
Milwaukee- Projection: 7th place
Milwaukee has a chance to be quite interesting heading into this season. They have added Illinois transfer Te’Jon Lucas and USC transfer Harrison Henderson. Not to mention that they have Darius Roy and DeAndre Abram, who are seniors that want to end their college career the right way.
Under the radar: I mentioned him earlier, but I think Te’Jon Lucas is a legitimate player for the Horizon League. Granted, he only averaged five points and three assists last year, but he still can be a contributor for Milwaukee and could lead them to improvement.
Final thought: Milwaukee is definitely a team that is trying to compete in a league that is deeper than most years in the past. I feel like they will provide a veteran edge to their squad and will absolutely be a pesky opponent.
Detroit Mercy---Projection: 8th place
Detroit Mercy is led by Coach Mike Davis and Antoine Davis who together make a tough duo. Antoine Davis is the favorite for player of the year in the conference and rightly so. Everything Detroit Mercy does runs through him. And I mean everything.
Under the radar: Willy Isani has terrific outside shooting range but needs to be given an opportunity. He went 6-13 from 3-point range against IUPUI last season. I believe everyone needs shooting and he absolutely has potential.
Final thought: Detroit Mercy is all about Antoine Davis, and unless he scores lik 60 points every game, it will be rough for the Titans this season.
Cleveland State---Projection: 10th place
The Vikings are projected to finish at the bottom of the conference and it will be hard for them to get things going for first-year head coach Dennis Gates. However, they do have some experience in senior Kasheem Thomas and junior Algveon Eichelberger.
Under the radar: Kasheem Thomas is a senior from Quebec and has an opportunity to be a leader for a team that needs some with a first-year coach.
Final thought: Cleveland State needs to take a step in the right direction. This is a year where they’ll get adjusted to the new systems that Dennis Gates will put in, and I believe that means they will have a tough time in this conference.
Jerome Hunter, a 6-7 forward from Ohio, will be a huge contributor for the Indiana Hoosiers and could dictate whether they are a pretender or a contender in the Big Ten this season. No, Indiana is not projected to make the NCAA tournament (which fans have not been so happy about), but Hunter’s skillset can give them a much-needed boost.
Hunter is a player that can definitely light it up on the court. His ability to create shots off the dribble was a highlight at Pickerington North high school as the man dropped 1,314 points in his high school career. Not to mention that he was nominated as an All-State selection in his senior year.
With that said, I believe he will be a player that can totally change the offense and definitely provide a wing that can match up with the best of the Big Ten.
Hunter was originally injured last season with a lower leg problem, yet head coach Archie Miller seems to be quite pleased with his rehab and how it’s played out. It is not just Miller that is happy either, but the players are stoked to see this guy on the floor.
While we can watch YouTube or Instagram videos of him all day, nothing can compare to what his presence will actually mean for IU. He was supposed to be in that “triple threat” with Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan last season, just to give you an idea of what he can be.
Let’s not forget that IU took him away from his hometown school Ohio State, which continues to build a steady program. Miller used his Ohio roots from Dayton all along to bring this guy in and he will be able to provide unique play to a team that does not see too much of it.
But like always, here are some pointers to give you an idea of Hunter and the impact he can have on Indiana.
Hunter is a remarkable scorer and is someone that can take a game over offensively. In high school, he was a top 50 recruit, which many believe was underrated for him. His development as a jump shooter can help free the paint up for the Hoosiers.
Defense is where Indiana will have to make their mark, which is exactly the way Miller wants it to be. He is all about the defensive end and there is no reason that Hunter won’t be a good defender. At 6-7, his ability to defend wings and possibly play power forward in a "small ball" lineup gives Miller opportunities.
3. Big Shots
I would not be too surprised to see Hunter knocking down big time shots at the end of the game for an Indiana team that could struggle creating its own shot. Hunter is a player who is certainly capable of making moments for a fanbase that cherishes plenty of game-winners.
Jordan Geronimo, a versatile 6-6 wing from the Mass Rivals AAU team in Massachusetts, has committed to the Indiana Hoosiers, becoming the third player in the squad’s 2020 recruiting class.
Indiana head coach Archie Miller likes to have versatility among his players defensively. Geronimo, who fits as a small forward, will be able to help this recruiting class shape up to be big for them. The Hoosiers are looking to possibly snag six recruits with a particular emphasis on securing another center or guard.
I also think that Geronimo is a good add for coach Archie Miller nationally. He has been staking out the state of Indiana with additions of Trey Galloway (The Culver Academies) and Anthony Leal (Bloomington South High School), to name a few. Having this addition is good for a Hoosier program that wants to recruit at an elite level.
Geronimo will look to bring defensive versatility to Indiana and the Hoosiers desperately need it. They finished ninth in the Big Ten defensively in points allowed per game with 67.8. Geronimo, with his long and lanky body, will most certainly help the Hoosiers become better on that end of the floor.
For an example, the NBA is all about having defenders who can be versatile. In college, it seems that this trend is going up. This move will very much help Indiana get back on track with how teams match up defensively.
On the offensive end, he averaged 56% from the field and is known as someone who can roll and get downhill against defenses. Geronimo, to give you a comparison, has a chance to be like Freddy McSwain in his pick and roll game. McSwain was more athletic than Geronimo will be, but his ability to finish through contact can separate him from the other wings already at IU.
However, there is much more to Geronimo’s game that Archie Miller can look into. He can shoot the ball effectively from downtown and that can allow Trayce-Jackson Davis, if he stays beyond his freshman year, to have one more player that can help spread the court out. Geronimo reminds me of PJ Tucker of the Houston Rockets. And for those who watched the Hoosiers last season, then you understand that there needs to be players who understand their roles in Coach Miller’s system.
Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, Geronimo won’t play this season. So here are some things to keep in mind for how Geronimo could fit into what they will try to do in 2020.
Improve 3-point shooting
Last season was not great for the Hoosiers behind the arc and they desperately need to find ways to improve that. Defenses would suffocate the paint by doubling Juwan Morgan, knowing that his teammates were not hot from three.
Depth on wing defense
Indiana will go into the year with plenty of familiar players on the wings like Al Durham and Justin Smith. Geronimo, defensively, can be better than both of those players. But, if Durham and Smith make a concerted effort to take another step on that end, then Indiana can become a force when it comes to versatility.
Fighting out of a deep Big Ten
Indiana is in the bottom half of the conference. The Big Ten is as deep as it has ever been. Magazines such as Street and Smith are projecting Indiana to finish #11 in a conference that only has 14 teams. It is always a challenge losing two prominent players like Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan, but it shouldn’t be an excuse as to why Indiana would not look to build off last year.
The Boston Celtics stole the draft for the state of Indiana, selecting Indiana’s Romeo Langford in the first round and Purdue’s Carsen Edwards in the second round. I think the both of them could fit in very well in the long term as it seems Kyrie Irving and Al Horford will leave in free agency.
Romeo Langford was drafted a little earlier than projections indicated in the NBA Draft. The Celtics selected him with the No.14 pick and Boston could look to him as being another young player with potential. This is a great spot for Romeo to see how some of the talented wings such as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum play. Not to mention, he will be learning from Brownsburg native Gordon Hayward. This is a place that I did not necessarily see him going to but the idea of getting brought along slowly is intriguing. No one got to see him fully healthy this last season at Indiana University, but if Boston gets him healthy, we might be calling Langford the steal of the draft.
Carsen Edwards is a man that can score at will. He skyrocketed his NBA draft stock by leading Purdue all the way to the Elite Eight and did not fade away from the spotlight. Boston is a top sports market as fans and media pay attention to what this team can be. He may even get some playing time next year as it seems Terry Rozier might not be a part of Boston’s future plans, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. That could leave a hole at point guard and Edwards should get the chance to see what he can do in that role.
The NBA Draft is coming up on the calendar for June 20. There are a couple of players from Indiana, such as Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan, who look to get a call from an NBA organization. Carsen Edwards from Purdue is also being considered on draft boards. Multiple teams are interested in each player, but I think that some of these teams could maximize their potentials.
The Philadelphia 76ers are interested in Carsen Edwards and I think there would be a role for him on that roster. Their bench play was not great throughout the season but it got better in the postseason. To me, it seems that the 76ers could use a guy off their bench to just get buckets. Edwards is a guy who knows how to score and I think that he could be a great addition to backup Ben Simmons. Veteran sharpshooter JJ Redick could be a great mentor for Edwards as well, if he chooses to stay with the team this offseason.
Another great fit for Edwards could be the Brooklyn Nets. Everything Brooklyn does will be determined by their pursuit of marquee free agents like Kyrie Irving, but Edwards makes sense as a good bench piece. In this year’s playoffs, the Nets were very isolation dependent. That led me to think that they could use more off-ball movement and I could see Edwards fitting in well there over time.
My favorite “what-if” for Romeo would be the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets own the 12th pick and I think they could really use a wing to go along with their team. Obviously, All-Star Kemba Walker will be priority one; if he stays, I think adding Langford makes sense. With a perimeter of Walker, former Kentucky standout Malik Monk, and Langford, the Hornets could be dangerous and buzzing in the east.
The Atlanta Hawks are also a team that could use Langford. They started Kevin Huerter at the shooting guard position and they traded Taurean Prince, who was their small forward last season. That is a void that I think Romeo could help fill. He may not even be their starter due to the Hawks having multiple selections in the first round. I think he is a good fit regardless, even if Atlanta does not see him as a starter immediately. Langford has a ton of potential that people don’t realize due to injuries, so he could be a sleeper when assessing this draft class in the future.
A team out west that I like for Morgan is the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves could really use some help for Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt and Morgan’s versatility could be important. I could see Dario Saric and Juwan Morgan being a good combination to go with Towns since Minnesota has struggled to find depth along the front line. I think the Timberwolves had a miserable season last year and Morgan could help them a lot as they look to get back to the playoffs after missing it this past season.
In a similar role, I could see Morgan fitting in well with the Phoenix Suns. The Suns again could use some pieces to go along with their dynamic duo of DeAndre Ayton and Devin Booker. Morgan is a player who can guard multiple positions and has the ability to step outside and knock down the 3-point shot. Morgan can be someone that gives Ayton some much needed spacing on the block help the Suns be more creative. Last season, it felt like their offense was only Ayton and Booker.
Purdue is already starting to add players into their 2020 class, making a splash with the additions of Jaden Ivey and Ethan Morton.
Jaden Ivey is the sixth best player coming out of Indiana and is developing into a phenomenal scorer. 247 sports went as far to say that he could be one of the best scorers in the Midwest. His ability to catch and shoot definitely shows in the film, but he can drive it too.
Ivey committing so early for the 2020 Purdue class was a big deal to me. It showed me that he wanted to be at Purdue and that the recruiting from the Boilermakers was phenomenal. I have always said that Purdue should be more of a destination for recruits, so this is a big deal.
The second player in the Purdue recruiting class is Ethan Morton. Morton was heavily pursued by Indiana and Purdue despite being from Pennsylvania. Morton is the number 41 prospect in the country. What stands out about him is his ability to make fantastic passes. His addition to the class has led many to believe that they have the best Big Ten recruiting class for 2020 and they hope to add a couple of players in the front court too.
As mentioned earlier, Purdue is making a strong start. I really like how Matt Painter and company have decided to use their incredible NCAA Tournament run as a way to get recruits. It is important to have success and show players how they can improve.
Purdue is a prime example of that. Carsen Edwards was a 3-star recruit and Ryan Cline was someone that Indiana University never targeted. For them to land a top 50 prospect along with Ivey will be a huge deal for a program that does not normally get top recruits.
Friday, Indiana missed out on another top tier recruit as Lester Quinones decided to play for the University of Memphis over the Hoosiers.
Quinones, a 4-star guard from IMG Academy in Florida, was someone that IU desperately needed. Here are the three main reasons why I believe he chose Memphis over Indiana.
One thing that Memphis certainly has is talent. With the addition of Quinones, this gave Memphis another building block. James Wiseman, who is the number one overall recruit in the country, has led a charge for a super team. They also have added D.J. Jeffries, who is ranked N0. 48 in the class of 2019, according to 247 Sports. As of right now, Memphis has four top 100 players inked for this upcoming season and will look to add more as they await decisions from R.J. Hampton and Rejean Ellis.
Memphis flat out has a more respected coach in Penny Hardaway. Hardaway, an NBA All-Star from 1995-1998, will certainly garner respect. In addition, former sharpshooter and two-time NBA champion Mike Miller joined the staff as an assistant coach this off-season. I believe having former NBA players on your staff is important in the college game. In today's college landscape, players have their sights set on going straight to the league instead of graduating. Hardaway could get these guys to the NBA quickly.
Lack of Recent Success at Indiana
Archie Miller might be a great college coach, but as of now has not developed his players past college. Take former 5-star Romeo Langford, who was projected as a top five pick in the draft, as an example. Langford did put up 18 points a game, but Hoosier fans know that there were games that he did not get enough touches. That’s a problem. Players are not going to be in awe with speeches on recruiting visits. Instead, they want to watch what your program is doing. All the Hoosiers have been able to provide is a 35-31 record since Miller’s arrival. Results will get more recruits interested. It is not about history anymore like it once was.
The Purdue Boilermakers, following a surprising Elite 8 run in 2018-19, will now look to build on this year’s success despite losing Carsen Edwards to the NBA Draft. As the Boilermakers prep their season, here are some evaluations of recruits they have signed for next season.
Brandon Newman, native from Valparaiso, Indiana, will give Purdue its main recruit. He is a 4-star recruit according to 247 Sports, the highest rating of any 2019 Purdue recruit. What makes Newman special is his ability to catch and shoot. The ability to knock down shots off the pass will be needed for this Boilermakers team with the expiration of Ryan Cline’s eligibility.
He also brings some solid defense for the Boilermakers and that is what Purdue Coach Matt Painter is all about. With the addition of Newman, I see the Boilermakers using him in their rotation. There will be lots of minutes will be for the taking with the losses of Cline and Edwards. The 6-foot-3 guard has a chance to be the main guy for taking those minutes, but I expect him to really shine when he is a junior or senior for Purdue.
The 6-foot-6 guard from New Castle, Indiana has a chance to give Purdue another Nojel Eastern. Gillis will be unique, as he is more of an inside-outside guard. But, that is a good thing for Purdue. He will be able to use his strength in the paint as he is a bigger, more physical guard than what the Big Ten normally sees.
However, the main thing to keep an eye on is that Gillis was injured in his senior Season. He was limited in his action which could lead to a longer transition for him. I would not expect Gillis to be an immediate contributor as he gets ready, both physically and mentally, from the injury. That does not mean that he won’t have an impact for how Purdue looks at the future, however.
Purdue fans still have fresh memories of P.J. Thompson, but he has a little brother who is also coming to Purdue. Isaiah is a little different than P.J. with how he plays. Isaiah’s is slightly better off the dribble and he will give Purdue some athleticism at the point guard position.
Thompson comes in with a high basketball IQ and will be able to benefit Purdue with his decision making. Although, the playing time may not be immediate. Sophomore Eric Hunter from Indianapolis, Indiana looks to take the starting job at point guard, but Thompson could have a chance if Hunter does not play as well as he needs too. The Big Ten is one difficult conference and the guard play of Purdue will need to be efficient as they look to be a threat for the Big Ten Championship.
The Indiana Hoosiers, following a disappointing season, have seen three scholarship spots open up. Here are some transfers and recruits that Indiana has shown interest in to fill these spots.
Joey Brunk, an Indianapolis, Indiana native, played high school ball at Southport and his first two years of college at Butler. But, it was recently announced that he decided to put his name in the transfer portal and I believe he is the perfect for Indiana. Brunk provides great size at 6-11, 230 pounds and will bring a physicality that is needed in Big Ten play. Last season, he played 18 minutes a night and scored about eight points a game. The opportunity to have more minutes in Indiana is very likely for Brunk, given the lack of front court depth due to Clifton Moore and Jake Forrester departing.
I feel that if the Brunk addition were to happen, Indiana would be in great shape for the future at the forward and center positions. I believe Indiana could have a top frontcourt in the Big Ten with Trayce Jackson Davis, Brunk, and De’Ron Davis bringing different styles of play to the paint. Fans should want Brunk as much as the Hoosiers need him.
Harlond Beverly, a guard from Montverde Academy in Florida, could be a player to keep an eye on for the Hoosiers. He could bring some athleticism for the Hoosiers in a much needed way. The 6-foot-4 guard certainly can bring an edge to this team, but don’t expect the impact to happen immediately.
If Beverly were to come to Indiana, he would see limited playing time as a freshman and he might even ride the bench to start off, but his future would be bright. The addition of Beverly can give Indiana a very young back court. It could also leave Hoosiers fans excited about a team with sophomore Rob Phinisee, Junior Al Durham, and incoming freshman Armaan Franklin that can be crucial for the future.
I’m dreaming a little bit here with this 5-star prospect, but the opportunity to land Christian Watford’s brother could be magnificent for the Hoosiers. Jackson-Davis and Watford could lead to a phenomenal class for the Hoosiers. It is looking like Watford has Indiana in his top 5, but behind Alabama and Memphis, respectively.
My case for “Watford to Indiana” would be the opportunity to play with Jackson-Davis, which would be a great tandem for Coach Miller to utilize. Watford being an inside out scorer also gives the Hoosiers versatility and the fire power to make the loss of Romeo Langford not seem like as big of a deal.
Harris was originally committed to Virginia Tech, however he decided to reopen his recruitment as Coach Buzz Williams took the head coaching job at Texas A&M. Harris is a top-75 player in his class and the Hoosiers were interested in him before he committed to Virginia Tech.
Harris could bring explosiveness similar to Beverly as Coach Miller looks to build his team. Harris’s specialty is attacking the rim and the Hoosiers certainly could use speed at the guard position to compete with the likes of Cassius Winston and other top Big Ten guards. Right now, it seems Indiana may not be the favorite, but I would not be surprised if the Hoosiers try to make themselves known with the athletic guard.
The Purdue Boilermakers certainly exceeded my projections at the beginning of the year as they finished the season in the Elite Eight and left everything on the court in their loss to Virginia, 80-75, in what was one epic game.
Purdue should definitely keep their heads up as they delivered a captivating NCAA tournament run. The heart of this team was shown throughout the season as they were able to land a tie for the Big Ten Championship alongside Michigan State. Finishing 26-10 is about as good as you can get, especially when finishing 15-0 at home.
The play of Carsen Edwards for the Boilermakers left me and should leave Purdue fans in awe. No one has had an NCAA tournament like Edwards from beyond the arc. He finished with the record for 3-pointers in a single NCAA tournament, was the first player to have multiple 40 point games since 1990, and was the fourth player to have ten three pointers in an NCAA Tournament game. His mentality was to dominate and he certainly did that. He’s only a junior and will now assess if he is ready for the NBA or if he wants to go for a title run once again.
Ryan Cline certainly had a solid, long career in West Lafayette. Cline was able to put together a great stretch in the NCAA tournament, the highlight being his shooting against Tennessee in the Sweet Sixteen. He shot 10-13 from the field, making seven of ten shots from 3-point range. Cline will go out of Purdue not owing anyone anything as he continued to improve each year.
This season has to put Purdue head coach Matt Painter in the National Coach of the Year conversation. It has been remarkable to see what Purdue was supposed to be and how they actually performed. It definitely was a “glow up” for the ages. Painter has taken Purdue to the Sweet Sixteen the last three years and this year they took a huge step to be in the Elite Eight. Overall, this continued success for Purdue, year in and out, should help their case as being one of the best programs in the country.
The Boilermakers productive season should also lead to an exciting season next year, despite the losses of Cline and fellow senior Grady Eifert. Edwards could go pro and the NBA draft could be in his future. However, let’s not forget about the fact that this team will still be good anyway. Purdue has a nice recruiting class, led by Brandon Newman, that will look to fill the roles the seniors left.
Nevertheless, I would like to note that, I can’t help to notice that Purdue has something special and I would suggest to appreciate it while you have the chance.
Indiana University’s season came to a close Tuesday night as the Hoosiers lost to Wichita State, 73-63, to finish the season with a record of 19-16.
This season for the Indiana Hoosiers couldn’t have been more underwhelming. The addition of Romeo Langford along with Rob Phinisee gave Indiana a top recruiting class that led to many projections of being an NCAA tournament team. But only finishing three games over .500 is just not good enough to deserve a tournament bid.
Indiana did finish with seven wins against Quad 1 teams but that does not, and should not, overcome a terrible 1-12 stretch. NCAA tournament teams do not have stretches like that in the season, let alone when the Hoosiers have the talent they had on the roster.
One highlight of the season was Romeo Langford, despite all the pressure he had on him. He was nothing short of spectacular in my eyes. Langford finished the season with averaging 16.5 points and five rebounds per game.
As Langford’s season concludes, the next step up could be the NBA draft as mock drafts are putting him around the end of the lottery. Those projections typically lead to the player testing the waters and I believe it will be too hard for him not to pass up. Langford did everything he could and the team did not play up to their capability.
Certainly a huge reason Indiana even kept their season afloat was Juwan Morgan. Morgan was a man among boys in the paint for the Hoosiers this season as he concluded his four years with Indiana. The forward from Waynesville, Missouri put together a solid campaign of 15 points and eight rebounds that were needed every game. Those efforts should leave Morgan proud of the efforts he has put in throughout his four year career. He has nothing to be ashamed of as he continued to improve each and every year, which is all you can ask for from your players.
Indiana, as it moves forward to next season, has an opportunity to redeem itself with Greenwood native Trayce Jackson-Davis arriving. Jackson-Davis gives them their second McDonald’s All American in a row. Not to mention that Armaan Franklin, who is from Indianapolis, will look to make an immediate impact for his hometown team. However, the Hoosiers may not be done adding as they are being looked at by recruits such as Trendon Watford and Harlond Beverly.
Indiana, being a young team, has most of their players coming back as the Hoosiers will only lose three scholarship players with the possibility of losing four. Seniors Evan Fitzner and Juwan Morgan will graduate and junior Clifton Moore intends to transfer. It also seems that Romeo Langford will declare for the NBA Draft as well. Langford has not given any idea as to what he will do but I am assuming that a lottery selection will be too tempting. This roster heading into next season will still be led by head coach Archie Miller, and he will look to get Indiana to its first NCAA tournament and eliminate the rough 2018-2019 season that left many Hoosiers fans unsatisfied.
Purdue, following wins against Old Dominion and Villanova, moved on to its third Sweet 16 in a row as both games showed what will make Purdue a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.
Against Old Dominion, the Boilermakers started off with a 32-19 edge and never let up as they kept the double digit lead that eventually led to a 61-48 win. Purdue kept that lead despite Nojel Eastern not being able to play due to him hurting his ankle in warmups.
Eastern’s replacement in the starting lineup was Eric Hunter Jr. and he played great in his first start. Forget about the box score. In this situation, he came ready to play. Hunter had a career high in minutes with 23 and he did not play like he was rattled in the moment.
While Hunter helped Purdue not miss a beat, players like Aaron Wheeler, who I consider an “X-Factor” for Purdue, knocked down all three of his shots. Wheeler dropped seven points that were big given the absence of Eastern. When Wheeler becomes aggressive, he can take this Purdue team into a different realm.
Villanova, a March Madness powerhouse, was up next for Purdue, but the result was not what I expected as the Boilers steamrolled the Wildcats 87-61, their best game of the season.
Carsen Edwards was sensational. It was the best game I have ever seen him play. He dropped a career high 42 points on 12-21 shooting. The shooting slump he was in seemed to disappear in this game. His critics have really bashed the shot selection, but there were very few times he had a bad shot. It felt like he realized that he had to figure this out so that his team can be in the best position.
Edwards’ career night was not the only great news as Eastern came back into the starting lineup from his injury. He did not have the typical double-double he normally has, but just getting him back on the floor was so important. His defense and his ability to be an athletic playmaker changes how Purdue plays. Eastern played 27 minutes, and that is a lot, but they did not have to play him as much as they normally do because of the blowout win.
Ryan Cline struggled against Old Dominion but found his touch for Purdue just in time. He was 4-8 from behind the arc against Villanova as opposed to when he shot 1-11 against Old Dominion. Cline certainly could not have two back to back games where he was awful. There needed to be a better performance and he gave it to them in what was a huge game.
This week should be extremely encouraging for Purdue fans as the Boilermaker’s play showed the many ways they can win basketball games and having those experiences help you as you move further into the tournament.
The Indiana Hoosiers still have a season going on despite not making the tournament for the third season in a row. The Hoosiers were selected as a No. 1 seed in the NIT and have taken off from there.
The NIT run started against St. Francis (PA) Tuesday, who came into the NIT with an 18-14 record. Indiana came out sluggish in the first half, which did not leave Indiana fans pleased with how they showed up. It seemed as if Indiana did not care and honestly showed no fight. St. Francis (PA) even came out of the first half with a 40-34 lead because all the Hoosiers seemed to care about was just getting to the NCAA Tournament.
However, the Hoosiers were able to move on in the second half and dominate a team that they should have all along, winning 89-72. The second half takeover for the Hoosiers was led by Juwan Morgan inside the paint. He was unguardable as he finished with 28 points and eight rebounds. Indiana outscored St. Francis (PA) 55-32 in the second half. Their 55 points were a season high in a half for the team this season.
Though the Hoosiers won the game, it still seemed that Indiana was never learning their lessons. They struggled with getting off to good starts all year and they just do not follow the scouting report on a team like St. Francis (PA) until the second half. This game for Indiana was like a recap of their season as they not only struggle early, but then they would all of a sudden figure it out when no one thought they would.
Next up for Indiana was a date Saturday against Arkansas, whom they played and lost to earlier in the season (73-72). That result did not happen again as the Hoosiers won by a score of 63-60 as the Hoosiers played Arkansas at home in Assembly Hall this time.
This was a competitive game throughout and Indiana definitely played with more of a passion and it made me wonder what they had for breakfast. I was confused as to if I was watching the team that played Tuesday or if I was watching a team that has beaten Marquette once and Michigan State twice this season.
Indiana came ready to play and it was led by Langford’s replacement in the starting lineup, Devonte Green. He put in 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as he elevated the Hoosiers when they needed a playmaker. Green has proven he is capable of this type of a statline but at times he has also been a factor in why IU could have lost a game. In his defense, this might have been the best game he has played all year. It felt that way even more so due to the eleven rebounds he had, which was nothing short of sensational.
Not to mention, Indiana held Arkansas to zero points in the final 6:58 of the game and that shows what Archie Miller has wanted his team to understand. Miller wants his team to be a team with a defensive identity and that showed in this tight contest throughout.
The next matchup for the up and down Hoosiers will be either Clemson or Wichita State as they look to get to New York for the Final Four of the NIT.
The NCAA Tournament is finally here and the No. 3 seed Purdue Boilermakers are playing Thursday night at 9:50 PM against the 14 seed Conference USA Tournament Champions, Old Dominion.
Purdue, after losing to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, 73-69, will look to get their offense going as Carsen Edwards and the Boilers continue to struggle offensively. However, this Old Dominion team has two first-team Conference USA guards in Ahmad Caver and B.J. Stith, who both average 17 points a game. Stith was also voted as the Player of the Year in the conference.
Defensively, the Boilermakers will have their hands full with these two talented guards. hey will present Purdue some problems with their speed and that, to me, is a concern for the Boilermakers.
One area they have to get figured out is that they need Edwards back to being himself, though Ryan Cline has to be better defensively for the Boilers. Cline has stepped up for this team throughout the season but a concern I have is his defense and the speed of Old Dominion could present some challenges.
Another thing to keep an eye on is that the Monarchs are motivated. Head coach Mike Jones has been battling with prostate cancer and this team is fighting for him. This is also Old Dominion’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011 and will look to create the one shining moment.
In the front court, Purdue will need to be strong if they want to make a run in the NCAA Tournament and that will be led by Matt Haarms. I understand that Carsen Edwards is a first-team guard and Edwards has had a solid season individually. But, this is March, and March provides moments and it is more or less another season for teams because of what is at stake. Players have to keep improving their games in order to make runs.
Since Feb. 23’s matchup against Nebraska, Haarms is delivering 13 points a game and is grabbing 6.7 rebounds a game. The rebounding numbers have to increase for Haarms in this tournament, especially when the backups for this team are Trevion Williams and Evan Boudreaux. Williams for Purdue has been averaging about five points and three rebounds which is not too shabby. Nevertheless, Williams has also been someone who has struggled to guard big guys who stretch the floor. This region provides teams such as Villanova and Saint Mary’s who have big guys that can stretch the floor and take the Purdue bigs out of the paint. Boudreaux, when he transferred from the Ivy League school, Dartmouth, averaged 18 points and nine rebounds a game, which is optimistic but he has not exactly panned out this season. Boudreaux, in his first year with Purdue, averages five points and three rebounds, which has not given them the boost needed. Boudreaux and Williams being effective in the tournament can help Purdue not only now but also in the future.
A player for Purdue that needs to be helpful for them is Aaron Wheeler. Wheeler’s stats are not going to necessarily grab attention (4.6 points and three rebounds), but he is a nice option for Purdue coach Matt Painter on the bench. Wheeler has a little bit more pop in his game with athleticism and quickness than Cline and starting small forward Grady Eifert. It will all be important against more athletic forwards in this tournament. Wheeler’s ability to make that top ten play will be needed for this Purdue team because they are playing regional games in Hartford Connecticut which is a 13 hour drive. That could lead to fans not being able to attend with that far of a traveling distance so the energy Wheeler provides could be a much needed spark.
Plenty of teams in this region have experience for Purdue when you take a look at Virginia, Tennessee, and Vilanova. That means the game plans need to be clear and players you might not expect much from need to be better as you get into the tournament. For the Boilermakers, that would mean getting back to what they were doing earlier in the season against Wisconsin on January 12. The Boilers from that game scored 80+ points that led them to a six game win streak. If they can get this offense to be consistent and balanced then I would not be surprised to see this team get to Minneapolis.
Purdue clinched a share of the Big Ten Championship with a win Saturday against Northwestern. However, they still lost to Minnesota on the road Tuesday. Meanwhile, Indiana pulled off two wins this week against Illinois and Rutgers as it looks to build its case for the NCAA Tournament.
For Purdue, the start of the week went rocky when they seemed to have had poor balance offensively. Star point guard Carsen Edwards was 7-31 from the field while Ryan Cline posted a statline of 17 points on 6-10 shooting and Nojel Eastern was 5-9 with 12 points and ten rebounds. It makes you wonder why Purdue did not look to get other players the ball when their star was 7-31.
I thought lots of opportunities were missed and Edwards caused some dysfunction. Purdue Coach Matt Painter however would disagree with that statement as he thought it was mostly the defense and Minnesota guard Amir Coffey dropping 32 points.
“In a nutshell Amir Coffey was really good tonight, but we allowed Minnesota to get into transition too much," said Painter. "Whether that was poor decisions or tough long shots – anytime you allow talented players to have space and be able to play (you are in trouble). We were fortunate they missed layups in the second half. They got into transition and they simply missed shots at the rim and we were very fortunate that it happened. But we did not do a very good job in adjusting to how things were called.”
That loss put them at a disadvantage for the possibility of a Big Ten Championship but they got another chance for it against Northwestern Saturday and they pulled it off. That title was the 24th Big Ten Title for the Boilermakers, which is the most in league history.
In the second half, the trio of Carsen Edwards, Matt Haarms and Nojel Eastern scored 30 of 37 points in the second half. That is the type of stat that you want to see from this Purdue team as he has seen the development of his players grow this season.
“Last year we started off Big Ten play 12-0 and then obviously did not win it,” Painter said. “And I think a lot of times you look at guys in a certain way when in reality that is not the case. So we had some guys who came off the bench last year who proved they were starters this year… And I think the thing we have been able to learn is to continue to play harder and be able to play well in tight games especially on the road. We have three or four wins that we were very fortunate to have and more than anything our guys improved..”
The improvement from this Purdue team has been nothing short of remarkable. Talents such as Nojel Eastern were off the bench for the Boilers last year and hardly saw any minutes but his growth as a player has allowed him to be a threat to get a double-double any night.
Matt Haarms has been the same way for this team, as his passion and determination have led to 20 + points and 10 + rebounding games that have not only been huge rises from last year but has also given Purdue an option down low. Purdue has typically always been a team that likes to get the ball down low to guys like AJ Hammons, or Caleb Swanigan in years past and Haarms has been filling that type of a role in many different ways.
Purdue will now await the matchup between Penn State and Minnesota Friday night in the quarterfinals as they look to continue to build off of their title.
Next up is the Indiana Hoosiers and this team has been puzzling all season long. They have seven quad one wins against teams like Michigan State and Marquette but then they have also lost by 30 points to Minnesota. This has led to controversy but the Hoosiers and Coach Archie Miller remained calm this week as they were in survival mode by winning their two games.
“We have not been able to talk about anything but survival for a long time,” Coach Miller said. “And that is sort of why we are here because we've kind of said there really isn't anything other than just do it. You have to do it the right way, and we have a good attitude right now.”
It certainly seems that way for the Hoosiers as forward Juwan Morgan put up 45 points and 16 rebounds in these two games which Coach Miller saw as a leadership example.
“You know, seniors do one of two things,” Miller said. “They either run away because it is too hard and it’s on them, or they just fight and Juwan is a fighter. Fighters fight. He's given us unbelievable toughness in the back board these last four or five games where we need to rebound and he's given us presence this week in particular around the rim where he scored the ball.”
Freshman Guard Rob Phinisee has also really asserted himself in Indiana’s four game winning streak which is exactly what Indiana needs moving forward. In the last four games, Phinisee has averaged 11.3 points with 14 assists and just one turnover.
They have also gotten a major boost from Justin Smith, who has struggled this season but not necessarily during this streak. Smith has provided a team high 17.0 points per game during this stretch and has allowed Indiana to feel more comfortable with its frontcourt depth.
This team looks motivated and ready to come to play in the Big Ten Tournament and I would not want to face this team if I am a projected top seed in the NCAA Tournament as they have seemed to figure out their identity.
The next game for Indiana will be Thursday against Ohio State as many believe they need to win one more game to solidify themselves for an at-large bid.
Over the last week, the Indiana Hoosiers shocked the country and might have entered themselves back into the bubble conversation with wins over #19 Wisconsin Tuesday and #6 Michigan State Saturday with the scores of 75-73 and 63-62, respectively.
Indiana, in their first game, took on the Wisconsin Badgers in what was a dog fight throughout. Both teams left everything out on the floor in the overtime game. Romeo Langford, with under a second to go, was able to get to the hole and put the layup in to win the game.
“Finally I hit one,” Langford said, “I know that past two times I have had it in my hand at the end of the game and it did not go as we planned. I felt like they could not stop me from getting to the rim.”
Langford’s change in approach may have come from some advice head coach Archie Miller gave him following the loss at Iowa last week.
“We talked about it after the Iowa game to not settle and take it to the rim,” Miller said. “Sometimes that is easier said than done but he made a great play.”
Langford put in 22 points on 8-17 from the field and collected seven rebounds in what was a much needed effort to beat Wisconsin.
Indiana also received some contributions from many players such as Justin Smith with 12 points and six rebounds, Juwan Morgan with 15 rebounds and nine points as well as and Rob Phinisee, who dropped in 11 points and four assists.
Meanwhile, In Phinisee’s eyes, the crowd was a huge factor in how IU snapped their five game losing streak.
“The home crowd got into it and I feel like that boosted us,” Phinisee said, “And the next man was able to step up.”
Winning games like this in the middle of February was just not working out for the Hoosiers as they could not get any wins to save their lives ,but this is a game that can help them move forward collectively.
“I think we are playing extremely hard right now,” Miller said, “But good teams make runs and being able to respond from that in the last four minutes and in the overtimes was great to see that we did not lay an egg.”
Pressuring the ball was also a huge emphasis in this game for Indiana and Miller has been pleased to see how their effort has been better since Purdue last week.
“Our guys right now understand how hard you have to play at this level this time of year and you have to keep getting better with your effort as you can’t take a step down.”
On Saturday, the #6 Michigan State Spartans came into Bloomington looking to get closer to a Big Ten title, but the Hoosiers took it away as they won for the second time this season against the Spartans, the Hoosiers’ first sweep since the 2012-2013 season.
The player that shocked everyone was Forward Justin Smith as he led Indiana to a W with a career-high 24 points.
“I was due to hit some shots,” Smith said, “And then once I was able to hit a couple then my teammates gave me confidence to keep shooting it.”
For Indiana Coach Archie Miller, he thought the mindset of Smith was crucial for him in this game against Michigan State.
“Attitude is everything,” Miller said, “When your attitude is great and you are focused in on doing whatever you can to help then good things tend to happen and that has where Justin (Smith) has changed his mindset after Iowa.”
Devonte Green off the bench hit some crucial shots and finished with 13 points after he only had two points in the entire first half.
“It always feels good to make some shots,” Green said, “So I just stepped up and made shots.”
At one point Michigan State was able to go up 12 points in the second half but it did not phase Indiana from the main objective, according to Rob Phinisee who played stellar defense against Cassius Winston.
“We stayed together and the coaching staff kept encouraging us,” Phinisee said, “We stayed with it as we have been in that position before.”
On the glass, the Indiana Hoosiers were dominant as they had a 15-5 edge with offensive rebounds and were able to steal the ball ten times from Michigan State, which allowed them to take Michigan State out of what they wanted to do.
“We had to fight to hang in,” Miller said, “I thought defensively we were much better in the second half and as the 12 minute, 8 minute mark started to come around, you could feel our guys have a different vibe about them in terms of their energy level.”
Miller continued by saying this week was good in terms of their competition as they have been more dialed in now and they have now gotten back to work over the last week.
Purdue has now taken the lead over Michigan State for first place in the Big Ten as they blew out Illinois and Ohio State this week with scores of 73-56 and 86-51, respectively.
The 7’3 big man Matt Haarms put in a really successful performance as he was dominating with 21 points on 8-8 shooting and grabbed ten rebounds with 5 blocks as he led the charge up front against the talented center Giorgi Bezhanishvili.
“We had to move the basketball,” Painter said, “And he was going to get good looks and Matt has played really well here as he has done a better job rebounding the basketball and scoring over the basketball right now.”
Haarms in the postgame conference also had a very similar to answer to how they got him good looks in this game.
“We have been getting better at executing our offensive game plan.” Haarms also said that they have been cutting hard and working to make catches off passes easier.
Purdue’s star Carsen Edwards after a rough patch last week delivered a huge performance that Purdue fans were accustomed to see from him as he finished with 23 points on 8-14 shooting and played the entire game.
“We needed him to make plays,” Painter said, “And I thought tonight was his best defensive effort of the year and that is what I am pleased about more than anything.”
Even though Purdue was able to pull away in the second half, the level of respect Purdue has with Illinois was shown with Painter in the postgame conference.
“This was a dogfight,” Painter said, “That’s the way it is when you play (Illinois Coach Brad Underwood) teams.. When you go to play Illinois, you have to prepare differently.”
The win over Illinois is now Purdue’s ninth straight win against them since 2008 as they also maintained a four game win streak.
However, it got extended to five games on Saturday as Purdue on their senior night just dominated Ohio State 86-51.
Carsen Edwards, who may have played his last home game at Purdue, kept the consistency from earlier in the week and dropped 25 points on 9-16 shooting in the win.
“I took what the defense gave me and I was able to make some shots,” Edwards said, “I was trying to come out aggressive and I was able to move without the ball. I got some good passes from my teammates with the screens they set for me.”
Coach Matt Painter followed up on that and said, “You take what the defense gives you and play off of it. When he moves the basketball and gets two people on the basketball and gets it out of his hands quick then he puts people in a bind.”
Freshman forward Aaron Wheeler contributed in a big way with ten points and seven rebounds and the two seniors, Ryan Cline and Grady Eifert, each had eight points.
In this game, Purdue put up a ridiculous 52 percent from 3-point land with 11-21 shooting from distance.
Painter was more than pleased with the effort in the night’s game, especially in the first half.
“Obviously we shot the basketball well,” Painter said, “I just thought our guys did a great job of executing and we did a great job on the boards.”
As next week is approaching, Indiana will go play on the road Thursday against Illinois and Sunday against Rutgers for Senior night. The next two games for Purdue will be on the road as they will go to Minnesota Tuesday and Saturday they will play Northwestern.