Menu 

Indiana College Basketball: Wrapping Up Non-Conference Action

Indiana University

Season Update:

Since finishing last in the Puerto Rico Shootout, the Hoosiers have won three of five games, including a big victory over the University of Pittsburgh in the Jimmy V Classic. Even in defeats against Maryland and fourth-ranked Kentucky, Tom Crean‘s cast of young players has shown tremendous promise.

Upcoming Schedule:

Indiana has two more non-conference “cupcake” games before Big Ten play begins December 31st with the Hoosiers taking on Michigan at Assembly Hall. Loyola University (MD) visits Bloomington tonight for a 6:30pm tip-off, and then Bryant University will be in town Monday, December 28.

Player Spotlight:

Freshman forward Derek Elston joined fellow first-year players Maurice Creek and Christian Watford in the starting lineup in IU’s 81-58 win against North Carolina Central. His promotion was partly based on Tom Pritchard’s struggles, but Elston, a native of Tipton, Indiana, rightfully earned his spot in the starting lineup based on his strong early season play.

Elston ranks fourth on the team in scoring with 7.2 points a game, and he’s averaging 4.6 rebounds, good for third on the team. His biggest attributes are his athleticism and non-stop motor, as evidenced by his 1.2 steals and team-leading 2.0 offensive boards a game. Whether or not he stays as a starter doesn’t really matter — some think Crean benched Pritchard for motivational purposes — Elston has already proven himself an integral part of the Hoosiers success.

Prediction:

Puerto Rico brought back some bad, bad memories of last year’s disastrous season, but like an acid flashback, the Shootout faded quickly from mind as Crean not only righted the ship, but put it back on course traveling at a faster rate than anyone expected. Assuming they can avoid a “Lipscomb Moment” (IU lost by five to the Lipscomb Bison last year…at home), the Hoosiers will enter Big Ten play at 7-5, which would be one more win than they had all of last season.

The Big Ten is brutal this year, and IU’s schedule includes two games against #17 Ohio State, two games against #4 Purdue, and a home game with #9 Michigan State. A .500 record has to be considered the ceiling for such an inexperience and ill-equipped team — the Hoosiers have no big men capable of playing at a high level against the majority of Big Ten post guys — but they’ve surprised everyone thus far; who am I to say they won’t continue to do so?

Purdue University

Review:

The fourth ranked Boilermakers endured some early season tests — Tennessee and Alabama both put a scare in Matt Painter‘s team — but they’ve remained undefeated through their first 10 games. That’s the best start for the Boilers since the 1993-94 squad started 14-0.

Upcoming Schedule:

Purdue hosts SIU Edwardsville tonight at Mackey Arena, a game that probably won’t be worth watching considering SIU is a two-win Independent team. Next Tuesday, the Boilers travel to Iowa to kick off Big Ten action, but then host an out-of-conference game against #6 West Virginia the following Friday.  All eyes will be focused on West Lafayette for that enticing matchup.

Player Spotlight:

The outstanding trio of juniors, Valparaiso’s Robbie Hummel, Franklin Central‘s JaJuan Johnson, and East Chicago‘s E’Twaun Moore, garner most of the attention from the Indianapolis media, and while that’s understandable, senior point guard Chris Kramer is just as valuable.

He’s not much of a scorer, averaging just 7.4 points a game, but he does it on 57% shooting, an excellent percentage for a perimeter player. In addition to his heady offensive play, Kramer, from Huntington, Indiana,  sets the tone defensively, pressuring opposing point guards and forcing rushed shots and passes. As good as the headliners of the team are, Purdue’s hope of advancing to the NCAA Final Four (hosted in downtown Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium) rest in the hands of their underappreciated point guard.

Prediction:

There’s not much you can criticize about the Boilers start to the season. Moore, Hummel and Johnson have been outstanding, the freshman D.J. Byrd (Crawfordsville), Kelsey Barlow (Indianapolis) and Patrick Bade (Franklin Central) have assimilated nicely into the rotation, and the team’s shown the necessary killer instinct to make it deep into the NCAA tournament. As long as they avoid any debilitating injuries, Indianapolis basketball fans will get the pleasure of watching the Boilers conclude their season in Indy this year.

Butler University

Review:

Coming into the season ranked 11th in the country, the Bulldogs have survived a brutal non-conference schedule, finding themselves with an 8-3 record and #20 ranking. Last Saturday’s bizarre one-point win over a tough Xavier team came on the heels of beating  #17 Ohio State.

Upcoming Schedule:

Butler’s murderous schedule doesn’t let up this week, as the Bulldogs travel to Alabama to take on the University of Alabama-Birmingham, coached by former IU head man Mike Davis. UAB is 10-1, including a recent beat-down of #25 Cincinnati 64-47. Butler begins Horizon League play with two games at Hinkle Fieldhouse against Wisconsin Green Bay and Wisconsin Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchase by contacting the Butler ticket office, or by visiting the Clowes Memorial Hall box office between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. throughout the week.

Player Spotlight:

Ronald Nored will be returning home to Birmingham tonight, a city his late father influenced as an African Methodist Episcopal pastor during Nored’s youth. On the court, the sophomore point guard started slowly as he worked himself back into playing shape after suffering a knee injury in the offseason. He was reinserted in the starting lineup late in November, and the defensive standout’s been instrumental in Butler’s two most recent wins. Against Ohio State, Nored contributed eight points, four rebound, four assists and three steals, while holding Ohio State’s Jon Diebler, a 17.1 ppg scorer, without a field goal until there was under two minutes remaining in the game. When he fully works himself back into the lineup, Nored will help take Butler to the next level as the season progresses.

Prediction:

The team looked disjointed and struggled shooting the ball early in the season, but they’ve gotten back to playing “The Butler Way” of late, and it’s shown in their record. Brownsburg‘s Gordon Hayward has played like an All-American for Brad Stevens‘ squad, and if Connersville native Matt Howard can figure out how to make it through a game without fouling, he’s fouled out in six of 11 games, the Bulldogs could be looking at an undefeated conference record and a trip to their first NCAA Sweet Sixteen since 2003.

IUPUI

Review:

Excitement is building for Ron Hunter‘s IUPUI Jaguars.  The team is 9-3 on the season, with their only losses coming against major conference teams Auburn, Kansas St and Notre Dame.  The Jags already have two conference wins under their belt, as they topped both South Dakota St and North Dakota St.

Upcoming Schedule:

Out of conference games at Indiana State and Memphis are next up on the schedule, with both schools likely favored over IUPUI.  The Jaguars then face Dane Fife’s IPFW Mastodons before traveling to Oakland, Michigan to face the Golden Grizzlies, who most experts picked to represent the conference in the NCAA tourney.  IUPUI won’t return to the friendly confines of The Jungle until Jan 6 against Ohio.

Player Spotlight:

While senior forward Robert Glenn is the focal point of the team (he’s averaging 19.6 points and 7.1 rebounds), the Jaguars wouldn’t be sitting at 9-3 without the impressive play of sophomore Alex Young.  Young, out of Indianapolis Northwest High School was named to the Mid-Major Freshman All-American team after averaging 10.8 points and 3.5 rebounds last year, and he’s stepped up his game considerably this season.  Scoring over 17 points a game, Young has four 20-point outings, and has been in double figures in all but one game.  He’s hitting an impressive 2.3 three-pointers per contest, a significant increase from his freshman year.  Along with Glenn, he’s the key to an NCAA tournament berth for the Jaguars.

Prediction:

Hunter may have the best team he’s ever coached at IUPUI.  Dominated by an athletic frontcourt, and steadied by point guard John Ashworth”s 6.1 assists per game, the Jags have positioned themselves as the top contender for the Summit League crown.  If they continue playing at such a high level, Indianapolis sports fans could be cheering on two hometown teams come March.