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November 27, 2012
 

Starting Five: Football Team Ends Season, North Carolina Looming

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IUSC editors Drew LaMontagna, Cody Harner, Will Chukerman, Tony Adragna and Jimmy Cavanaugh get together to cover the latest in IU sports. This week, the guys tackle the end of the Indiana football season, Darius Latham’s commitment, Hoosier basketball’s Brooklyn triumph and an impending matchup with North Carolina.

The IU football season finally comes to an end with a 21-point loss to Purdue. Time for a fair evaluation of the season guys, what did you see this year?

Drew: Improvement. Improvement not only in performance but overall vibe surrounding the program. Indiana football is seemingly (and somewhat shockingly) drifting further from the lackadaisical approach and moving more towards a ‘put up or shut up’ type attitude. Head coach Kevin Wilson has done a fine job thus far here at IU and it will be exciting to see where he has this team three or four years from now. The direction, for the time being, is up.

Cody: I saw that the Hoosiers can compete in the B1G.  The fast-paced Hoosier offense gave many defenses problems as they could not keep up.  Cameron Coffman had a fairly good season throwing for 15 touchdown passes and 2734 yards. However, the offense could be inconsistent at times, which was the same case for the defense.  The defense had a good stretch against Illinois and Iowa, but after the Wisconsin game, I think it’s safe to say we all left shaking our heads.  However, I think the future for the Hoosiers is very bright.  With several highly ranked recruits coming in on the defense, the Hoosiers should be greatly improved in the facet of the game.   If you combine that with an offense that showed several bright spots such as Stephen Houston, who finished with 12 touchdowns, then the Hoosiers should be poised to surpass their four win total this year.

Will: I’m still not entirely sure what I saw. Every time I thought I saw something coming, I got the complete opposite. This team showed flashes of brilliance and also continued to show why they’ve been the laughing stock of the Big Ten for so long. I’ll take the inconsistency over the consistently bad (I think) that we saw from last year, but overall, fans should be encouraged from the good play that we were afforded the luxury of seeing. It’s still a very young team, and we saw some of that youth take the next step this year (I.E. Cody Latimer, and Shane Wynn), its just a shame we didn’t see more players on the defensive side of the ball do the same.

Tony: I saw a team that was greatly improved from a season ago at many positions.  More importantly, I saw a change in the attitude of the Indiana football program.  I saw a team battle back when it looked as though games were out of reach, contrary to what Indiana football fans have become used to over the years.  The team also handled adversity well, as their team leader, Tre Roberson, went out early in the season.  Although it didn’t always show in the win-loss column, I thought the Hoosiers built the foundation for success in the coming years.

Jimmy: I saw progress. As disappointing as it was to go from talking Rose Bowl in early November to a 4-8 record with three straight losses, it’s important to remember the way IU played to give us that line of conversation in the first place. They quadrupled their win total from last year and basically met expectations for this season. They had nine Hoosiers earn some form of All-B1G recognition, and seven of those nine will return next season. The season ended in disappointment, but the future is bright.

 

Some more positive Indiana football news comes with the commitment of Darius Latham, a 4-star defensive tackle. What does his commitment mean for the program?

Drew: Considering this man de-committed from Big Ten foe, Wisconsin, I would say it means a lot. Not only did he toss Wisco for the Cream and Crimson, the kid is a stud. With his commitment, Wilson now has four, four-star players for this incoming class. It also helps that Latham plays on the defensive side of the ball, one of the ever-so-clear weaknesses with this club. As I just mentioned, I am so anxious to follow this team post-graduation as to see where they will be in three or four years. With the Big Ten (or 14) being as popular as ever, it will be extremely interesting to see what this conference has in store for the years to come.

Cody: This is huge for the Hoosier defense.  This makes the fourth four-star recruit to commit to Indiana, which will help fill some voids in the defense that are desperately needed.  If the Hoosiers can integrate these pieces properly and create a solid defense, then we will see an Indiana team which could make some noise in the B1G.  Kevin Wilson has done a great job recruiting and I think he has put the Hoosiers in a position to return to relevance.

Will: This commitment means that hopefully we see a better defense in the future (jeez, I’ve really got to stop ragging on this defense). It also continues to show that Kevin Wilson now is beginning to do what Tom Crean did in basketball a few years ago, and began aggressively and effectively recruiting kids from the state of Indiana. It’s a huge step for a program that’s in the process of rebuilding and showing signs that they can contend in the near future.

Tony: I think it’s another step in the right direction.  The Hoosiers obviously had their problems on the defensive end this season, so adding another 4-star recruit on that side of the ball is huge for Coach Kevin Wilson.  Wilson and his staff have done an excellent job creating a buzz about playing football for Indiana, and it will be exciting to see how their 2013 recruiting class plays out in the coming seasons.

Jimmy: This is a big deal. As Drew and Cody mentioned, Darius Latham is the fourth four-star player to commit to Indiana, but it’s also important to note that all of those guys are defensive players who have a chance to see playing time on a defense that had a lot of trouble this season. The fact that IU is winning these recruiting battles against schools like Iowa and Wisconsin is significant, and while I’d hold off on proclaiming a power shift, Kevin Wilson and his staff are laying a solid foundation.

The Hoosier basketball team went 2-0 in Brooklyn and beat Ball State by 48 points in Assembly Hall. Which feat was more impressive?

Drew: To me there is no question — it’s winning the Legends Classic in Brooklyn. As this week’s AP and Coaches poll showed, Georgetown is a damn good team (ranked 20th in AP, 24th in Coaches). This is big mostly because the wins were on the road and it was the first true test for this Hoosier team. A year ago, I don’t think that Tom Crean pulls out a victory here against Georgetown. Last year, Indiana had trouble on the road, particularly finishing when they needed to. At this time, I was always fearful of Indiana going into overtime against a commendable opponent, as I think the best and most experienced teams usually prove their worth during that time. This year, however, I feel the exact opposite. There was no doubt in my mind IU would come out on top in that Georgetown game in OT. I honestly didn’t even think the Hoyas stood a chance in extra minutes, just based on how well put together and mature this team is in 2013. For me, that said a lot to not only Georgetown, but the NCAA as a whole. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but it without a doubt made this Hoosier squad stronger and more prepared for the challenges they face ahead.

Cody: It is obviously more impressive for the Hoosiers to come out of Brooklyn as Progressive Legends Classic champions.  The Hoosiers battled through adversity in both games.  The Hoosiers had a sluggish start against Georgia and even trailed at halftime, but Jordan Hulls provided a spark, which helped lift IU to a victory.  I was really impressed with the play of Hulls in this tournament, as I believe he can now play to his strengths with Yogi Ferrell on the floor.  Hulls was a spark offensively in both games and hit some key shots down the stretch against Georgetown.  IU played well in its first overtime game as they got to the line and knocked down their free throws to put the game away.  Most importantly, IU has now got the chance to play a tight tournament-like game and gained that experience which will help as the season progresses and we get into B1G play.  If the Hoosiers can continue to show that type of poise, then it will just make them an even tougher team to beat.  This is why the Legends Classic was more important and impressive for the Hoosiers.

Will: I think it’s the 2-0 trip to Brooklyn. It’s as close to an NCAA tournament-type setting in terms of preparing for games and playing with tired legs. It gave the team an early test against a really underrated Georgetown team, and they withstood every punch that was thrown at them. Blowing out below average teams is nice, but I’m way more impressed with an overtime win over a potential top 25 team. I haven’t yet mentioned the game against Georgia in which is this Hoosier team faced a little bit of adversity there as well. Trailing at the end of the first half with their star player under the weather for most teams means doom, but IU got great contributions from other players continuing to show how key depth is for this squad.

Tony: Both were impressive in their own sense.  2-0 in Brooklyn was impressive, as Jordan Hulls put the team on his back and willed the Hoosiers to victory, especially in the overtime period against Georgetown.  Although Indiana didn’t seem to play their best ball, they still found ways to win against Georgia and Georgetown, which is a trait all good teams must have. The Ball State win was very impressive, as Indiana played nearly a flawless first half, and a pretty good second half as well.  Ball State isn’t a very good team, but the Hoosiers played arguably their most complete game of basketball this season, and they buried the Cardinals early.  In what could have been a trap game, Indiana showed that they are taking this season one game at a time (Jordy Hulls would love me for saying that).

Jimmy: I guess I’ll fall in line with the other guys here. Sure, crushing Ball State like IU did was a pretty impressive sight to behold, but the result of that game wasn’t really in doubt. The pair of games in Brooklyn, though, was really something. Indiana didn’t play impressively for most of their game against Georgia and needed overtime to get past the Georgetown Hoyas, but 2-0 on a neutral court is a good place to be, especially considering the way the Hoosiers have struggled away from Assembly Hall for the past couple of years. They don’t play another game out of state until New Year’s Eve, so it’s nice they made that trip count.

 

Finally, Indiana has a marquee matchup with North Carolina on Tuesday night. What can we expect to see?

Drew: Ideally, one would like to see Indiana start out fast. If history is any indication, if IU can get off to a fast start and limit the careless mistakes, a win is imminent, particularly in the Carnegie Hall of college basketball, Assembly Hall. North Carolina will without a doubt be Indiana’s most formidable opponent so far this season (ranked 14th AP, 13th Coaches), but it’s hard to bet against the depth and just overall talent and variety of Tom Crean’s crew. The starters speak for themselves, while the ‘Bench Mob’ this year is as good as ever (well maybe not ever, but in recent years), so it will be a tough task for the incoming Tar Heels. I am also going to look particularly at how well IU does from the stripe. With Zeller’s dominant post play and the overall strength of this Indiana team, getting to the line will be of common occurrence. Not knocking down the free ones is OK against the lesser opponents, but we’re about to get into big-boy ball, so free throws will be crucial.

Cody: For those fans who expect North Carolina to play as sluggishly as they did against Butler, they might not want to get their hopes up.  I expect the Tar Heels to be well-prepared by coach Roy Williams and ready to give the Hoosiers their best shot.  I think the key match-up in this game will be the shooting guards for North Carolina such as Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock against whomever Tom Crean decides to match up with them.  If Ferrell and Hulls are on the court at the same time, they will sacrifice a lot of size to these guards.  This may force the Hoosiers to play Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, or Remy Abell together at times to make up for this size differential.  Also, it will be interesting to see if Christian Watford can match up against who many are calling a player of the year candidate in James Michael McAdoo.  Watford will have all he can handle on defense and will be needed to help clog the paint and rebound for the Hoosiers.  If Indiana can limit North Carolina’s perimeter game and force McAdoo to take the game into his hands, I believe Watford will Cody Zeller’s help will be able to make it difficult for him and help the Hoosiers pull this one out.

Will: Lots and lots of running, both teams love to get out on the break and capitalize on the other team’s in transition. Georgetown is a very good team, but North Carolina might be a bit better and will be a huge test for a team that expects to be playing late into March and early April. The Tar Heels are coming off a loss and will surely be looking to rebound off a poor showing the Maui invitational. North Carolina poses some problems for Indiana in terms of their frontcourt depth, so this will be the first game where the lack of depth on the frontline could really bite this team in the rear. Indiana can’t afford to get out to a slow start like they have in a few games this season, they’ll have to use the home crowd to their advantage early and often.

Tony: It’s going to be an up-and-down game, as both teams rely heavily on pushing the ball and getting easy buckets.  Indiana has yet to play a team with North Carolina’s speed and ability to run the floor, so it will be interesting to see how they choose to guard the Tar Heels’ break.  Look for Indiana to continue to play inside-out as Cody Zeller continues to regain his stamina after battling a sickness for close to two weeks.  I’d expect veterans Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford to have big games for the Hoosiers, and I think Indiana eventually opens this one up in the second half as talent prevails.  If I had to make a prediction, I’d say Indiana 82, North Carolina 70.

Jimmy: I won’t make a score prediction, but I’d lean towards saying we’ll see a lot of points. Tom Crean addressed the media for more than 15 minutes on Monday and he spent very little of that time talking about the North Carolina defense. According to Crean, UNC runs a better fast break than any team that has visited Assembly Hall in his time at Indiana, and the Hoosiers have played their best when allowed to get out and run. IU is the most efficient team in the country, and I think we’ll see why on Tuesday night.

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