November 8, 2007

Big Ten Basketball Preview - Indiana

A year ago the Hoosiers brought one of the country's best coaches to the Big Ten. The Gophers are following in the Hoosier's footsteps, except Sampson brought baggage along with him. Recruiting violations have followed him from Oklahoma to Indiana. In the offseason and as he head into the regular season this seems like a big deal (including the dismissal quitting of an assistant coach) but the Hoosiers are poised to make a run at the conference title and by mid-January I don't think recruiting calls will even a minor story.

The Hoosiers return arguably the most talented player in the conference, PF--DJ White and they are brining in arguably the most talented freshman in the country, SG--Eric Gordon giving them a dangerous inside out combo. Add to that a PG who learned on the ropes as a freshman, a talented JUCO transfer on the wing and a couple other top 125 incoming freshmen and this team could win it's first Big Ten Title in 15 seasons.

PG - Armon Bassett - started 24 games as a freshman last season and flew under the radar because of the other talented freshman PG in the conference (perhaps you heard of Mike Conley Jr?). Bassett averaged 9.5 ppg and showed some moxy as he led all Hoosier scoreres with 16 AT Cameron Indoor Stadium.

SG - Eric Gordon - this super talented freshman appears to be the key for the Hoosiers this year. If he lives up to the hype this is a top 10 team, if he struggles through freshman hiccups it will be another middle seed in the tourney and possibly a 1 weekend trip for the Hoosiers. Gordon has good size, a quick first step and deadly outside range. If coach Sampson lets him loose he could be the talk of the Big Ten this year.

SF - Jamarcus Ellis - JUCO transfer and player of the year. Last year at Chipola JC he led the team in scoring, rebounding and assists. This complete player could really help the Hoosiers and be the oil that keeps this machine running smooth. Of his issues that plagued him in high school could follow rear it's head in the spotlight that is Hoosier basketball.

PF - Lance Stemler - senior who does the dirty work. Role player, intangibles guy, hard hat, name your cliche here. Stemler is a solid player who has put some weight on but is still one of the Hoosiers most dangerous 3-point shooters.

C - DJ White (pictured right) - My pick for conference player of the year. Rather than go pro, White was pursuaded to return and lead the Hoosiers to the it's first Big Ten Championship since the 1992-93 season! White the best big man in the league and I think he will increase his 13.8 ppg and 7.3 rpg by a significant margin this season.

Key Bench - Jordan Crawford - Freshman, scoring guard who can get into the lane
Key Bench - AJ Ratlif - Senior guard, good shooter and adds experience to the bench
Key Bench - Deandre Thomas - BIG man (nearly 300 lbs)
Key Bench - Brandon McGee - freshman forward, good size and a jumpshot

Prediction - a tough but not crazy non-conference schedule (@SoIll, Kentucky and GTech) should have the Hoosiers ready to handle the Big Ten. I love their balance of talent with the pro prospect in the middle and a number of athletic guards capable of scoring in different ways. Depth in the frontcourt could become an issue as White and Stemler have had injury issues in the past. Indiana will be right in that mix for 2nd place in the regular season. Officially I have them at 13-5 (along with MSU and OSU). If I have to pick, they'll finish 2nd.

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