Prior to these games with the more known commodity level programs I want to highlight an opposing player or two that stands out on the stat sheet and the court. Just highlighting them and allowing any Hoosier fans curious enough, a little insight into what one might expect come the next game. With our marquee matchup in Cincinnati Friday, Xavier will have plenty of weapons, especially compared to the first 4 opponents Indiana has faced this year. Two of those weapons, Colby Jones and Jack Nunge, will both be looking to derail the Hoosiers’ hot start to this season.
Colby Jones wrapped up last season with an NIT tournament MVP performance. During the tournament Jones ended with rattling off 3 games with 15, 16, and 21 points in each, while hauling in 22 boards and distributing 11 assists. He entered this season with All-American honorable mentions sprinkled around the news outlets. While Colby Jones didn’t lead the Musketeers in any statistic other than stealing, its the sum of his talents that makes him a great basketball player.
Jones is a true gamer and has consistent ball handling and distributing skills. While he has even begun garnering NBA draft interest, Colby Jones is a great player in every facet except for perimeter shooting. Colby Jones shot 21.6% behind the arc last season. So as far as his effectiveness against the Hoosiers, I don’t expect for him to be able to devastate Indiana too much. Although… I’ve been wrong before.
How do the Hoosiers negate Colby’s effectiveness in this one. When it comes to the Hoosiers’ defense, if you aren’t consistently hitting those outside shots, you may be in for quite the trial. Our paint presence has only been emboldened by Malik Reneau (understatement of the century), ultimately giving the opposing offense to exploit no minutes of interior weakness. The Hoosier perimeter defenders, especially Xavier and Trey only look quicker and slipperier when navigating through and around screens. This defense is humming. In my personal and unprofessional opinion, our defense is well equipped to shut him down.
As for Jack Nunge, while Colby Jones gets a lot of the recognition, Jack may be the single most important player on the Musketeers roster. Only Colby Jones has more minutes munched heading into this season on the team. Returning as a foundational piece of this year’s Xavier squad Jack Nunge, has a great midrange and often finds his shot. He is not afraid of mixing it up and looking to outmuscle the opponent at the rim. While he is a physical presence and seems to be the team leader for Xavier, what he lacks is an independent game.
Jack Nunge is a great player, but he is unable to create opportunities for himself. The best players in the game can do it, unfortunately for the Xavier faithful, Nunge is just unable to size up and attack the rim, driving and creating his own shots. His game is reliant on the Xavier offense running proficiently and getting him open in the intended location. Against tough defense like Indiana’s, players like this can have the potential to show up flat and not get a rhythm going to their own game. If a player isn’t multi-dimensional enough to create his own shots, a tough defense can ultimately give them nightmares, without the ability to improvise and exploit opportunities where they are given. While Jack Lunge is a great player, he isn’t bringing anything to the table to the Hoosiers shouldn’t be able to handle with relative ease.
The Hoosier defense looks like it could potentially be one of the most dominant in the nation. With our experience on the court defensively and our new found depth, the Hoosiers should be able to shut down the Musketeers two most dangerous weapons. Xavier’s opportunity to win this game may largely be predicated on the three. I’m fully expecting the Hoosier defense to bring a real intensity into this very highly anticipated matchup (the first of many).
On the precipice of the first great test for this year’s Hoosier squad, I find myself filled with optimism, joy, and excitement for this one. The nation will be watching one of the first great games of the year. Time to give them a show Hoosiers. Never overlook an opponent and go out there and handle your business.
Thank you for taking the time to read these short thoughts of a Hoosier fanboy just typing to pass the time in between the final whistle and the next tip. Have a great day Hoosier nation.
Down with the Musketeers!
LUX ET VERITAS!