The Indiana Hoosiers find themselves in a favorable position, entering December still unbeaten. While their path to December has been extraordinarily by the book, the Hoosiers have exhibited an ability to oppress the opposition by relying on defensive tenacity that immediately feeds into the offense through high emotion, momentum garnering transition buckets. With an utter domination of the interior, this Hoosier team is beginning to stand out as a team with the depth necessary to compete past the first weekend of March, and be a true title contender.
Tomorrow against the 5-2 Rutgers Scarlet Knights the Hoosiers will seek to continue their solid start and begin their Big Ten season with a win. The only problem is… NO BIG TEN WINS COME EASY. The Scarlet Knights have won the last five meetings between these two teams. Needless to say, not only the continuation of our unbeaten start should be motivating the Hoosiers. Rutgers has owned Indiana in recent memory but this year’s different. While I fully recognize I may be setting myself up to get hurt, I fully expect the Hoosiers to continue to display the depth, defense, and momentum garnering play that has them at 7-0 now. After nearly ending our NCAA tournament hopes on the back of Ron Harper Jr.’s closing second three, only for the Hoosiers to put together an impressive Big Ten tournament to earn a spot, it is time for the Hoosiers to go get the slightest revenge and beat the Scarlet Knights in Rutgers.
Defense has been the key to Indiana’s hot start this season. The attitude of the entire team is established first in the defense and reverberates through every level of the game. It is the tenacious defense causing key turnovers, that turn into high emotion transition plays, that turns into momentum. The Indiana defense was able to disrupt the game plan and production of (an admittedly beat up) Armando Bacot and the Tar Heels down low. While Clifford Omoruyi will present his own issues in the paint, I believe the Hoosiers have proven perfectly capable of nullifying the returning Omoruyi. Coming off of their defeat by the hands of the Miami Hurricane in the ACC/Big Ten challenge the Scarlet Knights will be looking to offer the Hoosier defense a tougher test than they have yet to face.
Jalen Hood-Schifino got the lid off the bucket against the Tar Heels. Following his massive night, garnering the most minutes (36), I’m looking for Jalen to continue to bring the top notch distribution, that has added a depth to this Indiana team. Allowing Xavier to get open off-ball more often, has allowed him to find open looks. Translating into his improved shooting from range this season. All of this season’s addition’s are playing their parts to perfection so far, and Jalen continues to unlock the potential of this offense. His ability to distribute off the cut is invaluable to the success that has started this season. I’m hoping Jalen can keep the production we saw against North Carolina rolling into Newark.
Malik had a quiet night during the North Carolina game, but was still able to defensively hold down the front court and offer Trayce invaluable time to refuel while he was in foul trouble. Malik’s hot start is not just that. I fully expect the young phenom to find his stats in this game. With one of the smoothest touches around the basket, and the eye opening experience that was Assembly Hall hosting top class basketball behind him, I have to believe Malik could go off for a huge night.
Who will it be for the Hoosiers this game? It seems each game, one of the second unit guys has stepped up to deliver incredible performances. Every player on the bench that is getting in the game is contributing crucial and high caliber minutes. Trey is shooing at 40% from 3 and 61.5% from the field. Will we see more of his alley oop fake floater? Will Tamar step up to deliver some of the production he showed off in the matchup with 22 points against Jackson State? Will Jordan Geronimo be able to continue to set the second units defensive tone, while also showing off the control and finesse he’s added to his athletic and brutal game? Here’s hoping all can be the case in the Hoosiers’ Big Ten opener.
Clifford Omoruyi is the returning star for the Scarlet Knights. He is leading Rutgers with an average stat line of 16.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.9 blocked shots. Cam Spencer is also contributing 15.3 points a game with 3.8 assists. These two are tasked with the bulk of Rutgers production. Headband hero Paul Mulcahy is uncertain for the matchup with the Hoosiers. While by all measure the Hoosiers should have the advantage on roster talent, each Big Ten game is a battle. Rutgers plays tough. Luckily, the Hoosiers’ defense has our boys looking like the toughest bunch of dogs in the country. While they have talent, they don’t have the depth of talent the Hoosiers have put on display throughout this season.
Ultimately, if Trayce Jackson-Davis shows up and delivers a NOW typically monstrous performance, I don’t believe the Rutgers frontcourt will be able to keep us from getting the streak ending victory. Dangerous to say about the team that’s had our number five times in a row, but Trayce is that different this season. He is converting at an almost miraculous clip. He is converting at the rim far more often, showing off improvement to what was already an elite touch. I would say that Trayce has found another gear, but he’s found a new class of vehicle entirely. He is firing on all cylinders, delivering, playing through pain, and being a captain in every sense of the word. If he’s on, Rutgers is doomed. No way around that. He is playing like a NPOY. Those of you who may be telling me to slow down, it was a battered Armando and a slew of lesser competition, kindly… no. I know what my eyes have seen. Trayce is not to be denied. Put who you’d like on him, he’s going to get buckets regardless. Trayce is a sensei of the craft in the paint, that’s all there is to it.
The Hoosiers look to keep rolling and the Scarlet Knights are looking to make it a six pack of losses for the Indiana. Time for Indiana to continue to assert themselves defensively and continue the Hoosiers’ hot start. Here’s looking to 8-0. Let’s go get it!
Thank you for taking the time to read these short thoughts of an Indiana Hoosier fanboy. Have a great day Hoosier fans and DOWN WITH THE SCARLET KNIGHTS! If you like what you read and would like to give me a listen. Check out Often Daunted available everywhere you get your podcasts. Expect the Rutgers recap episode to drop Monday.
LUX ET VERITAS!!!!