Indiana was one of the few teams I wrote about last season, and I opened my final paragraph with- I like this IU team, so I just wonder how Crean will fuck it up.
Turns out he didn't fuck it up and IU won the Big Ten outright, and that was even after losing Blackmon to injury before the Big Ten Season began. I have only seen parts of 2 IU games so far, but I don't see any reason this team can't be just as successful. This will be a different team than the one that was dominated by Yogi last year, but they are very talented.
How do you replace a great player like Yogi? The cliche answer is that you don't replace him with one guy, and that everyone needs to step up. In this case, that is exactly correct. IU does not have a point guard that is ready to step into Yogi's shoes and replace his production. IU does not really have a point guard period. What they do have is 4 combo guards that can all shoot, score, and initiate the offense. IU looks to have a 10 man rotation that they can sub with regularly. We'll see if that holds up over the course of the season, but that's where they are now.
If there was any doubt who would get the ball in end game situations like Yogi did last season, it was over after game 1. Against Kansas Blackmon scored 22 of his 26 points after half-time including 7 of IU's 14 points in overtime. He is an elite level scorer and if not for 3 knee surgeries in his young life he would probably be in the NBA right now. He seems to have returned to form, and has to be a favorite for Big Ten player of the year. IU also has Johnson back from last year, transfer Newkirk, and freshman Jones who will run the team. Of the 3, Johnson is the most point guardy (I know that's not a real word) and the best player of the 3 right now. They fill out the backcourt with another freshman Green and a JC transfer McSwain. Too early to figure out how the minutes shake out.
For most teams, a backcourt headlined by Blackmon with a bunch of other good players would be the strength, but IU has an incredible front court. The known coming back is Bryant, who upset fans all over the Big Ten when he stupidly decided to stay in school instead of going pro. Now we have to watch him kick ass all year. It is really hard not to love this guys game. He posts, he runs, he passes, and he's not a black hole. He has energy and leadership on the court. He will also be in the running for Big Ten player of the year. The difference here is the growth of Anunoby from last year, when he played a backup role to Bielfeldt and Williams. He has grown more confident and aggressive both with the drive and the jumper. He is very athletic and can defend multiple spots. Morgan has also grown and should be a big contributor, just not quite as much as Anunoby. They also have a highly regarded freshman in Davis who should give them quality depth.
I don't see any reason why this team doesn't at least share the Big Ten Championship. Prediction 14-4. Unless Tom Crean fucks it up.