Statewide Round Ball Round Up
Just as we did last year at the start of each month we will run through the Division I college basketball programs in the state to get you caught up on where every program is. This month I waited an extra week as this completes the first full month of games. So lets get started.
The Hoosiers are ranked #1 in the nation and through their first nine games have shown no reason why they shouldn’t be. IU has won all nine games this year by an average of 31.7 ppg. The schedule has not been loaded with top notch competition but in the three games so far against BCS conference teams Indiana has handled all of them with double-digit victories.
Indiana has showcased numerous offensive weapons as they have five players averaging double figures. The Hoosiers lead the country in scoring with 89.1 points per game. Cody Zeller, the preseason National Player of the Year, leads the team in both scoring and rebounding at 15.4 ppg and 8.9 rpg. IU has one more game against a solid opponent left before entering conference play as they will take on Butler next Saturday in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Notre Dame is the only other ranked team in the state coming in at #22 right now. They have rolled through the first month of the season with a record of 8-1. Their signature win thus far is a home victory over then #8 Kentucky 64-50. The Irish dominated that contest and showed that Coach Brey’s squad has the tools to compete with top competition. The question that still exist for them however is if they are just a home team or if they are able to play the same way on the road.
ND is lead this year by the same guy that lead them last year- Jack Cooley. Cooley is averaging a double-double with 14.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. They have also shown a balanced offense having three other players scoring in double figures (Jerian Grant, Eric Atkins, and Michigan State transfer Garrick Sherman). For Coach Brey however this may finally be the team that can some noise in March. The Irish’s next game is against Purdue in the Crossroads Classic.
Butler has been a little under the radar to this point even though they are 7-2 with several good wins. Butler showed what they are capable of at the Maui Invitational. The Bulldogs beat Marquette on a last second Rotnei Clarke trey and pounded North Carolina on their way to the title game. There they lost to still undefeated Illinois.
The improvement this year has come from the additions of Clarke and freshman Kellen Dunham who give the Bulldogs the outside shooting they missed last year. Clarke (17.3 ppg) and Dunham (11.0 ppg) have allowed the offense better spacing opening the post and driving lanes for Andrew Smith, Khyle Marshall, and Roosevelt Jones. Butler has played a tough schedule so far to get prepared for their new conference the Atlantic 10. The Dawgs will get their biggest test next Saturday against #1 Indiana. This will be a good game for both teams as it will be an offense versus defense battle. Butler’s defense has been very good and very physical while as we talked about before IU leads the nation in scoring.
Matt Painter has a young team this season and they have started off slow. The Boilers are just 4-5 and coming off a very disappointing loss at Eastern Michigan. They lost that game 47-44 shooting a dismal 29.8% from the field. Purdue has been very up and down as you may expect from a young team. They have looked good in a few games (Clemson and UNC-Wilmington) while really struggling in others (Bucknell, Oregon St., and Eastern Michigan).
The biggest bright spot for Purdue is their work on the boards. They have out rebounded every opponent this year and rank eighth nationally with 44.2 rebounds per game. Terone Johnson and A.J. Hammons have been their most consistent scorers. Johnson is only Boiler averaging double figures at 13 a game. Hammons as a freshman is becoming a reliable post presence. He is putting in 9.3 points a game and six rebounds. Purdue only has three games remaining before the conference schedule hits so they have limited time to get it straightened out before going against the top league in the country.
The Sycamores are in a similar situation as Purdue in that they have a young squad. Coach Greg Lansing is relying heavily on Jake Odum to steer his ship. Just as the Boilers, they have had their ups and downs early on. After dropping their opener at UCLA, the Trees won four straight games. They have dropped their last two however which were a tough overtime home loss to #25 New Mexico and yesterday on the road at Morehead State.
Sitting at 4-3 right now the Sycamores are starting to gear up for Missouri Valley Conference play. ”The Mayor” Jake Odum leads the team in scoring 15.1, assists 4.4, and steals 1.6. They will rely on him all season to put them in positions to win. Gonzaga transfer Manny Arop has been a nice addition as well even as he is learning to fit in. Arop is putting in 10.9 points and pulling down 6.4 rebounds a game. Moving forward in the MVC they will also need freshman Khristian Smith (from Pike High School in Indianapolis) to continue to improve as he is starting to score more consistently at 9.4 ppg.
The Jaguars have had a rough start to the season. Not only in the win-loss column but also on the health front. The Jags have started off 3-8, but have not been able to put consistent line ups on the court. Yesterday in their game at Western Kentucky, IUPUI made the trip with only eight scholarship players able to play.
The largest bright spot and possibly surprise has been Mitchell Patton. Patton is second on the team scoring 14.6 points and rebounding 5.7. He is struggling with a lower leg injury right now, but the improvement he has made from his freshman year to now has been impressive. Purdue transfer John Hart leads the team in scoring at 14.9 ppg. For the Jags right now the biggest thing is getting healthy. It is going to be tough but in a one bid league they need to focus on getting back on track and peaking at the right time for the conference tournament.
Billy Taylor’s team is off to a 4-4 start, but the Cardinals are still trying to find their offensive rhythm. They are only scoring 62.4 points per game. Finding buckets consistently has been a major issue for the Cards. Majok Majok has been a big contributor so far. He is averaging a double-double at this point with 13.1 points and 10.9 rebounds. The Cards are going to have to work inside out a little more to open opportunities for Jesse Berry and Jauwan Scaife. They have four games remaining before MAC play begins with a major test coming against Purdue on December 18. The Cards dropped their other big match ups this year against IU and Butler. A win against Purdue to boost their momentum into the conference.
The Purple Aces have been playing some good basketball even with an injury to star Colt Ryan. The Aces are 5-4 but have lost tough road games to Notre Dame and Colorado State. They also dropped a home contest to very good and underrated Murray State. Once completely healthy the Aces should be a player in the MVC this year.
Stud freshman D.J. Balentine is leading the team in scoring (12.1 ppg). Balentine was an Indiana All-Star last year and after a slow start has really taken off. With Colt Ryan (second on the team with 11.6 ppg) back, UE looks to get back on track. We will learn a lot about where they are at the final week of December as they will play at Butler the 22nd and at #16 Creighton the 29th.
The Crusaders are off to a solid start at 6-3. Bryce Drew has his team playing well even in their three losses. Losing at two NCAA tournament teams from last season in Saint Louis and New Mexico. Drew always lays out a non-conference schedule that is challenging for his team and gets them ready for the Horizon League.
Valpo returned their top two scorers from last year in Ryan Broekhoff and Kevin Van Wijk. So far this season they have not disappointed. Broekhoff is averaging 17.4 ppg and 7.3 rpg and will be a candidate for Horizon League Player of the Year. Van Wijk is a big key for the Crusaders. If he can stay out of foul trouble, Valpo has a solid team and will be able to win a lot of ball games. The Crusaders should be challenging at the top of a very competitive Horizon League.
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