Wednesday, October 8, 2008
2008-09 Opponent Breakdown: Indiana University
It's safe to assume that GU fans will not be treated to a Gonzaga vs. Indiana matchup in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years. While GU is a virtual lock to appear in the NCAA Tournament, it would likely take a miracle for the Hoosiers to be playing in any postseason tournament. Indiana has a new head coach in Tom Crean, and returns only 2 (no that is not a typo) from the 07/08 squad. The Hoosiers were burnt by numerous recruiting violations by previous head coach Kelvin Sampson, and are building toward the future under Tom Crean.
Last Season's Results: Everything seemed so bright in Bloomington, Indiana in 2007. Heading into a January 26th matchup against UConn, the Hoosiers were 17-1 (6-0 in the Big Ten), and seemed like genuine national championship contenders. They had they dynamic duo of Eric Gordon and DJ White, as well as solid contributions from Jordan Crawford and Armon Bassett. But after tough defeats against UConn and Wisconsin, the season and the program began to spin out of control. Soon after these defeats, rumors began to surface about repeated recruiting violations by head coach Kelvin Sampson. This was not the first time that Sampson had committed violations, as he was also caught cheating during his time at Oklahoma. On February 22nd, Sampson was forced to resign due to the allegations of recruiting violations. The team never recovered from Sampson's dismissal, and eventually fell to Arkansas in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament.
New Faces: There really is nothing but new faces on the Hoosier squad this season. With only Kyle Taber and Brett Finkelmeier returning to the team this season, IU will be heavily reliant on these new faces. Of the 10 newcomers to the roster this season, Devan Dumes and Tijan Jobe are the only two with any previous collegiate basketball experience. Dumes, a 6'2 JC transfer, will likely start for the Hoosiers, and will be relied on heavily for his leadership experience. Dumes was the 29th ranked JC player in the nation last season, when he averaged 16.9 points and 4 assists for Vincennes. The other JC transfer is Tijan Jobe, and a would be mildly surprised if he would see any playing time at the other Big 10 schools (this includes Northwestern). While he is a legitimate 7'0 feet tall, Jobe averaged only 4 points and 4 rebounds last season at Olney Central College. Jobe is a huge project, and his contributions will likely be reserved for the defensive end this season. Of the 8 incoming freshman, none will have higher expectations then Nick Williams. Williams originally committed to Marquette, but reopened his recruitment after Tom Crean left, and ended up following Crean to Indiana. Recent reports suggest that Williams has embraced a leadership role, and will likely see significant playing time early on. Another freshman who has embrace a leadership role is 6'8 PF Tom Pritchard. Pritchard is a hard-working big man who makes the most out of his talent and athleticism. With very few players with any size on the roster, Pritchard will start at PF and play significant minutes. The rest of the incoming freshman class includes: Verdell Jones (PG), Kory Barnett (F), Broderick Lewis (F), Daniel Moore (PG), Matt Roth (SG), and Malik Story (G/F).
People to Watch: While TKR normally examines certain players to watch, in the case of IU, it seems most relevant to examine the man in charge of the program. Tom Crean came to Indiana after spending 9 years as the head coach at Marquette. While at Marquette, Crean built the Golden Eagles into a consistent NCAA Tournament team. This was highlighted by the Dwayne Wade led team that made the 2002-2003 Final 4. Crean is known as a tireless worker who has an intense passion for his players. Equally important for IU, Crean has never had any issues with the NCAA over recruiting or other violations. The future looks bright for the Hoosiers under Crean, as he has already secured verbal commitments from 6 players for the class of 2009.
TKR's Concern-O-Meter: To be perfectly honest, I would be embarrassed if GU were to lose to the Hoosiers this season. While I have tons of respect for the IU program, this years team has been decimated by the departures and dismissals of nearly all of their talent. Gonzaga has so much talent and experience, that they should have no problem dealing with the inexperienced Hoosiers. Tom Crean will have to rely on players that would normally never crack the rotation at IU, and is probably 2-3 years away from having IU contend in the Big 10.
What We are Watching for: This game should serve as a good warmup for the difficult run of non-conference games that follows. Hopefully the Zags will be coming off of a terrific performance at the Old Spice Classic, and this game should serve as an opportunity to fix any remaining kinks. As far as individual performances, Josh Heytvelt should have an excellent game, as he will be playing against inexperienced and undersized Hoosier big men. He will need to hit his stride against the Hoosiers, as Heytvelt will have to deal with Arizona big man Jordan Hill a week later.