Who's on point?Tom Crean has made it no secret that he would like junior Verdell Jones to take the lion's share of the ball handling duties this season. His reasoning is two-fold. First, it allows sophomore Jordan Hulls more time to play off the ball and "get lost" in the defense for open spot-up opportunities. Hulls is a true threat in catch-and-shoot opportunities and can really stretch defenses with his movement. Secondly, Crean knows that Jones plays best with the ball in his hands. He is clearly the Hoosiers best dribble drive attacker and excels at penetrating the defense for good looks at the basket. Whether it's his pull-up game or his lanky attacks at the rim, Jones can create his own shot better than anyone on the team.
The rub thus far has been taking care of the ball. Jones has a team-high 22 turnovers to just 11 assists. That's twice as many turnovers as the next Hoosier and an unflattering ratio. Hulls, meanwhile, has 13 assists to just five turnovers.
It's probably not as simple as installing Hulls at the point permanently as that would limit his opportunities to spot-up in the corners as well as take the ball out of Jones' hands more often and limit his effectiveness in attacking. However, it's definitely worth watching how the ballhandling duties will be shared going forward.
TurnoversA direct corollary to the previous discussion is overall turnovers. The Hoosiers are currently one of the worst teams in the country at taking care of the ball (308th nationally in turnovers per game). Part of that is a result of their up-tempo style of play, but far too many of their 77 turnovers have occurred needlessly in the half court.
The good news for the Hoosiers is that they are making life difficult on their opponents as well. Indiana currently ranks 33rd in the country in turnovers forced per game at 18.8. It's a big reason the Hoosiers defense has been so successful this season.
Tonight's game presents an ideal situation for the Hoosiers to work on limiting their own turnovers while keeping up the pressure on opponents. Keep an eye on seeing if the Hoosiers can get under their average of just over 18 turnovers per game.
Maurice's Mercury RisingIt's been a study in patience watching IU sophomore Maurice Creek this season. The Maryland native has honed his own skills in that department thanks to a year-long rehab process that still has him biding his time on the court as he tries to regain full strength in his leg.
Meanwhile, the IU fan base has had to temper their expectations for the Hoosiers leading scorer in non-conference play last season as he slowly regains his comfort level on the court. The good news for all involved is that Creek has definitely been trending in the right direction. Through four games this season Creek is averaging 12 points per game in just under 21 minutes of play as Crean has eased him into his role. After a rough exhibition season shooting the ball, Creek is picking up the pace this season and currently is hitting on 43 percent of his long-range attempts. With each game Creek has looked more confident with his stroke and is coming off his best shooting performance of the season, a 5-10 shooting effort against Evansville that included 4-7 three-point shooting resulting in a season-high 19 points. It was also the most Creek has played in a game this season by a wide margin as he tallied 29 minutes, eleven more than his average coming into the contest.
It's certainly worth watching how the sophomore performs tonight. It was against this opponent last season that Creek had one of his best college performances, pouring in 29 points on 12-17 shooting. Just as important as his production in this game will be how many minutes he plays and how comfortably he does it.
Frisky FreshmenOne of the highlights of the early non-conference schedule has been watching the development of true freshmen Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey. Oladipo has already become a key member of the rotation averaging just over 15 minutes per game, while Sheehey continues to show potential in more limited minutes (6.8 per game). It's already become clear that both will be valuable pieces of the IU bench this season and the reason has more to do with their effort than their skill at this point.
Through four games each player has provided a definite energy injection each time they have entered the game. After a tentative start to his IU career, Sheehey has become a fan favorite due to his exuberance and is showing more confidence and courage with each outing. Meanwhile, Oladipo has already established himself as a defensive pest due to his athleticism and energy and continues to get comfortable at the offensive end as well. Oladipo is earning his 15.3 minutes per game by being a key leader in a stat near and dear to Crean's heart—deflections, which disrupt the opponent's offense and ignite the Hoosiers' own with the fastbreak. He is also currently the Hoosiers third-leading rebounder with 13 on the young season, a direct result of his effort on that end of the court. He's also third in turnovers, a reminder that enthusiasm sometimes has to be bridled.
Keep an eye on these two young players tonight as they continue to try and warrant increased minutes with their energy and enthusiasm on both ends of the court.