Analysis: Three reasons to be optimistic

Indiana did enough good things Tuesday night against Pittsburgh to make IU fans a little more optimistic about how the 2014-15 season could play out. Here are three things about Indiana basketball that have me reasonably optimistic at this point.

I must admit that after the Eastern Washington game I was a little bit more than concerned with how this Indiana team was going to come together.

Even though I can hear my good friend Don Fischer in my head saying “You know Eastern Washington is a pretty good team,’’ I still don’t think that directional schools should come into Assembly Hall and beat Indiana. I just don’t think it should happen.

But after IU’s performance Tuesday against Pittsburgh, I’ll admit I’m coming back around.

Is this a team that is going to contend for a Big Ten title? Probably not. But I think this is an Indiana team that is going to make some noise and could very easily be in that upper half of the Big Ten standings come the spring.

Here is what I like so far:

The Hoosiers can shoot the basketball:

When you have guys that can shoot it and shoot it consistently from the perimeter, you’re going to have a chance. And this team is filled with shooters. James Blackmon Jr., Yogi Ferrell and Nick Zeisloft may all hog the headlines in terms of their abilities to knock down 3-point shots, but there are others, too. Robert Johnson has already proved capable in that area. Max Hoetzel is another one. And Collin Hartman has been a nice surprise for me to this point. I wasn’t sure coming in his freshman year what his ultimate role would be but if he can continue to play with the heart and soul that he has exhibited in the first seven games he will be a significant contributor. And he can knock down the perimeter shot, too.

It was just one game but Emmitt Holt …:

can help this team this year. Again, almost like Hartman I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Holt. I remember how people had told me they thought that Hanner Mosquera-Perea was a guy who was going to come in and contribute right way his freshman season. And we all saw how that played out for HMP in both his first two seasons at IU. He is just now starting to contribute in small ways. But Holt’s performance against Pittsburgh showed that he’s a different player than HMP and he’s someone that has some skills that Indiana really needs right now. Now, I keep saying the same thing over and over in my head. It was just one game. It was just one game. And so, I’m looking forward to seeing how Holt can build on his first performance. But if he plays like he did the other night against Pittsburgh, IU has a legitimate help in the post. And that’s huge for this young Indiana basketball team.

This team seems to shine when the bright lights are on:

Now that can be troublesome if they play to the level of their opponents like I thought they did to an extent with Lamar, Eastern Washington and UNCG. These games against Savannah State, Grand Canyon and New Orleans in particular are all going to ones that IU needs to take care of handily. But the way Indiana has played this season when the bright lights were on against SMU and Pittsburgh is encouraging. There are some bright light games ahead in the next few weeks against Louisville, Butler and Georgetown before opening Big Ten play on the road against Nebraska. I’m not predicting a win against Louisville or anything like that but if the Hoosiers can handle that kind of pressure of playing on the big stage, games like that will really help them moving forward.

Again, it’s early. IU is 6-1 with a good win against SMU and an OK win over Pittsburgh. Still not sure how good that Pittsburgh team is but Indiana beat the Panthers decisively and that was important. A couple of these games coming up will let us know if there’s reason for optimism or if the work in progress label is going to be affixed to this team all season long.

First IU needs to take care of business against Savannah State and then we’ll talk about the games under the brighter lights.

Holt persevered and was rewarded

Video: Crean talks Holt, Pittsburgh win

What we learned from IU’s win over Pittsburgh Top Stories