1. How White and Killingsworth will work together?
Is there enough room in the lane for 6-8, 270-pound Marco Killingsworth and 6-9, 235-pound D.J. White? Killingsworth's quick start, coupled with White's Big Ten Freshman of the Year honor from a year ago, makes it hard to suggest there's a better frontcourt tandem in the country than these two. Scout.'s Frank Burlison originally pointed to Duke's Shelden Williams and Josh McRoberts as the best frontcourt tandem in the preseason, but Duke's trip to Bloomington suggests otherwise – Killingsworth single-handedly outscored the Duke duo 34-19, and was outrebounded by just two, 12-10. Both are capable of scoring 20 points on a consistent basis, but they'll have to be content with 12-15 apiece as they share the ball in the post. So long as each can accept that, IU appears unstoppable on the block.
2. Can Indiana win a big game?
Indiana is 4-1, has routed four foes by at least 15 and pushed No. 1 Duke to the limit…but it still hasn't won a game of any significance. While the 34-point win over Nicholls State and the 37-point drubbing of Florida A&M was certainly better than the four-point squeakers IU opened the 2003-04 campaign with against Indiana State and Western Illinois, it still needs to beat a legitimate top-25 caliber team before it can say it's back among the Big Ten and national elite. Indiana will get that chance on Saturday when it squares off against No. 10 Kentucky, a team that appears primed to fall after losing games to a young and untested North Carolina squad over the weekend and Iowa late last month.
3. How will IU find minutes for upwards of 10-11 players?
Following his team's 79-63 loss to Indiana Saturday, Eastern Michigan Coach Charles Ramsey said the biggest problem facing IU Coach Mike Davis might be finding enough minutes for the players on his roster. Injuries to D.J. White, A.J. Ratliff, Sean Kline and James Hardy have left the sixth-year Hoosier coach with enough minutes to keep everyone happy, but the time is rapidly approaching when he'll have at least ten players who are expected to play significant roles. But truth be told, ten players can't play significant roles on a game-by-game basis. When White is back and Ratliff regains his conditioning, some players who have been playing big roles will see their playing time diminish. Who will they be? That's hard to say. But from the group of D.J. White, Marco Killingsworth, Sean Kline, Ben Allen, Robert Vaden, Earl Calloway, A.J. Ratliff, Marshall Strickland, Errek Suhr, Lewis Monroe and James Hardy, Indiana will have to settle on an eight or possibly nine-man rotation that's going to leave a couple of players on the pine a lot more than they'd like.
4. Can Indiana win in the halfcourt?
To Indiana's credit, it's adopted an up-tempo style that fits its personnel, and the results have been impressive – 89.4 points per game and 55.6 percent field goal shooting. Mike Davis has stressed rushing the ball up the floor after both opponents' misses and makes, trying to get scoring opportunities before foes can set up their defense. It's inevitable, though, that a handful of Big Ten foes will realize it doesn't have the horses to run with the Hoosiers, and they'll do everything they can to slow the game down. Teams won't send four and five players to the glass and they'll hold the ball for 25 seconds before getting off a shot to try to keep the contest from turning into a 94-foot battle. Eastern Michigan tried to do that over the weekend, but some Big Ten teams will do it with more success than EMU. The Hoosiers will have to show they can get the same sort of high-percentage shots and production from their halfcourt sets if they want to be one of the league's elite and eventually make some noise in the NCAA Tournament.
Who will shine in crunch time?
The Duke game is the only contest that went down to the wire this season, and some missed opportunities down the stretch cost the Hoosiers in their 75-67 loss to the No. 1 Blue Devils. Indiana will certainly play its fair share of league contests that will go down to the final couple of minutes, and how the Hoosiers will respond – and who they'll go to with the game on the line – is yet to be determined. A year ago, half of IU's 16 Big Ten regular season games were decided by less than ten points (IU was 6-2 in those games), and five more were decided by five or less (IU 3-2). Two years ago there were even more down-to-the-wire contests - nine of IU's 16 Big Ten regular season games were decided by five points or less (IU was 4-5). So who does IU go to, and how do they respond? Marco Killingsworth's struggles at the free-throw line are a concern, as teams might be quick to foul the 51.6 percent foul shooter before giving him an opportunity to score from point-blank range. That could lead to White being the No. 1 option down low in the closing minutes (70.9 percent foul shooter a year ago), while Robert Vaden is likely Indiana's best foul shooter (80.6 percent a year ago; 6-6 thus far in 2005-06).
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