Showdown in San Juan

Ole Miss and Indiana meet today at 4 p.m. (CT) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in what should be both teams' biggest test of the young season. The game will be live on ESPN2.

The Rebels have had little trouble getting to 2-0 with a 92-64 win against Arkansas-Little Rock and a 90-53 victory against Alabama State. Both contests were in Oxford.

The Hoosiers, also 2-0, have a couple of home wins themselves, 83-60 over Howard and 69-61 over South Carolina-Upstate.

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy said his team will be challenged like it hasn't been so far on day one of the O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tipoff.

"They brought in a highly-rated class," he said of the Hoosiers. "They're awfully young but they're athletic. They're going to space the floor, and I know they're going to play tremendously hard. I know they'll have a gameplan for us on Thursday."

Indiana second-year head coach Tom Crean is rebuilding the storied program after some difficult times with former head coach Kelvin Sampson at the helm. Last season in his first at IU after a successful tenure at Marquette, Crean's team was 6-25 overall and 1-17 in Big Ten play.

Very un-Indiana like, but the program is already on the way back to respectability and beyond.

"The first thing I would say is welcome to the wacky world of freshmen and sophomore predominant basketball," Crean said after his team's most recent victory." That's where we are at and we have a lot of learning to do. We have a lot of growing up to do to understand how to put people away."

Eleven on Indiana's 16-player roster are freshmen or sophomores. Only one player, 6-1 junior walkon guard Brett Finkelmeier, has been in the program for two years or more.

Crean said his team will have to play its best in Puerto Rico.

"Right now, man-on-man there is no way we are as physical and as strong as Ole Miss," he said. "When we go in there I will probably say that about all the other teams. I haven't really looked that far ahead yet. We are getting ready to play some high level guys when we get to Puerto Rico. It's going to be a really good test for us to see where we stand. If we don't match-up and play with that will and that fire and we are not as physical as them, we will get embarrassed."

However, Crean said he is pleased his team is among a field such as the one in the San Juan tourney.

"I'm very excited to take this team to an event like this," he said. "It will be a challenge. There are a number of teams that I think nationally are under valued, and Mississippi is one of them."

From the IU game notes:

The rebuilding process that began for the Indiana men's basketball team is in its second year as Crean returns 10 players from last season. He has six freshmen who comprise a top-10 recruiting class which is rated the best in the Big Ten.

Despite the daunting tasks and ups and downs, several players saw extended playing time last season which could prove beneficial in the future.

Senior guard Devan Dumes is the team's returning leading scorer, coming off a season which saw him average 12.7 points in 25 starts. He also made 38.1 percent of his three-point attempts.

Sophomore guard Verdell Jones III exploded over the final 10 games of the season averaging more than 14 points per game in that span and finished the season with back-to-back 23-point performances against Wisconsin and Penn State. He averaged 11.0 points.

Sophomore center Tom Pritchard is the team's third returning starter and he averaged 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds and was the only player who started all 31 games for the Hoosiers last season.

Sophomore sharp-shooter Matt Roth returns after averaging 6.7 points. He also shot 38.1 percent from long distance in Big Ten play, including a school record 9 for 11 against Ohio State.

Finkelmeier saw his playing time increase down the stretch as he averaged more than 23 minutes per game in the final three contests of 2008-09.

Junior guard Jeremiah Rivers transferred to Indiana last year after playing two seasons at Georgetown and was a member of the 2007 squad which advanced to the Final Four. He is the son of Boston Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers and will be counted on for his defense, speed, and leadership.

Two freshmen are currently leading the Hoosiers in scoring after two games – 6-5 guard Maurice Creek and 6-9 forward Christian Watney, each averaging 15.5 points per contest. Watney is also the leading rebounder at 10.5 per game.

As for the Rebels, it's early yet, so Kennedy said there is still some searching to find out exactly who they are at this stage.

"We're going to play the guys that are producing," he said. "It's good that we're not having to play anybody heavy minutes to this point. I'm sure that will change some. We're very comfortable with our guard rotation at this point. We're still trying to find guys that can be productive for us on the front line. We're getting different people to step up."

Kennedy hopes 6-9 Terrance Henry will be able to play today. The sophomore forward missed the first two games with a hand injury.

"He was playing tremendous prior to his incident," he said. "He's another body that we can throw out there on our front line that we hope can give us some productivity."

Ole Miss sophomore guard Nick Williams is currently sitting out the 2009-10 season after transferring from Indiana, where he started 29-of-31 games for the Hoosiers and averaged 8.9 points per game as a freshman last season.

Ole Miss is the only Southeastern Conference school that Indiana has not played in men's basketball through the years. The Rebels have played five of the Big Ten's 11 teams – Illinois, Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Michigan State.

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