The Indiana Hoosiers opened their season last Friday rather unimpressively, with a 71-64 victory over UNC-Greensboro. In their exhibitions, they squeaked by Athletes in Action, 70-68, and beat the Southeastern All-Stars decisively (98-70).
Indiana's star is 6-3 sophomore shooting guard Bracey Wright (right, AP photograph by Darron Cummings). Wright, who fired in 31 points in Indiana's 73-56 win over the Commodores last year in Bloomington, led Indiana against UNC-Greensboro with 23 points. He averaged 16.2 ppg in 2002-03 after being hindered late in the season by a back problem. He can hit the three-point shot and also take the ball to the basket. Jason Holwerda will probably guard him early in the game.
The point guard is 6-2 sophomore Marshall Strickland. He scored 17 points in the UNC-Greensboro game and is also a good long-range shot. The main backup at the guard positions is 6-2 junior Donald Perry, a good player, but not yet an established scorer. 6-4 redshirt freshman Roderick Wilmont will also see action.
At center, Indiana starts 6-11 senior George Leach. He averaged only 6.5 ppg last season, but led the Big Ten in blocked shots. He is expected to carry more of the scoring load this season, and Coach Mike Davis says that he is capable of doing so. Three other big men are 6-10 freshman Jessan Gray-Ashley, 6-9 junior Mike Roberts, and 6-8 Pat Ewing, son of the former Georgetown star and NBA great. Ewing, another shot-blocker, has looked impressive so far and seems certain to play a lot of minutes this season.
The other starters are 6-8 sophomore Sean Kline and 6-3 senior A.J. Moye. Moye, who averaged 5.5 ppg last season, had eight rebounds against UNC-Greensboro, and is an experienced player who should have a solid season. Kline has considerable potential as a scorer.
Indiana has capable players who have the potential to gel into one of the better teams in the Big Ten. The key to their success is probably the development of Leach and Ewing into inside scoring threats. Indiana has probably relied too heavily on the three-point shot in recent seasons, and continues to have good long-range threats in Wright and Strickland.
Indiana's prowess in the area of internal defense will challenge Vanderbilt's star, Matt Freije. The Commodores will need to get a significant number of points from Mario Moore, who didn't score in the Belmont game. Moore may have difficulty in defending the bigger Marshall Strickland.
The Vanderbilt-Indiana game figures to be a close one and will go to the team that has the best shooting night. Given their size and experience, Vanderbilt should be a close winner, by three to six points, or more if Indiana doesn't play closer to the team's potential than it did against UNC-Greensboro.