1. OG’s next step
The spotlight is ready to shine upon Anunoby, who made his first two career starts in IU’s exhibition games. Anunoby averaged 20.5 points and five rebounds against Hope College and Bellarmine, and will now see the degree of difficulty turned up against Kansas. Things do appear to be setting up nicely for Anunoby to continue his ascent as the X-factor in Indiana’s lineup, and tonight’s season-opener will allow him to follow through on high expectations set during the past few months. Keep an eye on his defensive impact on well-regarded Kansas freshman Josh Jackson.
2. Freshman impact
De’Ron Davis is positioned to serve as Thomas Bryant’s top backup in the post, while room exists for Devonte Green and Curtis Jones to carve niches as backcourt options off the bench. But just how much will this group play? Any foul trouble for Bryant could impact Davis’ usage out of the gate. Green has shown a willingness to play both ways and get to the rim and could serve a situational purpose. The same goes for Jones and his shooting stroke off the bench.
3. Star power
Kansas is Indiana’s highest-ranked season-opening opponent since it beat UCLA to start the 1976 season, the last undefeated season college basketball has witnessed. Plenty of attention will be on Jayhawks guard Josh Jackson, the No. 1 prospect nationally in last year’s recruiting class. Jackson appears to be a player who can excel in a variety of roles, and enters the regular season having averaged 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in the pre-season. This will also be a chance for Thomas Bryant to shine on a national stage against an unproven Kansas frontcourt.
4. Blackmon’s return
James Blackmon Jr. has spoken openly and directly about his motivation to author a bounce-back season. Tonight is the beginning of his journey. Aside from a rough shooting night in the exhibition finale, Blackmon appeared in good form against Hope College and Bellarmine. The junior guard is in search of a transformative season and good start against the No. 3 ranked team could provide the jumping point he desires.