4 storylines for IU’s game at Illinois

1. Hoosier reinforcements
Indiana won the first meeting with Illinois without the help of a couple key contributors. Junior forward De’Ron Davis injured his ankle in that 73-65 Hoosier victory, logging only five minutes off the bench. Freshman point guard Rob Phinisee didn’t play either, as he recovered from a concussion sustained two weeks earlier. The Hoosiers enter the rematch appearing as healthy as they’ve been in weeks, if not all season. Phinisee has returned to his pre-concussion form, Davis is back after dealing with an illness last week and several other contributing players, such as forward Race Thompson, appear primed to lend a hand.

2. IU needs more from Morgan, Langford
Saturday’s win over Michigan State marked the first time this season that Indiana’s two best players, Juwan Morgan and Romeo Langford, failed to score in double figures in the same game. Morgan and Langford certainly had their moments against the Spartans, including Morgan’s putback to lift the Hoosiers ahead for good. But both players need to be assertive inside Indiana’s lineup this week. Langford was outstanding against the Illini in the Jan. 3 meeting, scoring 28 points while operating as more of a primary ball handler. He got to the rim and drew contact while doing so, finishing the game by going 11-for-15 at the line. Morgan and Langford have been so good, so often this season. With IU’s NCAA Tournament hopes riding on each of the next two games, the Hoosiers need them now more than ever.

3. Under pressure
With a frenetic, in-your-face defensive style, Illinois harasses opponents. Big Ten teams are committing errors on 21.4 percent of their possessions against the Illini, the highest turnover percentage in conference play. Overall, Illinois isn’t a lockdown defensive team — it’s allowing league teams to shoot 53.6 percent inside the arc — but the Illini are just good enough to feed headaches to the competition. The man-to-man pressure is one thing. Illinois’ zone press, like the 1-2-2 three-quarter alignment it used to frustrate Northwestern on Sunday, is another. “Whether you’re playing against the man-to-man or the zone, it’s just a difficult game in general for your players,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “It’s a physical game. You play through a lot of contact, and I think the biggest thing for your guys is you can’t panic. You have to be organized.”

4. Smith’s encore
After the best game of his college career, what does Justin Smith do next? The Hoosiers can’t count on a repeat of his career-high 24 points against Michigan State, but they can’t let him disappear, either. To Smith’s credit, he’s appeared committed to steadying the level of his play since his second-half benching at Iowa on Feb. 22. Attitude — and not overthinking things on the court — seems to be the key for Smith right now. “Justin has gotten over some of the doom and gloom of not playing well there for a while, and all of a sudden he just got away from it,” Miller said. “His attitude changed, and he became more the guy that has helped us win a lot of games this season with his effort level, some of his athleticism in transition, his offensive rebounding, his defense. He’s focused in on doing those things again. So if he stays with that, he’ll be fine.”


  1. I’m really hoping as his career progresses that we will look back at the MSU game as Justin Smith’s coming out party. I would love to see JS play the same way he did against MSU for the rest of his IU career. Even though I know it would probably hasten his departure to the NBA, it would be worth it to see him perform at such a level consistently.

  2. I don’t see Justin Smith developing into a player that would make it to the NBA. But I would love to see him become an All Big Ten quality player. He’s got the athletic ability to become a force and major contributor for IU.

    1. Po,
      I would have agreed with your assessment before the MSU game. The Justin Smith we saw in that game could certainly make it in the NBA. The question is, was that a break out game for him or just a mirage?

  3. This is the problem….Everything most begin with a kid’s NBA prospects. Instead of feeling the tremendous success already achieved to be playing basketball at the Division 1 level and enjoying what comes with building relationships on a college team, it all must revert back to making someone feel a college failure if their name doesn’t appear on a draft list.

    Take your team to a Final Four? That’s fine….but did you get drafted? We may never escape the distortions the league has infected upon the joys of basketball. We may never escape the distortions of a coach we employed who fed into those distortions so contrary to building confidence beyond the few who are hand-selected and molded like teacher’s pets to play at the “next level.”

    Note to all young men wearing the candy stripes: You are already at the next level…That’s why we set our butts on chairs and type doubts upon your name. Riding pine in middle school hoops/football or high school hoops/football was our only level in athletic achievement….That’s why we live vicariously via watching …and blogging….and gambling…and talking about the game at the dinner table…or at the water cooler. We become thieves of your next day of happiness because our childhood coaches said, “Next please. ”

    For all the criticism of how Tom Izzo threw Justin under a bus with words that crossed the line in a manner almost appearing as personal insult, how is a definitive comment claiming a sophomore won’t play in the NBA any different? We are talking about 19 or 20 year old here. Can we simply allow him the moment while we level our butts in a chair?

  4. With IU’s NCAA Tournament hopes riding on each of the next two games, the Hoosiers need them now more than ever.

    Though my comments over the last couple weeks of NCAA hopes still being alive were dismissed by most (especially from some with “definitive” defeatist agendas to prematurely shut the door on Archie and his team), it now appears that even a Scoop journalist is paying attention.

    The door is far from closed. OSU (seemingly an NCAA tournament lock just a week or so ago) is sliding …while Hoosiers are getting healthy and climbing. We enter the final weeks with a sweep of MSU and playing some of our best basketball. Let’s not cause distractions by obsessing over Justin Smith’s NBA potential….because of some too insecure to admit they were wrong about a season being over.

    The main takeaway from Mike’s column above is ….a claim of the Hoosiers still with “NCAA hopes.” What? You started listening to Harvard?

  5. Indiana Hoosiers

    With still another thrilling win over Michigan State and a season sweep against the Spartans, Indiana is back in the bubble discussion. The Hoosiers can claim six Quad 1 wins on the season, and while they also have suffered nine Quad 1 defeats, the high number of quality victories is sufficient for IU’s profile to at least get a hearing “in the room,” as they say. If (and it’s no small if) Archie Miller’s men win at Illinois and at home against Rutgers, they’ll finish the season at 17-14 overall and 8-12 in the Big Ten. That could get the job done. (Updated: March 2). [courtesy: ESPN]

  6. Justin Smith had one great game. A whole host of bad ones. Let’s not establish JS as some kind of All Big Ten type player yet. Remember when Andre Patterson torched Duke for 39, all of sudden he had all these expectations. In reality, he never was that kind of player. JS has a long way to go before he proves he’s a starter, let alone the top echelon of the B1G.

    1. Agreed DD,
      About the only thing is the JS story is Archie making mention of a change in his approach to the game. Not exactly sure what the implications of Archie’s statements might be, but time will tell if MSU was the beginning of something or just a one time occurrence.

  7. ^^^Damn…Double Down Izzo.

    Justin Smith has two major deficiencies the NBA can’t fix. He plays defense and he rebounds. I hope they don’t hold it against him as his off-the-charts athleticism soon intersects with his improving ability to score the ball.

  8. Every time an IU basketball or football player has one very good game the first thing some bloggers or IU fans think (because they are so basketball and football starved and malnourished for success in these two sports) is that IU is going to possibly loose that respective player into the NBA or NFL is LAUGHABLE and shows so much lack of basketball and football knowledge.

  9. Yes, I watched Patterson against Duke on Thanksgiving eve that night at my btother’s place. Another example of what is learned from many years of experience watching IU basketball and football.

  10. Outside of Isiah Thomas, how many ‘modern day’ Hoosiers with a college banner or Final Four affiliated with their name actually have what you’d call a “banner” NBA career (meaning averaging over 10 pts/game)?

    Answer = 0

    Even Calbert Cheaney (Final Four) averaged just 9.5 ppg playing for five different teams. Jeffries? 4.8 ppg.

    Maybe I’m missing someone. Banner or Final Four at Indiana …..and then went on to average more than 10 ppg. in their NBA career?

  11. Stay Romeo…Be the first since Isiah to get to a Final Four or win a banner and then go onto average more than 10 ppg in the NBA.

    You could be the second player in our history to achieve a Final Four with double figures in your college career….and then proceed to one day win an NBA Title with double figures in your NBA career.

    It’s crazy isn’t it? No player wearing candy stripes since Isiah Thomas has played in a Final Four and gone on to average double figures in an NBA career. How many other ‘elite’ programs throughout the country with three or more banners would have only one player respectively in the NBA to average more than 10 ppg?

    People say Knight had great talent….? Isiah was certainly the greatest, but five Final Fours x five starters = 25. Of those 25 kids who played for Final Fours and banners, only ONE could average double figures at the pro level. That’s 4%, sports fans. The ‘Four Percent Rule’ proves the genius of team character and team ball under Bob Knight.

  12. “My strength is defense,” he said in the Boston Globe. “Another is my overall knowledge of the game and being able to get everybody involved in the game. I’ve never had an illusion that shooting is one of my strengths. In fact, it was a very known weakness that I had.…You play with a lot of pride and work hard every night out.”

    Quinn Buckner(courtesy: Wikipedia)

    Sure sounds like the way Archie is teaching and transforming our Hoosiers into recognizing once again the true embodiment of the name on the jersey. You can’t just say “it’s Indiana.” Empty claims are for billboards and t-shirts.

  13. Downings5th….Harvard for Hillbillies….The 4 Percent Rule(?)

    I am due for a change. Hmm? I’m very attached to H4H…but 4% Rule is sort of mysterious and fun.

  14. I think we all agree that JS has potential to make significant improvement in his skills and consistency as a player. He can become far more valuable for IU than he has been this season. I think we all agree that when he’s playing well, he’s valuable and fun to watch.

    But I’m under the impression that Victor Oladipo is the exception and not the rule. And what I mean by that was that VO, as one familiar example, when coming out of HS, was not considered to be an NBA prospect. He was not highly recruited. In three years at IU he developed into an NBA Lottery Pick. The majority of players that make it to the NBA are identified as NBA prospects before they graduate from High School (or their early years in a European League). JS has great athletic ability, but I’m not aware that anyone in the NBA considers him a future NBA player. He may develop into one like VO did, but he’s going to have to improve his game and his consistency a lot in the next year or two before that will become a reality.

  15. Two completely different sorts of players….thus making the comparison rather irrelevant.
    Oladipo’s longevity is now in question. He had a great year for the Pacers but there have been indications they play almost as well without him(as do many teams minus a “star” really not a “superstar.”
    And it’s really hard to quantify what his “star” potential would be on a team far more loaded with “superstars”(a.k.a. Houston Rockets, Boston, Philly, Golden State). Indianapolis was a great fit …to garner the same sort of adulation an Indiana rarely landing the true superstar out of high school.
    His work ethic and his improvement(especially at shooting the long ball) is admirable….but where he plays must be taken in context. Would he be a shrinking violet on a Golden State team? Will he be considered a “pedestrian” star in 40 years who merely caught lightning in a bottle in an age where ‘lottery pick’ hype was often inconsistent and exaggerated?

    1. Did VO steal your girlfriend?

      You never miss an opportunity to take a shot at one of the finest ambassadors of Hoosier there is. He is also, by all appearances, a really great guy.

      It’s because he isn’t from Chesterton, isn’t it?

      1. I actually thought I was responding to sort of a “cheap shot” taken at Justin Smith via the use of Crean’s next favorite asterisk on his resume.

        Smith is a sophomore. He’s a totally different position player. Let’s not nail coffins into his future potential via ludicrous comparisons not even time and circumstance relevant. And let’s not care about who has NBA clicker counter “star” potential. Some guys are great college players …and will never have the total package for the glorious next level.
        Can we care about Hoosier team basketball in this decade?….Can we look beyond NBA draft nights and relish the rebirth of team defense, the glimpses of great basketball when there is diminishing turnovers, the absence of cue cards and the unselfish play evolving under a coach who doesn’t ingratiate the skills and ‘upside’ of one over the value of play from every contributor on the team(a.k.a. a roster)? Gee…what a concept.

        Stars? I’m just stating facts. The “stars” of today pass through revolving doors. And there wasn’t a better fit for Oladipo than Indianapolis. Hell, I didn’t even mention the near MVP season Paul George is having. Hate to jar the memories of those who acted like it was the greatest talent heist of all-time.

        And although the jumpers can still be a little scratchy at times, I will say Oladeepvoice hits long notes smoother than Johnny Mathis. ‘Until the 12th of never‘….? Wasn’t that Glass’s final extension for Crean until cue cards? I will always have a soft spot for cue cards.

  16. And the “next best thing” is coming down the tracks so damn fast in these times of media saturation and overblown hype. LeBron may be the last true massive star …. for a very long time.
    With packaged media(hundreds of options in college/NBA viewership/streaming offerings) and so many segregated markets getting their opportunity to obsess and saturate select teams/areas to match preferences, the ‘star’ competes with an entire night sky. Fifty years ago you could count the mega/massive stars on one hand…and they stuck. Today, you still need one hand…but it holds a clicker counter.

    Trae Young may be that new train speeding down the tracks…leaving the Ola depot.

  17. Romeo’s unselfish team play demonstrated throughout this best stretch of 2019 Hoosier basketball…and his refusal to adopt the fake swag so many want to sell and provide via overkill with every play they assume to be the next SportsCenter Top 10…is more my cup of tea for a Hoosier ‘ambassador.’ It ‘s a level of maturity and respect for teammates I haven’t seen in a very long time from someone with his “star” level.

    It’s not that he’s any finer young man than the Kyrie Irving’s of the flat world….It’s just more representative of the spirit of college/amateur athletics and respectful of talented teammates often less in the spotlight (teammates vital to the product but maybe more limited…or more specialized in their skill sets).

  18. Pro sports is similar to the movie industry. Years and years ago some (much fewer than today) movies were made and the classics (few in number) are revered and remembered. For many years nowadays, movies are mass produced throwing low quality movies against the wall and see which ones stick. Such is the life in pro sports. Many are made super before they play a game or season or just complete a game or season. Then through all the pomp and circumstance they come and go in mass production of great expectations fame, fortune and money steamrolling ahead to the next one.

Comments are closed.