What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Kyle from Crimson Quarry, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Indiana.
1) Indiana's shooting fell off a cliff in the loss against Penn State (36% overall, 33% from 3-point range). Was that just a one-off aberration or are there any concerns about IU's offense going forward?
KYLE: Shooting's shooting, and teams that depend heavily on it from the outside are going to be mercurial as Indiana has been. Sometimes, this is a team that looks dang-near-unbeatable, usually at home inside Assembly Hall. Others, it's a team that can look NIT-levels of bad, as they were in Happy Valley. Bryce Jordan's especially a weird, vacuous place to shoot in, so I don't think there's reason to be concerned about those numbers going forward. It was a game fans forgot was even on the schedule, buried on BTN at going-out time on a Saturday night, between big games. It's reasonable to think, to be honest, Indiana just took Penn State lightly and overlooked it. They weren't mentally ready to be in a battle where shooting wouldn't carry them, and they got pants'd. That's about all there is to it, nothing more, nothing less.
2) The Big Ten Player of the Year race this year is pretty intense. Give me the case for Yogi Ferrell to be B1G Player of the Year.
KYLE: Because no one team is so dependent on a single player. Take Jarrod Uthoff off Iowa or Melo Trimble off Maryland, I still think you've got pretty good teams there. Denzel Valentine's in this similar sort of category, but I don't think you can look past Michigan State's five conference losses so far. Right now, Indiana's sitting in second place in the conference, fully controlling their own destiny in the title hunt -- and so much of that goes through Ferrell. He's Indiana's offensive catalyst, he's the unquestioned leader -- to the point control-freak Tom Crean's even let him run huddle at times in this recent stretch. Unless Valentine or, say, Nigel Hayes absolutely blows the doors off late, I think you'll see the Big Ten POY go to the best player on the title-winning team. If it's Iowa, it's Uthoff. If it's Maryland, it's Trimble. But if there's some sort of tie or Indiana takes the title, I think it's hard to look at the burden Yogi Ferrell's had to carry and give that award to another player. Or, put another way, Peter Jok and Diamond Stone might cost their teammates that award if things came down to it.
All that said, I'd vote for Uthoff right now, by the way.
3) Outside of Yogi, which players on the IU roster should Iowa fans be aware of and worried about ahead of Thursday night's game? What should we know about Thomas Bryant?
KYLE: Thomas Bryant's the obvious second-option for Indiana. There's no one in the conference that scores the basketball at a more effective rate. Offensively, he should be a stiff test for Adam Woodbury down low. Defensively, he's still developing there. I'm a big fan of how his ability to extend and hedge on ball screens has improved through this season, but he often still looks like a dude that's growing into his body when he's forced to move laterally.
Outside of that, I think a big key in this game might be two Indiana reserves: Nick Zeisloft and OG Anunoby. I think a ton of this game, for Indiana, just boils down to whether or not they're going to turn in one of the Really Very Good Indiana performances by shooting the lights out. While there's plenty of places Indiana can get those outside contributions from (Ferrell, Rob Johnson, Collin Hartman, Troy Williams, kinda), there's no one that can get going quite like Zeisloft. He's had some shooting struggles in the Big Ten, and hasn't really been a big factor in Indiana's big wins. But he was 4/7 from three in that loss at Penn State -- and if he can keep that momentum rolling, the added outside production could be bad news for Iowa.
As for Anunoby, he's the guy that would likely give Indiana the best chance to really limit Jarrod Uthoff. They matchup comparatively in size, but Anunoby might be able to use his wingspan, athleticism, and versatility to chase the POY candidate both inside and out to the perimeter. Don't be shocked to see him see heavy minutes as the first guy off the bench for Indiana.
4) Is there anyone on this IU roster as hateable as Will Sheehey?
KYLE: Nah. I think Will Sheehey wanted you to hate him. Also, he might be reading this, because, well.
Is this supposed to be an insult? https://t.co/XTVxJCDOsr— William Sheehey (@SheeheyWilliam) February 7, 2016
LISTEN WILL MAN IT WAS JUST A JOKE I BOUGHT ANOTHER JERSEY DUDE C'MON
The answer is no, no there isn't. Maybe Max Bielfeldt? I'd probably find his old-man game annoying were I to be a fan of another team.
5) Which IU player could emerge from the shadows (or the bench) to have a big game and have Iowa fans cursing his name by the end of the night?
KYLE: Again, I'mma go with Zeisloft. See above. Streaky shooter that miiiiiight be coming off a spell. It's a home game for Indiana, which usually means Indiana's going to shoot it well. I think this logic adds up.
(I'm hounding this SHOOT IT WELL AT HOME thing entirely too much and Indiana's gonna end up shooting 12% from the field now.)
6) Indiana's defense was a major concern earlier in the season, but it's improved significantly since then. What have been the biggest changes on that side of the ball and what's been working so well for the Hoosiers on defense lately?
7) Speaking of defense, how do you expect Indiana to try and defend Iowa's offense? What will they do to slow down Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok?
KYLE: Well, uh, uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Probably "AND" isn't the right word. I think Indiana and Iowa match-up stylistically pretty well -- I don't see Iowa as a slow down team that's going to try to really muck it up. That's where Tom Crean Indiana teams are generally at their worst. (See, Wisconsin). All that said, Indiana doesn't matchup all that well when it comes to handling both Uthoff and Jok. I think you'll see, as previously mentioned, lots of OG Anunoby in that wing-defender role. From there, it's going to require Collin Hartman and Troy Williams to really step up defensively.
But really, I think Jok and Uthoff both are going to be able to get what they want against this Indiana team. It might be a more worthwhile focus for Indiana to not allow other starters or bit player to have a big game. Good players are going to get theirs, and it's going to be really interesting to see how Tom Crean chooses to manage that when his personnel don't match up perfectly on that end of the floor.
8) What percentage of Indiana fans would really be happy to see Steve Alford as IU head coach?
KYLE: I don't know who that is, but I'D BE REALLY HAPPY TO SEE YOU EAT SH--
sorry wait what happened i blacked out
9) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
KYLE: This is from my game preview over at CQ, because like I'm mailing this Q&A in like Indiana mailed that game in at Penn State.
"Last year's Indiana-Iowa game provided the single most uncomfortable sporting atmosphere I've ever been around when Indiana fans turned on the program and staff, spewing vitriol and booing the team off the floor in the midst of a blowout loss to Iowa. Combine those bad memories with the recent Penn State loss and the massive opportunity to take control of the conference title race, and one would this Indiana team would be as charged up and ready for this moment on national television. We've talked about Yogi Ferrell needing his signature moment, and how much is left to write ahead of him in this final two months of his collegiate career. Given these circumstances and Indiana's propensity to shoot the ball well at home, things (untangible, unquantifiable things) seem to bode well for the Hoosiers here. This has the possibility to be one of college basketball's best games of the 2016 season. Let's hope it lives up to the hype -- and, for Indiana fans, sets up the second matchup to really mean something down the stretch. Indiana 86, Iowa 84."
Thanks for being a good sport, Kyle, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped tonight. You can check out the CQ crew at Crimson Quarry. You can also follow CQ on Twitter at @crimsonquarry and Kyle on Twitter at @kylerrobbins. The Iowa-Indiana game is in Bloomington, IN on Thursday, February 11, and is scheduled to start at approximately 8:00 pm CT, with TV coverage from ESPN.