So Far This Season
Indiana came into the 2017-2018 with pretty similar expectations as Illlinois — a new head coach, a questionable roster and a lot of talent to face in the Big Ten. So far, the Hoosiers are 11-8 and hold a 4-3 conference record.
Indiana has had both impressive wins and disappointing losses. Remember when there were reports of Illinois losing to Indiana State as part of a closed-doors preseason exhibition game? Indiana lost to the Sycamores on Nov. 11 by 21 points. They also lost by 20 points to Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne on Dec. 18.
That being said, Archie Miller’s squad also has produced some solid wins. They defeated No. 18 Notre Dame in OT (80-77 on Dec. 16) and got a solid conference win against Minnesota (75-71 Jan. 6). Their three conference losses so far are to Michigan (69-55 on Dec. 2), Wisconsin (71-61 on Jan. 2) and No. 9 Michigan State (85-57 on Jan. 19).
Key Losses and Additions
Probably Indiana’s best three players from last season — James Blackmon, OG Anunoby and Thomas Bryant all declared for the NBA draft. Blackmon was the only upperclassman as a junior for the 2016-17 and led the team in scoring with 17 points per game. Anunoby and Bryant were just sophomores, but both of them were top four on the team in scoring and each of them averaged over 10 points per game. Anunoby was lost to a season-ending injury partway through the season, and he would have been a key piece for Miller to have return.
Miller did pull together a very good recruiting class, with three four-stars including Justin Smith, a 6-foot-7 forward from Stevenson High School (AKA Jalen Brunson High) and 6-foot-10 forward Clifton Moore. Smith is the only player of the bunch that has seen a significant amount of playing time, and he is averaging 5.1 points and three rebounds per game.
Indiana has two players that lead the way on offense: Juwan Morgan and Robert Johnson. Johnson, the senior leader on this team, is the guy Underwood will need to plan for. Morgan, a forward, will draw plenty of attention on defense from Spicy G and Leron, which will give Johnson plenty of open looks as a 6-foot-3 guard. He is a threat from deep, which is something Illinois has not defended terribly well so far this season. Johnson could certainly have a big night.
It’s getting really tiring having to pick against the Illini. Five of Illinois’ first seven conference games were on the road, and they gave away games to Northwestern, Maryland and Iowa. Most fans would agree they should have won those games.
Luckily, Indiana is a home game, and the Hoosiers are just 1-5 on the road this year. Although momentum feels like it is in favor of the opponent in Illinois’ last two games after the Iowa loss. Underwood will need to pump up his guys for this game, and I think they’ll be ready for a win.
Illinois 82, Indiana 78