KRUSH EDITION: Across enemy lines: Indiana basketball
February 24, 2016
Editor’s note: The Daily Illini sat down with Michael Hughes, the sports editor of the Indiana Daily Student, the student newspaper at Indiana and talked about Illinois, Indiana and how Thursday’s game might go.
Daily Illini: Indiana remains undefeated at home this season- how much of a homecourt advantage will the Hoosiers have when the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis rolls around?
Michael Hughes: Indianapolis is only about an hour north of Bloomington and IU already beat Notre Dame at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse earlier this year, so you would think they’d have a pretty big advantage. I think IU fans will definitely be the majority fanbase at the Big Ten tournament, but it’s going to be anything like Assembly Hall. I don’t think many students will make the trip, especially since it’s the first weekend of spring break, so while there will be a home court advantage, it won’t be as big as you might think.
DI: How much has losing James Blackmon, Jr. hurt the Hoosiers, especially during their recent rough patch?
MH: Here’s the thing with Blackmon. He’s a great player that would make almost any team in the country better, but I’m not actually sure IU is one of those teams. Blackmon was ruled out before IU’s first Big Ten game, and IU is first in the Big Ten. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The Hoosiers are able to space the floor a lot more, and the ball moves a lot more without Blackmon. His absence has also allowed Yogi Ferrell to essentially run the entire offense, and he’s pretty good at doing that.
DI: Was Saturday’s win over Purdue a sort of turning point for the Hoosiers, especially this close to March?
MH: I think in a way it was, but I also think IU has been turning the corner for a while now. The win at home against Iowa a couple weeks ago was big. I think this past week has especially been a turning point for Troy Williams. He was the game’s leading scorer against Purdue and Nebraska last week, which came after he was held scoreless at Michigan State. But against a Purdue team that looked like it was designed to beat a team like IU, it certainly cast away a lot of doubts for a lot of people.
DI: Indiana handed Illinois quite possibly its most embarrassing lost of the season when these teams first met. What can the Illini do to trim the gap on Thursday?
MH: This game being at the State Farm Center should help since it seems like IU always struggles to win there. Other than that, maybe try shrinking IU’s rims? The last time these two teams played got ugly, and it got ugly fast primarily because IU couldn’t seem to miss.
DI: With the season winding down, how important is it to the Hoosiers to be Big Ten champs in the regular season?
MH: IU winning the Big Ten Championship might be more important in terms of who it has to beat instead of simply winning the regular season title. After Illinois, the Hoosiers have a game at Iowa before finishing the season at home against Maryland. I figure IU has to win two of the remaining three games to win the regular season title, which would presumably do wonders for IU’s NCAA tournament seeding.
DI: If you could choose any Illini player to transfer to Indiana who would it be and why?
MH: A big question mark heading into this game is the health of sophomore guard Robert Johnson. He turned his ankle near the end of the Purdue win, and has been seen walking around campus with a walking boot and a crutch. So I guess I would choose Kendrick Nunn, because IU is getting desperate for a guard to play alongside Ferrell. Nunn is a guy who shoots and makes a lot of 3-pointers, and is someone I think who could compliment Ferrell a lot on the perimeter.
You can follow Michael Hughes on Twitter [email protected]