Due to the sheer volume of basketball games, we don't often do Q&As with opposing blogs in advance of games. But with Pitt's contest against Indiana being such a big one, learning a little more about the Hoosiers can't hurt, right?
We've enlisted the help of Ben from The Crimson Quarry, SB Nation's Indiana blog. Be sure to check out their site in advance of today's game and you can find my answers to their questions over there.
But here are Ben's answers to my questions.
Cardiac Hill: What were the initial thoughts of Indiana fans when Pitt was their selection for the B1G-ACC matchup?
Ben/Crimson Quarry: After traveling to Syracuse last year, IU knew they'd get a home game this season in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. When Pitt was announced, fans were happy because it was a solid home game against a major opponent - something we were sorely missing from our non-con schedule last season. Nonconference scheduling has been an issue for basketball in recent years, so we were hoping that with early contests against you guys, Louisville, Georgetown, and SMU, some of those concerns would be put to rest. In addition, I've read that Pitt fans were happy about the game for the same reason.
Indiana had a disappointing year missing the NCAAs last season after a year when they nearly won 30 games. What is the expected outlook for the team this season?
Last season, the Hoosiers had just lost two top-5 NBA Draft picks, so we knew there would be some drop-off, but no one had any idea it would be as bad as it was. This season, we lost a top-10 NBA Draft pick in Noah Vonleh during the offseason. I think the outlook for 2014-15 is that while Tom Crean has done a good job at addressing the team's shooting woes from last season, the team is still young, undersized, and defensively challenged, and so they won't make the NCAA tournament unless they overcome these obstacles.
Like Pitt dropping a game to Hawaii, Indiana already has a questionable loss. What happened in the Hoosiers' defeat to Eastern Washington?
EWU was expected to be a cupcake game that resulted in an easy victory for the Hoosiers and an easy paycheck for the opponents. Instead, the Hoosiers let EWU hang around and allowed the Eagles to easily score points in the paint and on short jumpers. EWU was exactly the type of opponent who could give us fits throughout the season, since they had a size advantage on us and caught us with little time to prepare and rest, since they were our third opponent in five days. If IU ends up on the bubble this year, the selection committee may look to that loss as a reason to leave us out of the field of 68.
James Blackmon has been a monster so far this year. Talk a little about his game and what makes him so hard to defend.
JBJ has been as good as advertised so far for the Hoosiers. For a freshman, he already has a very pure form and shooting motion. In addition, he finds ways to get wide open, especially when he is behind the arc for a 3-point attempt. All in all, he's been a great addition for a team and I'm looking forward to seeing him play this season. In addition, it's always funny to see Blackmon's dad on the sidelines in an IU jersey, because he played his college ball for Kentucky.
I think it's a combination of both. The lower level of competition certainly helps the offensive efficiency ratings this early in the season, and with players such as Blackmon, Yogi Ferrell, Robert Johnson, Nick Zeisloft, and Max Hoetzel all being good shooters, I wouldn't be surprised is this continues throughout the year. However, I also think the Hoosiers will continue to put up big point totals out of necessity. If the Hoosiers' defense continues to struggle, then the team will need to put up big point totals if they want to win games.
K-State is a similarly-sized team to us, and you guys handled them pretty easily. Although this game is in Assembly Hall, I'll predict an 87-77 victory for Pitt, as Tom Crean's seat gets warmer. It's hard to be confident in the Hoosiers right now after how they struggled to defend in recent games. I hope they prove me wrong though.