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October 26, 2013Halloween is still before us but the Indiana men's basketball team is set to play before Hoosier fans tonight at Assembly Hall. In a 7 p.m. exhibition game, Southern Indiana, a strong Division II program, will play the Hoosiers.
"It's hard to believe we're going to play a game on October 26, but we are, and we've been in practice almost a month," said Indiana head coach Tom Crean yesterday. "We're anxious to see where we stand. I like this team."
It's obviously a young team given the losses of two senior starters and the early departures of NBA lottery picks Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller.
Indiana brings in a six-man freshman class but only three of the newcomers are healthy. Crean indicated that Stanford Robinson's knee bruise from Hoosier Hysteria will keep him out and center Luke Fischer is expected to be out at least another week, although the Wisconsin native has begun to participate more in daily practice as he recovers from a shoulder injury described by Crean as a torn labrum.
"This was only Luke Fischer's third day of contact practices, this is Troy Williams' first week having his right hand and it's still padded up," said Crean. "So we've dealt with a lot of things like that. Peter Jurkin was gone almost two weeks back to see his father and his family."
The 7-foot-0 Jurkin did return to Bloomington this week and the sophomore should be available tonight.
Tonight's game is not being televised live by any network. You can watch it online via fee at BTN.com or Indiana's All-Access channel. The Big Ten Network will show a replay of the exhibition on Monday night at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Crean said yesterday he hadn't thought seriously yet about who may start the game tonight. Point guard Yogi Ferrell is the team's only returning starter but the most experienced Hoosier back is 6-foot-7 senior Will Sheehey, the Big Ten's Sixth Man of the Year last year. Arizona State transfer Evan Gordon is immediately eligible this season and has plenty of starting experience in the Pac-12. Other likely starting candidates include 6-foot-8 sophomore Jeremy Hollowell and heralded newcomer Noah Vonleh. With the loss of Zeller and Fischer's injury, it's likely Vonleh will have to shoulder much of the early inside load for the Hoosiers.
"I feel like he can have the presence that Cody did last year, maybe not experience-wise, but just how big he is and his knowledge of the game even right now as a freshman is a lot higher than I expected," said Ferrell yesterday. "He's definitely going to be a key to our success."
The Screaming Eagles of Southern Indiana are coming off a 23-8 season that included a 13-5 record in the Great Lakes Valley Conference and a runner-up finish in the GLVC post-season tournament. USI advanced to the NCAA Division II tournament where it fell in the Midwest regional semifinals to Bellarmine.
USI is ranked 23rd in the preseason Division II poll and earlier this week the GLVC coaches voted the team to a projected second place finish in the league's East Division.
"Southern Indiana head coach Rodney Watson has done a great job," said Crean. "He's had four straight 20-plus win seasons. They led the country in rebound margin for them last year. They lost a couple of guys, but they have seven seniors, and very efficient half-court offense in, what I think, is the best Division II conference in America. I think it has been for a long time. I think we'll see a lot too when we play Hillsdale in a week. Two really good programs and really good conferences that compete night in and night out and can recruit a little differently and can recruit with a wider net maybe then a lot of people. I think that's good for us."
Watson will have to replace center Keith DeWitt, the team's leading rebounder and an honorable mention All-American. The Screaming Eagles are also playing the first semester without their best returnee, power forward Orlando Rutledge. The 6-foot-6, 200-pound junior averaged a team high 16.4 points and 5.5 boards last season. He was ruled academically ineligible in September.
USI does get back a healthy Aaron Nelson, a 6-foot-8, 249-pound senior forward that averaged 11.9 points and 7.9 rebounds before being sidelined by a knee injury.? Watson also has a healthy DeAndre McCamey. The guard and brother of former Illinois star Demetri McCamey was a medical redshirt in 2012-13, his first season at the Evansville school after transferring in from South Suburban College.
"I think Southern Indiana because of that experience back, we didn't want to play anybody that was in a similar situation to us experience wise," said Crean. "I don't think that would've been a plus. I think the plus is going against people that know what they're doing, that are well versed in their ways, and have had success, know what success feels like and lets go see how we deal with that."
Southern Indiana is no stranger to exhibitions against Big Ten programs. The Eagles played Illinois tough in 2010, falling 76-67. Two seasons ago USI fell to Purdue, 65-49, but did outscore the Boilermakers in the second half.
Because it is not scrimmaging another Division I team this year as it has done the prior two seasons, Indiana will also play a second exhibition game on November 4th againsgt Hillsdale College, a Division II program out of Michigan.
"I think when we decided we were doing two exhibitions this year, we wanted to get some teams that had tournament experience, great leagues, play different ways," said Crean. "I think what this team (USI) does is they really have a very good cutting, movement team. They were great at getting the ball inside last year. Like I said, they led the country in rebound margin. They were very aggressive. How much that will change this year based on a couple guys that aren't playing remains to be seen, but they went to some sets where they just pounded it inside and they also had great movement sets. In that sense, I think it's very good for you."
Projected Southern Indiana starters and key reserves with prior year stats: