Monday, February 12, 2007

There were a lot of question marks for this team heading into the season

Now that we're 23 games into the season, I decided to take a look back at some of those question marks. It's easy to forget that our most frequent starting lineup last season was Monroe, Strickland, Wilmont, Vaden, and Killingsworth -- in other words we lost four starters. Granted, DJ White was only a non-starter due to injury, but we're still replacing a LOT of minutes and production. Wilmont is the only returning player who averaged more than 20 minutes a game last season... and he averaged 22. Five new players plus DJ's return from injury -- it's not surprise that most Hoosier fans are happy with the way this season has gone to date.

Anyway, he's my recollection of the biggest question marks heading into the season (at least MY biggest question marks).

#1. Who will be the other post presence inside to help DJ White?
So far, the answer seems to be "no one". It's kind of unfortunate that with five new faces (Bassett, Shaw, Mike White, Xavier Keeling, and Lance Stemler) and our pressing need in the post, I would characterize both of the new perimeter players as a "pleasant surprise" and all three post players as "struggling to contribute". Add to that Ben Allen's difficult transition, and I'd say our biggest question mark has gone unanswered.

#2. Will AJ Ratliff come out of his sophomore slump?
It took a long time, but I think it's fairly safe to say the answer is "yes", he's out of his slump. I still think there's another level where Ratliff can play, but he's been consistently good on offense, he's rebounding well, and his offense is coming around. I very happy with where AJ is right now.

#3. Will Earl Calloway become the point guard that he showed glimpses of late last season?
I'd say this is a resounding yes. IMO, there were some folks on here whose expectations for Calloway were out of whack with his performance last season. Sure, he obviously had potential, but lots of players have potential. After a rocky start to begin the season, I think Earl has become a big reason why IU is winning games. His decision making has really improved, and his defense is wonderful. He also seems to have a knack for driving the lane and hitting a big shot when we need one.

#4. Wilmont is a guy who can shoot the team to victory... or defeat. As a senior, will he become a consistent positive force?
I think Wilmont is still struggling a little bit when it comes to scoring within the offense. He hasn't been quite as streaky as last season when it comes to hitting his shots (and shooting almost 38% from 3 point range when you shoot as many as Rod does is very good), but it seems like some games he says "I gotta be The Man" and shoots 20 times and then the next game he says "I gotta be part of The Team" and he shoots 5 times. I still think Wilmont is having a very good senior season, but I wish we could know what we were going to get from Rod in any given game with a bit more certainty.

It's really too bad that Allen, Stemler, Mike White, or Xavier Keeling haven't been a huge surprise, because with the way the rest of the team has developed, I think we'd be a seriously dangerous team right now. Instead, I feel like we're trying really hard to compensate for our big glaring weakness... and mostly being successful at it.

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