BLOOMINGTON, Indiana — Indiana had a couple of easy wins to open the season and then eight days between games. The long gap ends Friday night when the 12th-ranked Hoosiers travel to Cincinnati to face a very good Xavier team who are 3-0 so far.
The Musketeers, now coached by former Arizona and Xavier coach Sean Miller, have beaten Morgan State, Montana and Fairfield. These three teams are 0-8 together against Division I opponents so it’s difficult to gauge exactly how good Xavier is.
There are at least some numbers to look at. Xavier receives votes in both polls and would rank #31 in the Associated Press poll and #36 in the Coaches poll. They are ranked 39th in Kenpom.com rankings.
I all watched their 78-65 home win over Fairfield on Tuesday night and made a few observations that set the stage for Friday’s game, which begins at 6 p.m. ET and will be televised on FOX Sports 1.
1. Your bigs can play, so it’s good to be good
There’s no denying that Indiana loves playing through Trayce Jackson-Davis and, to a lesser extent, Race Thompson and newcomer Malik Reneau. But Xavier likes to do the same and they have some talent up front in 7-foot-6 Jack Nunge and 6-foot-9 forward Zach Freemantle.
Hoosiers fans know Nunge. A native of Newburgh, Ind., who played at Castle High School, he spent four years in Iowa before joining Xavier last season. He has 27 total points in four career games against the Hoosiers, all Indiana wins over Iowa, somewhat surprisingly. He’s a good player, averaging 18.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per game this season.
A native of Teaneck, NJ, Freemantle averages 15.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game and is a good jumper and can move fairly well on the ground. They are definitely an offensive threat.
Watching the game up close, both of them aren’t very quick and I can’t imagine either of them being able to handle Jackson-Davis defensively one-on-one. They will certainly have a good defense plan and it will be interesting to watch these internal struggles on both sides of the ground.
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2. Xavier misses the great guard Colby Jones
Colby Jones, a 6-foot-6 guard who was a preseason All-Big East first-team pick, missed Tuesday night’s game after spraining an ankle in practice Monday. He played well in his first two games, averaging 13.5 points, 7.0 assists, and 4.0 rebounds.
He’s also a good defender and he’s very long. Xavier missed on Tuesday night and the Fairfield guards were regularly able to attack the basket from dribble. I’m sure Xavier Johnson and Jalen Hood-Schifino saw that in the movie and are licking their chops.
Alex Kunkel, another fifth grader, started for Jones. He’s a nice three-point shooter – he hit four of those in eight tries on Tuesday – but it’ll be interesting to see if he can keep up defensively with Jones unable to walk.
3. Not much bench production by Jerome Hunter, others
Former Indiana forward Jerome Hunter, who is a sophomore at Xavier after spending two seasons with Archie Miller, scored 11 points in the Musketeers’ opener but has remained scoreless in the last two games.
He played nine minutes against Montana and never made a shot but had four personal fouls. He made a shot against Fairfield – he missed – and had three personal fouls in seven minutes.
Xavier only had six bank points in his 78-65 win over Fairfield and if this trend continues the Musketeers could be in trouble. Indiana’s bench, which played great, could cause a lot of problems.
Xavier doesn’t have much offensive talent off the bench. Freemantle had to play 39 minutes in the Fairfield game.
- TOM BREW COLUMN: Readers are curious about my thoughts on how strong this Indiana basketball team is and how good it can be if I empty the mailbox this year. I also have some thoughts on some great coaches and look back on my very first game at Assembly Hall back then. CLICK HERE
- TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS VALUE LIST: Trayce Jackson-Davis was already number 15 on Indiana’s all-time scoring chart before deciding to come back for his senior year. Now he’s on his way up the goalscoring chart again in 2022/23 and we’ll update the goalscoring chart after every game. CLICK HERE
- WOODSON RADIO SHOW: Indiana basketball coach Mike Woodson reviewed the Hoosiers’ first two wins of the season and on Monday night’s “Inside Indiana Basketball” radio show with Don Fischer, looked back at Friday’s road trip to Xavier. Former Indiana point guard Jordan Hulls, now the team’s recruiting coordinator, also attended the show. CLICK HERE
- INDIANA SCHEDULE: The Indiana Hoosiers basketball schedule for the 2022-2023 season is complete. Here’s the full schedule with dates, game times and TV info, as well as links to the stories on the games already played. CLICK HERE