The official blog of Arizona State guard Brandon Dunson

Team Preview

Team Previews: Indiana University

Verdell Jones III, picture courtesy of Indiana University Athletics

Intro: Tom Crean and the Hoosiers have seen rough times in their first two seasons winning only 16 of their 62 games but they’re improving.  With their core back from last season (all but Devan Dumes) and their leading scorer back and healthy they’ve added nothing but experience.  It more than likely won’t be enough to get them to the upper echelon of the Big Ten but their slowly but surely improving as a team.

Returning: The backcourt of Maurice Creek, Verdell Jones III, and Jeremiah Rivers should return healthy this season.  However, it seems as if you may see Jones handling the ball more and Rivers on the wing due to his ability to rebound the ball from the perimeter and Jones’ playmaking skills.  When Creek went out last season Verdell stepped his game up tremendously, ending the year as the team’s leading scorer (outside of Creek) at just under 15 points per game.  He’s slim but he’s long, has a nice midrange game, and a high IQ.  In addition to being a good rebounder, Rivers, too, is a playmaker.  He’s strong, physical and locks down on the defensive end as well.  The return of Creek may be the most important addition to the Hoosiers’ squad this season.  Before a knee injury in December Maurice was averaging 16.4 points and 3.8 rebounds.  He’s an athletic wing that can score in a variety of ways.  Also returning from injury is Matt Roth, a long range bomber who logged many minutes as a freshman.  After redshirting last season Roth is back at full health and Coach Crean will be looking for him to provide an offensive spark off the bench with his deep three point range.  Bloomington, Indiana native Jordan Hulls, a 6-foot sophomore, made his way into the starting lineup when Creek went down and was solid.  He can handle and shoot the ball and will provide as a steady backup in the backcourt.  Christian Watford showed great potential as a freshman.  At 6-foot-9 he moves swiftly for his size and has good skills.  He’s athletic, can finish, and can also knock down open shots.  He averaged a team high 6 rebounds and also poured in 12 points per game.  He could develop into a star in the Big Ten.  Tom Pritchard and Derek Elson both had solid season.  Pritchard was a starter with a year of experience under his belt last season but Elson showed a toughness about himself that was hard to ignore.  He is one of the team’s best finishers and rebounders but needs to gain consistency and not fade into the game as much.  Bobby Capobianco is a reserve but is skilled.  He needs to get tougher if he wants to see minutes but he’s shown the ability to score both inside and out.

Newcomers: Crean had a history of working with and developing big, athletic projects in the post at Marquette and now, at IU, Guy-Marc Michel is his next target.  However, there’s only two years to work with the 7-foot-1 junior college transfer who will back up the 5 slot.  He’s got the size and shot blocking ability but will need to develop some go to moves in the post so he is not an offensively liability.  6’5” freshman wings Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo are both very good long range shooters and could see minutes at the 2 and 3 slots, respectively.  Olapido’s athletic ability could inject him in the rotation quicker than Sheehey but both should fit the Hoosiers’ system well.

Outlook: There’s no way this team can’t improve from last season as they return the same talent, more experience, and are healthier.  There’s a lot of work that needs to be done including taking care of the ball, rebounding, and getting more stops but they should already have good chemistry which will make these things easier to accomplish.  While they may not be in the conference’s top half this year, they should not be the bottom dweller.

Depth Chart:
PG – Jones*, Hulls*
SG – Creek*, Roth*, Sheehey
SF – Rivers*, Oladipo
PF – Watford*, Capobianco
C – Pritchard*, Elson*, Michel

Players marked with asterisks are expected to see the majority of the minutes played

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Team Previews: Illinois State Redbirds

Intro – With the loss of four year star Osiris Eldridge, prize big man Dinma Odiakosa, starting guard Lloyd Phillips, and the surprising departure of key reserve Kellen Thornton you would think the Redbirds would begin a rebuilding year this season.  However, though they look drastically different, this could be one of ISU’s better years with the talent they possess.

Returners – Jackie Carmichael showed the potential of a budding star last season.  With the experienced talent lost from last year’s team expect him to be one of the go to scorers.  He’s good with his back to the basket, is very physical, and can also score from the midrange area.  Defenses have to honor his scoring ability which will make good for ISU’s perimeter shooters which includes, but is not limited to, Justin Clark and Alex Rubin.  Clark didn’t have a very good freshman campaign but, hopefully, he’s gotten over his slump.  He’s got the ability to be a darn good player in the Missouri Valley Conference as he combines good size, length, and a nice shooting touch.  He can knock in 3’s but his midrange game is just as deadly if opponents crowd him.  Alex Rubin is a steady guard that doesn’t do anything great but does a lot well.  He is a vocal leader that will help the newcomers’ transition to the Division-I level.  Senior guard Austin Hill set the tone for the Redbirds defensively in his first season and is expected to play a similar role this year.  He can get to the basket on the offensive end but his energy is one of his main assets to the team.  At the 4-spot Tony Lewis brings strength and power.  He is a bruiser around the rim and finishes well.  He can also step out and knock down jumpers.  In addition he’s very good on the glass.  He’ll bring a steady force on the interior.

Newcomers – John Wilkins is seen as the star of this recruiting class and for good reason.  At 6-foot-9-inches he’s a very skilled perimeter oriented player that can also make things happen on the interior.  After sitting out at Southeastern (IA) CC this past season he retains three years of eligibility with the Redbirds after sitting out his first five games of the coming season.  John could turn out to be the biggest key for Coach Jank and company down the stretch as he has the potential to create big time mismatches in the Missouri Valley.  He’s still getting adjusted defensively but he’s got natural ability on the offensive end and just knows how to score the rock.  Junior college transfer Anthony Cousins isn’t as known as the other recruits around the Normal, Illinois campus but he could have a big impact as well.  He’s a quick guard with good point guard skills and can shoot the ball with consistency from deep.  He’s reminiscent of former Redbird combo Lloyd Phillips but his IQ seems to be stronger.  Fellow junior college transfer Kenyon Smith is a proven winner.  He’s won multiple high school state championships and was the unquestioned leader for last year’s Lincoln College team who won the Division II NJCAA national title.  He’s an aggressive player that gets into his opponent defensively and, though he took a lot of shots at the junior college level, he’s very unselfish and will look to get his teammates involved.  He’s got an edge and a toughness about him that will hopefully be passed on to the rest of his teammates.  Fordham transfer Trey Blue is finally eligible.  He may be the team’s most consistent shooter.  He can knock it in from three and is a high IQ player.  He plays at a slower pace but he’s a very quick and is a playmaker that sees the floor well.  He’s also got good strength which will help him on both ends of the floor.  He will be a big time contributor this coming year.  DeKalb High School prodigy Jordan Threloff will back Carmichael up inside.  He’s a tough kid and skilled around the rim.  He’ll be a great reserve at the 5-spot.  Redshirt freshman Jon Ekey is said to be very improved.  He’s added strength and his confidence has risen tremendously after a productive summer and fall.  With his size and his stroke he’s sure to see some minutes here and there.  Fellow redshirt freshman Zeke Upshaw may have to wait a bit to see the floor but he’s got the potential to be a good player in the Redbirds’ system, especially defensively.

Outlook – Coach Jankovich has a schedule that steadily builds which should help the newcomers transition to this level.  By Missouri Valley play they should have enough experience to be able to compete with the conference’s best.  While they normally only goes about 8 deep look for the staff to extend their rotation as they are deeper than they previously have been.

Depth Chart:
PG – Cousins*, Smith*
SG – Rubin*, Hill*
SF – Wilkins*, Blue*, Clark*
PF – Lewis*, Ekey*, Upshaw
C – Carmichael*, Threloff*, Mishler

Players marked with asterisks are expected to see the majority of the minutes played


Team Previews: University of Illinois

Intro: The Fighting Illini bring back the majority of their key components from last season and after being snubbed by the NCAA selection committee they are back with more experience and a chip on their shoulder.

Returning: Demetri McCamey is a big time leader that made the transition from a youthful role player to a star and surefire NBA prospect.  He averaged better than 15 points and 7 assists and came up big for Coach Weber when he was needed.   He, along with Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis, and Bill Cole will be looked upon as senior leaders.  Both Tisdale and Davis return with a lot of minutes logged in the frontcourt of their career.  The tandom complement each other well.  Tisdale is very skilled, can step out and knock down the three with consistency, and is good at changing shots defensively with his 7-foot-1-inch frame.  Davis is an athletic forward that stays closer to the basket though he is a capable scorer from the midrange area.  He too is a shot blocker and has shown the potential to take over games throughout his career.  While Cole might not see a great deal of minutes his experience and leadership will be highly important in helping the new guys adjust to the rigors of Division-I basketball and speed up the process of picking up Coach Weber’s system.  Sophomores D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul had very solid rookie seasons for the Illini.  D.J. earned Big Ten freshman of the year honors while Paul was a part time starter that showed flashes of being an explosive scorer.  Sophomore forward Tyler Griffey had a solid freshman year and, with a year of Big Ten experience and a nice run this summer playing overseas with a 20U USA team, improvement is expected so count on him to continue to contribute.

Newcomers: Freshman Jereme Richmond is expected to make a big impact in Champaign.  At 6-foot-8-inches he is very versatile and has the ability to play an array of positions for Illinois.  He handles it well, can score inside and out, and is a very underrated passer.  He could potentially spare McCamey at the point for small stretches though he will play the majority of his time at the 3-spot.  He could also play some power forward and cause mismatch problems for opposing 4-men if Weber decide to go with a more perimeter oriented lineup.  Backing up Tisdale will be the athletic 7-footer Meyers Leonard.  The Robinson, Illinois product is very mobile and brings the Illini staff a different look at the 5.  Though he can consistently knock down shots extending out to about 18 feet, he’s best around the basket where he always looks to finish around the rim.  He’s young and inexperienced but is aggressive and has as much potential as any post player in the Big Ten.  Crandall Head, another  freshman, brings athleticism and good talent to the backcourt.  He’s long and can play both ends of the floor effectively.  The Illini won’t lose much, if anything at all, with him providing reserve minutes at the guard slot.  Joseph Bertrand is the team’s fourth freshman after redshirting due to injury this past year.  He’s highly athletic and, though not considered more of a lead guard than a  point by many, has great ball handling skills and is an unselfish talent.  He’s got good size and will be a good backup option when McCamey needs rest.

Outlook: You can always count on Weber’s teams to play defensively.  They’ve got a very talented roster and return great experience.  It should be a very solid season for the Illini and the future is looking just as, if not more bright!

Depth Chart:
PG – McCamey*, Bertrand
SG – Richardson*, Head*
SF – Paul*, Richmond*, Cole
PF – Davis*, Griffey*
C – Tisdale*, Leonard*

Players marked with asterisks are expected to see the majority of the minutes played