James Blackmon Jr.

Indiana's James Blackmon Jr. (AP Photo)

Indiana star to miss the summer after knee surgery

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Indiana shooting guard James Blackmon Jr. will be out for the rest of the summer after undergoing surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus.

“It was a tough setback for James and all of us, but in the scheme of things relatively minor in the way that it has all been handled,” Crean told Sports Illustrated. “He had a great spring and was in the midst of having an even better summer.”

The surgery shouldn’t hamper Blackmon’s season, as the timetable for a return — six-to-eight weeks — should put him back on the court prior to the start of practice.

Blackmon averaged 15.7 points as a freshman, playing a key role alongside Yogi Ferrell in Indiana’s back court. His ability to score — specifically his touch from beyond the arc — was a major reason why the Hoosiers were so good playing spread, uptempo basketball last season.

Report: James Blackmon Jr. to return to Indiana

Indiana's James Blackmon Jr. (AP Photo)
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James Blackmon Jr. is returning to Indiana for his sophomore season, the player announced in a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

“I felt the best situation for me is to come back next year and play my sophomore year here,” he said.

Blackmon is not projected to be picked in the 2015 or 2016 drafts by Draft Express.

As a freshman with the Hoosiers, Blackmon averaged 15.7 points and shot 38.7 percent from three, thriving in Tom Crean’s spread offense. He’s a talented scorer and a dangerous shooter that took advantage of the style that undersized Indiana was forced to play last season.

Blackmon’s return is key for the Hoosiers, but it’s only part of the equation. Tom Crean will now be waiting on an announcement from Yogi Ferrell, which is scheduled to come down on Saturday night. If Ferrell returns, with the addition of Thomas Bryant in the paint, Indiana is looking at being a top 15-20 team entering the season. Without him, they’re a borderline NCAA tournament.

You think college basketball is unwatchable this year? Turn on an Indiana game

Getty Images
Getty Images

I love this Indiana team.

Love them.

And, unless your rooting allegiances lie in Kentucky or some other Big Ten college town, I find it very hard to believe that you won’t feel the same way if you watch the Hoosiers play. Here’s what they do: they push the ball, they spread the floor offensively, they let their quartet of talented perimeter weapons make plays and they fire up threes at will.

When those threes are going down, you’ll have nights like Thursday night, where the No. 23 Hoosiers went 15-for-22 from three, hit 60.0 percent of their field goals and blew out No. 13 Maryland on a night where the Terps shot better than 50 percent from the field and hit 10-for-20 from deep.

In a season where everyone is complaining about how unwatchable college basketball is, the Hoosiers are the collegiate version of the Golden State Warriors. They’re not quite as dominant — Yogi Ferrell is a stud, but Steph Curry he ain’t — but they are now 15-4 overall and 5-1 in the Big Ten, which is tied for first in the conference with Wisconsin.

And here’s the scary thing: they may have just found a way to get better. Hanner Mosquera-Perea, one of just two true big men on Indiana’s roster and their starting center, got injured after their blowout loss at Michigan State. That was thought to be a major blow to the Indiana season, but what it’s done is make them even more difficult to guard. Now, instead of having a center that wasn’t all that good of a shot-blocker or a rebounder letting defenses clog up the lane, the Hoosiers are using Colin Hartman — a 6-foot-8 flamethrower — to open things up even more.

It might be for the best. Yeah, Indiana will take a hit on the defensive end of the floor, but they weren’t stopping anyone anyway. They entered Thursday night ranked 197th in defensive efficiency, according to Kenpom. If you’re going to be a bad defensive team, one that needs to score a ton of points to beat good teams, you might as well have your most unguardable team on the floor at all times. Since Perea got hurt, Indiana has gone 35-for-68 from three. That’s 51.4 percent.

Indiana is going to have some off-nights, but when they’re on, they’re going to be able to play with anyone in the country.

POSTERIZED: James Blackmon Jr. puts one down on Montrezl Harrell (VIDEO)

Indiana's James Blackmon Jr. (AP Photo)

Usually Montrezl Harrell finds himself delivering posters, but the Louisville junior forward found himself on the receiving end of a vicious dunk on Tuesday night. Indiana freshman James Blackmon Jr. put down the nasty dunk on Harrell as the noted perimeter marksman also showed tremendous hops on the play.

Here’s the dunk, courtesy of @CJZero.

Chase for 180: Sterling Gibbs’ improved shooting a significant factor in Seton Hall’s 6-0 start

Sterling Gibbs (Getty Images)
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The “Chase for 180” is back for a second year, and for those who may not be familiar with the project it’s our attempt to identify some of the best shooters in America. But what makes one an “elite shooter?” For some it’s merely the ability to knock down perimeter shots at a high rate, but that isn’t the case for all players. High-level shooting requires proficiency from three, the field overall, and from the foul line. 

“180” refers to the resulting number when adding a player’s field goal, three-point and free throw percentages, with the best shooters either approaching or surpassing that mark. 50 percent or better from the field overall, 40 percent or better from three and 90 percent or better from the foul line. This achievement has occurred more often in college basketball than it has in the NBA, where just six players (Steve Nash did it in four different seasons) have done it in the history of the league. 

This season we’ll update this list weekly, with players also needing to qualify to be ranked by the NCAA in each of the three percentage categories in order to be considered. In order to qualify to be ranked a player needs to have played in at least 75 percent of his team’s games and have averaged: 

  • five or more field goal attempts per game;
  • two or more three-point attempts per game;
  • 2.5 or more free throw attempts per game.

Note: Provisional Division I member Incarnate Word was not included, as four of their first five games have been played against non-Division I competition.  

After finishing the 2013-14 season with a 17-17 overall record, the hope for the Seton Hall Pirates entering this season was that a highly regarded recruiting class would help them take a step forward in the Big East. In this current era of college basketball the tendency is to focus on “who’s next” while a decent number of returnees are viewed as “yesterday’s news.” In regards to Seton Hall Isaiah Whitehead and company may have been the focus, but there is no doubt that the Pirates need their returnees as well if they’re a factor in the Big East conversation.

One of those returnees is junior guard Sterling Gibbs, and his play to start the season is a significant reason why the Pirates are currently 6-0. Gibbs is currently averaging a team-best 18.3 points per game, an increase of more than five points from a season ago (13.2 ppg). Part of that has to do with the loss of three of the team’s top five scorers from last season in Fuquan Edwin, Eugene Teague and Patrik Auda.

The bigger factor: Gibbs is not only taking better shots, but he’s also made them at a far greater clip through five games.

After shooting 41 percent from the field, 34.4% from three and 72.4% from the charity stripe in 2013-14, Gibbs has been a “50-40-90” player for Willard’s Pirates thus far. Gibbs is currently shooting 52.5% from the field (14th in the Big East), 58.3% from three (first) and 91.4% from the foul line (third). And a look at Gibbs’ percentages in certain areas of the floor reveal that he’s done a better job of converting around the rim than he did a season ago.

According to hoop-math.com Gibbs attempted 53.5% of his shots at the rim in 2013-14, making 44.8% of those shots. Through six games in 2014-15 Gibbs has taken 47.5% of his shots in that area of the floor, shooting 55.2%. Gibbs has also made strides with regards to his effective field goal and true shooting percentages, going from 46.7% to 63.9% in the former and from 55.2% to 70.8% in the latter per kenpom.com.

Those numbers may very well change when the Pirates begin conference play, thanks to opponents being more familiar with Gibbs and his skill set. Or they could remain where they are, with the junior building on the quality start his team needed. As Seton Hall’s underclassmen find their way in Willard’s system, the play of the “elder statesman” Gibbs is a big reason why the Pirates are currently on the edge of the Top 25.

“50-40-90 Club”

1. Sean Sellers (Ball State)
Percentages: 51.7 (FG), 63.2 (3PT), 90.0 (FT) = 210.3

Sellers (19.5 ppg) is one of two freshmen leading the way for the Cardinals, with guard Jeremie Tyler being the other.

2. Sterling Gibbs (Seton Hall)
Percentages: 52.5, 58.3, 91.4 = 202.2

3. Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga)
Percentages: 58.3, 46.2, 90.0 = 194.5

Pangos’ assist-to-turnover ratio has received a lot of attention thus far, but he remains one of the nation’s best shooters.

4. Tyler Haws (BYU)
Percentages: 50.5, 42.4, 91.1 = 184.0

Haws has picked up where he left off last season, averaging 22.1 points per game on a team that’s averaging nearly 96 points per contest.

Seven more “180” players 

1. Alec Peters (Valparaiso)
Percentages: 59.8, 55.0, 84.6 = 199.4

After averaging 12.7 points per game as a freshman, the 6-foot-9 Peters is up to 19.2 and is one of the top shooters in the Horizon League.

2. Marc Loving (Ohio State)
Percentages: 57.9, 57.9, 81.8 = 197.6

D’Angelo Russell is the headliner offensively, but keep an eye on the sophomore Loving as the season wears on as he gives the Buckeyes a solid pick-and-pop option.

3. Austin Richie (Western Michigan)
Percentages: 54.7, 58.3, 83.3 = 196.3

The senior guard has made improvements across the board, with his scoring (13.1 ppg) increasing by more than five points from last season (7.9 ppg).

4. Tim Douglas (Portland State)
Percentages: 55.9, 61.1, 78.6 = 195.6

Douglas (12.0 ppg) is one of five Vikings averaging double figures, with the balance being one reason why they’re currently 4-1.

5. Anthony Livingston (Arkansas State)
Percentages: 63.9, 62.5, 68.8 = 195.2

The 6-foot-8 sophomore is currently averaging 20.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per contest.

6. Wade Baldwin IV (Vanderbilt)
Percentages: 54.8, 58.3, 80.0 = 193.1

Baldwin’s part of a freshman class that’s being asked to hit the ground running at Vanderbilt, and he’s averaging 8.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest.

7. James Blackmon Jr. (Indiana)
Percentages: 51.2, 53.7, 87.5 = 192.4

Blackmon Jr.’s ability to score has taken some of the scoring load off of Yogi Ferrell’s shoulders.


Vince Edwards (Purdue): 63.5% FG, 47.6% 3PT, 80.0% FT
Trevon Bluiett (Xavier): 55.7% FG, 50.0% 3PT, 86.4% FT

James Blackmon Jr. stars as Indiana rains threes on No. 22 SMU

Yogi Ferrell (Getty Images)
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James Blackmon Jr. finished with 26 points and seven boards and Yogi Ferrell added 13 points, seven assists and no turnovers as Indiana knocked off No. 22 SMU at Assembly Hall on Thursday night, 74-68.

Indiana shot just 36.2% from the floor, but those kind of percentages are going to be fairly typical for this team this season. The Hoosiers have a front court that consists of Hanner Mosquera-Perea and, well, not much else, and with the amount of perimeter talent that Tom Crean has at his disposal, he’s made the decision to embrace.

Indiana shot 12-for-33 from three on Thursday after entering the game a cool 21-for-38 from beyond the arc on the season. It was a flurry of longballs that helped the Hoosiers erase a 20-8 deficit early in the first half, and it was hot shooting from long range in the final minutes that allowed them to hang on for a victory.

This is what it’s going to be like all season long for Indiana. They’re going to get up and down the floor, spread things out and allow Ferrell Blackmon and Robert Johnson to try to make plays. It’s worked well so far, and while I’m not convinced yet that it will be enough to get the Hoosiers back to the NCAA tournament, I firmly believe that it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch along the way.

What I can say, however, is that this was an important win for the Hoosiers to get. SMU has struggled in these last two games — they got smoked by Gonzaga on Monday night — but both of them were road tests early in a season where the Mustangs are playing without their best interior player. This is a team coached by Larry Brown. They’re going to figure things out eventually, and when they do, this win is going to look pretty good.

It’s also worth noting that this is the first game that Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson played after being suspended for testing positive for weed during the summer. Williams was a difference-maker, finishing with 11 points and four boards and bringing a level of athleticism and energy that cannot be replicated by anyone else on the roster. Robinson had just two points, but he did hand out three assists without turning the ball over.

I’ve said all along that the only way Tom Crean’s job is in jeopardy is if he continues to lose.

It’s still early, but the returns are positive for the Hoosiers. On the nights their threes are going down, this is a team that can beat anyone in the country in their gym.