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Three Takeaways from Indiana’s blowout win over No. 24 Marquette

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Indiana earned a blowout win over No. 24 Marquette with a 96-73 home win on Wednesday night. The Hoosiers made this one look easy thanks to a balanced offense and a solid defensive effort as they earned the Big Ten another win in the annual Gavitt Games.

Here are three takeaways from this one.

1. Indiana is potentially deeper and more talented than anticipated

Coming into this season, Indiana was expected to have plenty of depth. A top-ten freshman class headlined by a five-star recruit will help with that sort of thing.

But even without upperclass vets like guard Devonte Green and forward Zach McRoberts in the lineup on Wednesday night, Indiana had plenty of options in scoring at will on Marquette. While it’s true that Marquette’s defense has been underwhelming since last season, Indiana’s balanced offensive outburst was pretty impressive.

Shooting 63 percent from the field, Indiana had five double-figure scorers led by freshman Romeo Langford’s 22 points (more on him in a moment). Graduate transfer big man Evan Fitzner provided a great offensive lift by scoring inside or knocking down three-pointers as he chipped in 16 points on 4-for-4 three-point shooting. Forward Juwan Morgan (13 points), guard Al Durham (13 points) and freshman guard Robert Phinisee (12 points) also had solid outings.

While returning veterans like Morgan and Durham are expected to have nights like this, Indiana has to be enthusiastic about its newcomers. The freshman backcourt of Langford and Phinisee was outstanding on Wednesday. Fitzner shouldn’t be expected to be that hot on a nightly basis, but he provides a nice floor-spacing option at the five when Indiana needs to change things up.

Once Indiana gets Green and McRoberts back in the rotation, they’ll be able to throw waves of bodies at opposing teams. Freshman Jerome Hunter is another potential rotation piece who is also currently missing. A top-65 defense (via KenPom) from a year ago should be even better. And Indiana has to be thrilled that a young backcourt is playing so well on both ends so early in the season.

Indiana is going to have off-nights with some of their younger players. That sort of thing happens during a long season. But we just saw the type of output this team is capable of. And it’s definitely better than anticipated.

2. Marquette needs to figure out a defensive identity

It’s no secret that defense was going to be Marquette’s big question entering the season. The Golden Eagles missed the NCAA tournament last season in large part because they had the No. 12 offense and No. 182 defense in the nation (via KenPom). When the Golden Eagles needed critical stops in big games last season, they struggled to bear down and get a stop.

Things didn’t look much better for Marquette’s defense on Wednesday night. Surrendering over 90 points on 60-plus percent shooting, the Golden Eagle defense was abused by a balanced Indiana offense that scored however they wanted. The Hoosiers were 9-for-20 from three-point range, as Marquette didn’t do a particularly effective job of limiting quality perimeter looks.

With Marquette maintaining much of its rotation from last season, the major question is going to be how will this defense get better? New pieces like Joseph Chartouny are supposed to help defend on the perimeter. Others like Joey Hauser and Brendan Bailey aren’t exactly known for their defensive prowess. Although known as more defensive-minded than many of the team’s newcomers, Nebraska transfer forward Ed Morrow has struggled to find consistent minutes early in the season.

That means, at some point, Marquette’s returning veterans need to look in the mirror and figure out how they’re going to get stops. We know this team has the capability to put up tons of points thanks to Howard and the Hauser brothers. All three players finished with 18 points each against Indiana. But Marquette has to improve on the other end of the floor if they want to make any kind of splash in the Big East.

3. Romeo Langford is living up to the preseason hype

Entering the 2018-19 season perhaps no freshman in the country faced more pressure than Romeo Langford. While Duke’s R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson are more highly-touted, they aren’t in-state heroes tasked with bringing a basketball-crazy program back to respectability.

Langford proved on Wednesday night that he’s living up to his lofty preseason expectations with a very good game against the Golden Eagles. Finishing with 22 points, five rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks, Langford filled up the stat sheet in a number of different ways. Known as a scorer during his prolific prep career, Langford’s length and natural timing was impressive on the defensive end, as he helped trap Marquette point guard Markus Howard on multiple occasions.

The scary thing is that Langford didn’t even shoot the ball particularly well in this one. Langford was 8-for-15 from the floor and only 1-for-5 from three-point range. It helps immensely that Langford can create offense for himself by consistently getting to the charity stripe, as he was 5-for-7 from the free-throw line. If Langford can find his perimeter shot, then he has the potential for 30- and maybe even 40-point outbursts.

The good news for Langford is that he still had a great all-around game against a top-25 team with big expectations. There’s still room for Langford to grow and get better. But this is the kind of start Indiana fans were looking for out of their new star.

St. John’s big man Sedee Keita out four-to-six weeks

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St. John’s will have to go small as starting big man Sedee Keita is expected to miss four-to-six weeks to recover from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. The school announced the successful procedure in a release on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-9 Keita suffered a knee injury during St. John’s win last Friday over Bowling Green as he only played four minutes after starting the contest. According to Zach Braziller of the New York Post, an early MRI on Saturday proved inconclusive, but the follow-up MRI revealed that surgery was necessary.

A former South Carolina transfer who doubles as the only big man on the Red Storm roster with significant Division I experience, the loss of Keita is a big blow to St. John’s. Now the Red Storm will likely go to a more small-ball look during non-conference play with Marvin Clark II playing a lot at the five. Freshman Josh Roberts could also see additional minutes, but the 6-foot-9 big man wasn’t expected to be a major contributor heading into the season.

Either way, St. John’s needs Keita to ideally be healthy in time for conference play as the Red Storm are trying to make an NCAA tournament run behind a talented backcourt that includes Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron.

Auburn transfer Mustapha Heron ruled eligible to immediately play at St. John’s

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Mustapha Heron has been ruled immediately eligible after an offseason transfer from Auburn to St. John’s, the school announced on Saturday. Heron’s eligibility was first reported by Adam Zagoria.

One of the biggest transfers to make a move last offseason, the 6-foot-4 Heron gives the Red Storm a potent double-figure scorer as expectations will now be sky-high for St. John’s to make a run for a bid to the NCAA tournament. Heron is receiving a hardship waiver from the NCAA, as the Waterbury, Connecticut native moved closer to home so that he could be near his ill mother.

As a sophomore with the Tigers last season, Heron put up 16.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, helping lead Auburn to a surprising season in the SEC. Entering the 2018 NBA Draft process before pulling his name out and transferring, Heron is a former five-star prospect who brings a lot of hype to the Red Storm for this season.

St. John’s now as four returning double-figure scorers in the lineup for next season, including two All-American candidates in Heron and junior guard Shamorie Ponds. That duo, along with junior guard Justin Simon, and senior forward Marvin Clark II, gives the Red Storm one of the most intimidating lineups in the Big East. Finding a big man who can rebound and protect the rim might ultimately be the key to the ceiling of St. John’s season, but adding a high-caliber weapon like Heron is huge step for the Red Storm.

Marquette guard Greg Elliott out eight to 12 weeks after thumb surgery

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Marquette will be without reserve guard Greg Elliott for the start of the season after he underwent successful surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, the school announced on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-3 Elliott, a sophomore, was injured during practice on Oct. 5. He also suffered an injury to the same thumb in 2017. Elliott is expected to miss the next 8-to-12 weeks recovering from the surgery.

“We are disappointed for Greg, especially knowing how hard he worked in the offseason to prepare for his sophomore year,” Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said in the release.  “We are confident he will apply his tremendous work ethic to his rehabilitation process and get back on the court soon.”

Elliott’s loss isn’t significant for Marquette as veterans Markus Howard and Fordham graduate transfer guard Joseph Chartouny should provide plenty of firepower and experience in the Golden Eagle backcourt. But Elliott was a key piece off the bench last season as his depth in the backcourt will surely be missed early in the season.

As a freshman last season, Elliott averaged 18.3 minutes per game while putting up 4.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. A do-it-all guard who contributes in a number of unique ways, Elliott shot 50 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range.

If Elliott recovers slowly, the three-month mark would put his return around mid-January, as the Big East portion of Marquette’s schedule will just be getting going. One of the subplots to watch with Marquette during non-conference play will be to see if any guards step up and earn the minutes that Elliott used to play. If a new piece emerges, then Marquette’s guard depth could be better than initially anticipated.

Xavier picks up four-star 2019 commitment from guard Dahmir Bishop

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Xavier continued its trend of Class of 2019 commitments on Friday night as four-star guard Dahmir Bishop pledged to the Musketeers.

The 6-foot-5 Bishop is a native of Philadelphia, as he’s a natural perimeter scorer who should be able to play multiple spots for Xavier. Regarded as the No. 89 overall prospect in the national Class of 2019, according to Rivals, Bishop committed to the Musketeers and head coach Travis Steele after taking an official visit to campus last weekend.

Already the fourth member of Xavier’s Class of 2019 recruiting haul, Bishop gives the Big East program a third top-150 prospect as he joins top-150 forwards Daniel Ramsey and Zach Freemantle as well as three-star big man Dieonte Miles.

While Xavier isn’t in the mix for elite five-star prospects in this class, Steele and his staff have done an admirable job of identifying the prospects that they want and landing them quickly. Having four prospects committed for next year by mid-September gives Xavier’s recruiting a lot of flexibility going forward. If Steele continues to identify, and land, prospects that fit Xavier’s profile, then the program should be in good hands after former head coach Chris Mack left for Louisville.

Providence lands four-star 2019 forward Greg Gantt

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Providence added another quality recruit on Friday as four-star Class of 2019 forward Greg Gantt pledged to the Friars.

The 6-foot-8 Gantt is a native of North Carolina who has ascended up the national rankings thanks to his two-way versatility and athleticism. Regarded as the No. 55 overall prospect on Rivals, Gantt gives the Friars another solid piece to work with as head coach Ed Cooley and his staff have done an admirable job of landing players over the last several classes.

With Gantt, Providence could have a multi-year, two-way forward who could develop into a really solid all-around player. Since the Friars have their potential backcourt of the future coming in this season in A.J. Reeves and David Duke, Gantt slides in nicely in the frontcourt. The additional Providence 2018 commitments of Kris Monroe and Jimmy Nichols at forward will also bolster the Providence frontcourt as well as the Friars are starting to develop solid positional depth among recent recruiting classes.