Tipoff: Indiana vs.Butler, Crossroads Classic, Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 2 p.m. Saturday
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BLOOMINGTON -– So now, at last, we'll get to see Hanner Perea and Peter Jurkin.
Will these Indiana freshman forwards make instant impact?
For insight we offer guard Victor Oladipo.
“It's a feathery situation,” he says.
“It's going to be fun,” he says. “They bring a lot.”
Let's try this again, this time with forward Cody Zeller.
“It will help a lot,” he says. “They do a lot of things I can't.”
Wait. Zeller is an All-American and a potential NBA No. 1 draft pick. What can they do that he can't?
“Have you seen their arms?” the 7-foot Zeller says, a reference to their long arms and shot-blocking prowess. “I have to practice against that. It will be a good change to have them come in.”
What exactly DO Perea and Jurkin bring? First, they're finally eligible after serving a nine-game NCAA-mandated suspension for receiving impermissible benefits during the recruiting process. Perea and Jurkin will be able to play starting with Saturday's Crossroads Classic game against Butler.
“They don't deserve what happened to them,” Oladiopo says, “but at the same time, they've done a great job of staying focused. I can't wait to see them get out there.”
How much will they play? All we know for sure is that coach Tom Crean stresses quality minutes over quantity. Perea and Jurkin will join a deep, talented squad that is 9-0 with the nation's No. 1 ranking.
They will provide length, athleticism and depth to the frontline. That's good for Zeller and fellow forward Christian Watford. It might not be so good for freshman forward Jeremy Hollowell's playing time, but again, it's quality over quantity.
Perea is listed at 6-8 and 225 pounds. He was bothered by a foot injury that left him in a walking boot for part of the summer and fall. Assuming he's healthy, he brings aggression and athleticism. He can rebound, defend and block shots. He has some offensive skill. Crean has said that he considers Perea to be in the mix of potential starters.
The 7-foot, 230-pound Jurkin is not a strong offensive threat, but he can be a shot-blocking, rebounding force off the bench.
Perea likely will play more than Jurkin, but all things are possible with Crean. He goes with the guys who practice and play the best.
Crean could provide clarity on playing time and rotation, but he was vague when asked about it after Saturday's 100-69 win over Central Connecticut State.
“It's too early to tell,” he says. “We'll just try to build them into the flow.”
The current flow has nine guys averaging at least 12 minutes a game. Nobody averages more than Zeller's 27.5 minutes. Perea and Jurkin will cut into that time. So will senior forward Derek Elston, set to return from knee surgery right around Christmas.
It should make for an even more formidable defensive presence, with Hoosiers disrupting offenses all over the court. Coaches talk about wanting to bring fatigue to the game. IU has done that all season, a big reason why they lead the nation in average victory margin (31.8 points).
Still, the Hoosiers aren't satisfied.
“We're playing well,” Oladipo says, “but we haven't scratched the surface of how good we can be. We have to keep getting better on both ends, especially the defensive end.”
Case in point is the Central Connecticut State win. IU shut down the nation's leading scorer in Kyle Vinales (his seven points was well below his 25.9 average), but got burned by Matt Hunter's career-high 40 points.
“It's back to the drawing board,” Oladipo says. “We have to do better than that.”
Crean is a little more blunt.
“That is unacceptable to give a guy that many points. You don't want to take away the leading scorer in the country, and have somebody else become that guy. That's not good.”
It is good because it provides another teaching point. It's another tool to provide perspective in this unbeaten season.
In other words, it's a feathery situation.