Welcome to a brand new discussion piece where I interview different personalities in the Indiana Hoosier mediaverse and talk about various topics. Tonight, Ben Malcomson (@malcomsonben) interviews Assembly Call’s Jerod Morris (@assemblycall) and Assembly Call, Sports Talk with Tonsoni, and Delphi Bracketology’s Brian Tonsoni as he asks them about various topics regarding Indiana Hoosier basketball’s current state:
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Ben: What do you see different in this team now that’s been a major factor in them getting over the losing skid?
Jerod Morris: Where to start? It feels like so much is different now. It starts with Rob Phinisee. He is back to playing like his pre-concussion self, meaning that he is the catalyst on both offense and defense. With the way Archie wants to play, having strong point guard play on both ends is essential. Rob is back to providing that. De'Ron Davis' health is also key. He lightens the load on Juwan and provides a toughness and attitude this team needs. And obviously the improved production and consistency from Justin and Devonte has been really important. And in a macro sense, this team just seems to have a different chemistry and togetherness about it. Some of that comes from just having everyone healthy and building a rhythm together, but it also seems like some important conversations occurred after the Minnesota loss that got this team back on a positive path.
Brian Tonsoni: The team is at full strength. This helps in practice and in games. Phinisee is back to normal again and dominating offensively and defensively at the point. Justin Smith and Devonte Green have bought in and are maximizing their ability.
Ben: If you had to pick one player in particular right now who you see as the x-factor on this team, who would it be?
Jerod Morris: I reject the question, but I do so with a purpose. I don't think you can point to one X-factor right now because I think Indiana has now become a team full of X-factors, which is part of what makes them dangerous. When the team is firing on all cylinders, Romeo and Juwan will lead the way scoring-wise ... and then any of five guys could be the third on any given night: Rob, Al, Justin, Devonte, or De'Ron. And that's a great place to be in, because it means this team now has the capability of beating teams with star power or balance, and you need to be able to win in multiple ways to succeed in tournament settings. But scoring is just one elements, so consider that my answer as a "scoring X-factor." The overall X-factor is Justin Smith. He has the ability to be this team's best defender when he's fully locked in. Getting going on offense helps him stay locked in on defense. Now that he seems to have found a rhythm, you have a guy who can be a real difference maker like he was in both games against Michigan State. Indiana isn't going to lose very often when he plays like that.
Brian Tonsoni: Rob Phinisee - point guards are key. Obviously, Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan need to play well. Add in Devonte Green’s instant offense is important.
Ben: How important is it to have a healthier roster?
Jerod Morris: The health of the roster is essential. There are many, many factors that led to Indiana's struggles this season. The injury issues are at the top of the list. Just getting everyone healthy didn't and hasn't solved everything, but it sure has made a huge difference and given this team a fighting chance to salvage its season by making the tournament.
Brian Tonsoni: Gives Archie some room to maneuver in games. Practice is more competitive.
Ben: In your opinion, what do the Hoosiers need to do yet to reach the NCAA tournament?
Jerod Morris: Beat Ohio State and Michigan State. Do that, I struggle to imagine a scenario in which the Hoosiers don't make it in. Anything less than that and you put yourself at real risk of being on the outside looking in.
Brian Tonsoni: IU needs to beat Ohio St, at least. Beating Michigan St would be the icing on the cake. 18-15 or 19-15 and they have a good shot. What other teams do also will matter, so a bid is not in complete control of IU.