My trip as part of The Forum’s reporting team in Bloomington, Ind., ended late Monday night. Assembly Hall was as impressive as advertised, as was the top-ranked Indiana basketball team, which beat North Dakota State 87-61.
Figured I would throw a few more thoughts I have from the game:
- The question I’ve most been asked since we returned to Fargo is this: Did Indiana look like the best team in the country? My response is that it’s simply tough to answer that. NDSU is a good team with reasonably high expectations in the Summit League. But the Bison aren’t a Big Ten team. The Hoosiers definitely showed off some depth Monday night with backups Remy Abell and Jeremy Hollowell. They sparked a key 8-0 run in the second half.
- Cody Zelleris an impressive athlete. You just don’t see 7-footers that can run the court like he can. And he’s no stick figure either. He’s a tough kid that handles himself well in traffic. NBAdraft.net has Zeller as the projected No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NBA draft. I’m not surprised.
- On the other hand, I thought Marshall Bjorklund handled himself well in the post. Sure, Zeller had 22 points and nine rebounds. But many of Zeller’s eight field goals were on fast-break dunks. That’s not to excuse Bjorklund, but I think we all knew that was going to happen a few times. When the two were in the halfcourt, I think Bjorklund fared well on offense and defense against Zeller. Despite some foul trouble, Bjorklund had 16 points and six rebounds.
- I had higher expectations for Indiana freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell, who scored only four points in 22 minutes. He looked great in scoring 10 points against Bryant (R.I.) on Friday. But inconsistent play can happen to a young point guard like Ferrell. He just never seemed in the flow of the game offensively. But I’ll say this: Ferrell was working his tail off after the Monday afternoon shootaround. While his teammates ate a late lunch, Ferrell remained in the gym with an assistant coach for more than an hour. He spent most of that time shooting and doing ballhandling drills.
- I did the Indiana postgame media session rather than the NDSU one, which was covered by a couple of colleagues. So I didn’t speak to any Bison players or coaches after the game. But my guess is that at least a few of them would admit to some early jitters. The Bison committed 16 turnovers in the game to Indiana’s 10. And my estimate is that NDSU was called for five or six traveling calls in the game, most coming in the first 25 minutes. One in particular was on a pump fake when a Bison player accidentally jumped off the floor. Pretty uncharacteristic stuff.
- Bjorklund mentioned postgame that the Bison had some “seven or eight” early missed opportunities that could have made the game closer. No doubt about that. The Bison had some looks on offense get away from them. But that’s what often happens when a mid-major is on the road taking on a highly ranked opponent. Even if Zeller isn’t there to disrupt a shot, it’s hard for his presence or Christian Watford‘s presence to not enter the back of your mind. That’s what a player like Zeller can do.
- I’ve been asked a couple of times about the crowd. It certainly got loud in there at times. But my guess is that the 17,145 in attendance are far more vocal when the Hoosiers face conference opponents. The Bison never challenged that much. The loudest it got was probably when NDSU forward TrayVonn Wright got tangled up with Zeller on a rebound, which led to Zeller falling to the floor. The crowd did not like to see that happen to their star center.
- As for Assembly Hall itself, I love the setup. When attending basketball games, nobody wants to see it on an end behind one of the baskets. They want to sit on the sides. And that’s what this arena brings. Almost all of the seats run the length of the court, which is why the building is so tall and the seating is so steep. I’m a big fan. I’m sure the seating is a little cramped by modern standards, but it’s a great venue for college basketball.