BLOOMINGTON — The first seven games for the Indiana men’s basketball team were about building confidence.
The next six in December will determine how ready the Hoosiers are for the bulk of their Big Ten schedule.
Beginning Tuesday at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in an ACC-Big Ten Challenge game against No. 17 Florida State (9 p.m., ESPN2), Indiana will play a stretch of six straight games against major conference opponents. Five of the six are ranked in KenPom’s Top 57 teams in the country, so it serves as a chance for the Hoosiers to bolster their resume heading into January.
IU’s schedule strength through its first seven games ranks 341st out of 353 Division I teams, per KenPom. That has allowed the Hoosiers to get off to a 7-0 start, their best since starting 9-0 in 2012-13.
“From this point forward, things get a lot more difficult for us, and it starts on Tuesday and our preparation for Florida State,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “It should be a great opportunity to play against a terrific ACC team. Depth and size at the highest level.”
The biggest concern for the Hoosiers at the moment is taking care of the basketball. IU has turned the ball over an average of 18.5 times in its past two games. Florida State is coming off a game in which it scored 21 points off 24 turnovers in a 63-60 win over Purdue in Saturday’s Emerald Coast Classic title game.
“The last three halves we have not taken care of the basketball,” Miller said on his weekly radio show Monday night. “That’s going to be a setup to disaster when you play a team like Florida State.”
IU’s frontcourt has been strong so far, with freshman 6-foot-9 forward Trayce Jackson-Davis leading the Hoosiers in scoring (15.6 ppg) and rebounding (9.6 rpg). Among freshman nationally, Jackson-Davis ranks second in field percentage, third in blocked shots and fourth in rebounding.
Jackson-Davis has posted four double-doubles in his first seven games and was named Big Ten freshman of the week for the second time after averaging 20 points and 12.5 rebounds in wins over Louisiana Tech and South Dakota State.
“He’s just a natural,” Miller said. “He’s got great hands and length. He’s a spring off the boards in terms of being able to go get the ball. He’s getting balls that other guys can’t get. So that’s, obviously, a gift that he brings to the table.”
But Jackson-Davis and the rest of IU’s frontcourt will be put to the test against an FSU team that starts 7-0 Dominik Olejniczak at center, 6-9 Malik Osborne at power forward and brings 7-1 center Balsa Koprivica off the bench.
“They are a huge team, from their guards all the way to their frontcourt,” Miller said.
Miller said on his radio show he expects the game to come down 50-50 plays and the ability to rebound.
“This is going to be an attitude game,” Miller said. “This is going to be an environment game, a set the tone game for this group.”
IU and FSU both play a deep rotation of nine to 11 players. Miller said on his radio show sophomore point guard Rob Phinisee, who is dealing with rib and abdominal issues, has remained limited in practice and is questionable for the game. He’s expecting his three remaining scholarship guards — junior Al Durham, senior Devonte Green and freshman Armaan Franklin — to pick up the slack if Phinisee remains out.
Junior forward Justin Smith said depth has been one of the key factors in IU’s perfect start.
“Being able to play one through, I think 11, just being able to throw a bunch of different guys at the other team, create some matchup problems, and kind of just use our versatility to our strength,” Smith said.
WOMEN MOVE UP
The Indiana women’s basketball team moved up three spots to No. 14 in the latest AP poll Monday.
The Hoosiers (6-1) won two out of three games over the weekend at the Paradise Jam Tournament in the Virgin Islands, knocking off No. 5 South Carolina 71-57 and Washington State 78-44. IU’s lone loss in the tournament came to No. 2 Baylor, falling 77-62.
For the second time this season, IU junior quarterback Peyton Ramsey was named one of eight Manning Award “stars of the week” Monday, an award given to the best performance by a quarterback during a week in college football.
Ramsey passed for 337 yards with three touchdowns in IU’s 44-41 win over rival Purdue, while adding 42 yards rushing and two rushing TDs. Ramsey’s 1-yard run on a quarterback sneak won the game for the Hoosiers in the second overtime session.