OG Anunoby will miss the rest of the season after sustaining a right knee injury during Indiana’s win over Penn State Wednesday night. The sophomore will undergo surgery and could face a long recovery though details on the exact nature of the injury are scant.
Anunoby had been averaging 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks in 25.1 minutes per game. At 6’8″ and 235 pounds, the forward was also Indiana’s best all-around defender. He had been projected as a lottery pick in most 2017 NBA mock drafts. So yeah, it’s fair to say this is a pretty big blow to Indiana’s chances at a Big Ten title and a deep tournament run this season.
Anunoby’s exit leaves the Hoosiers looking for answers along their front line. Fellow sophomore Juwan Morgan has battled various injuries since he stepped on campus last year, but is obviously the first man up as far as replacing his classmate’s production. Morgan has the size, athletic ability and defensive instincts to help fill that role, but it will take a total team effort make up for Anunoby’s absence.
With the team’s lone senior, Collin Hartman, also likely out for the year, the Hoosiers suddenly look thin on the wing and in the frontcourt. That puts the onus on freshman De’Ron Davis to not only play more, but expand his game, particularly on the defensive end. Davis and sophomore Thomas Bryant may need to step away from the basket and guard guys on the perimeter if Indiana wants to find consistency on the defensive end. Meanwhile, Bryant has been a disappointment on the offensive end for much of the season. There are no more excuses, he needs to step up and become the dominant force he’s capable of being.
What the Hoosiers truly need is to find some leadership. Juniors James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson have both shown flashes of taking ownership of the team, but those moments have been brief and fleeting. That pair must now step up and keep the team together. Freshmen guards Devonte Green and Curtis Jones can expect to see more time on the floor and junior Freddie McSwain will also be called on to provide quality minutes. In short, it will take a total team effort to make up for the loss of Indiana’s most versatile player.
Indiana has won two in a row over lowly Rutgers and Penn State. The Hoosiers had finally built a little momentum after a late-December/early-January swoon. Wins over Kansas and North Carolina are a distant memory, clouded by losses to IPFW and Nebraska. Now the the 13-6 Hoosiers welcome Michigan State to Bloomington on Saturday in a game that couldn’t be more important. A win over the Spartans without Anunoby could be a signal that the season isn’t lost and that this team has some fight. A defeat against Izzo’s squad could signal tough times in Hoosierland.
Indiana’s season didn’t end when Anunoby’s knee gave out. The Hoosiers have enough talent to win the Big Ten title if they rise to the challenge. If they don’t? Tom Crean’s legions of doubters will resurface once again.