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Three things to know as IU men's basketball returns to action against Montana State


Junior forward De’Ron Davis gets ahold of the ball against Chicago State on Nov. 6 at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Davis missed a potential go-ahead shot for IU with just seconds remaining Sunday in a 73-72 road loss at Arkansas.  Anna Tiplick Buy Photos

After Tuesday’s season-opening 104-55 thrashing of Chicago State, IU takes on the similarly inferior Montana State Bobcats in the second contest of the 2018-19 regular season.

Tip-off at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday, with the game broadcast on Big Ten Network with Mike Monaco and Stephen Bardo acting as announcers.

Here’s everything you need to know before the game.

Montana State is bad, but not as bad as Chicago State

During the Tom Crean era of IU basketball, fans and pundits ragged the former IU coach for scheduling terrible teams in the nonconference portion of the season.

Coach Archie Miller has made a concerted effort to change that stigma with games against Duke, Marquette, Louisville, Butler and Arkansas ahead this season.

That said, Friday is one of those games fans hated under Crean’s watch.

Montana State comes to Bloomington fresh off a 101-71 loss to Utah State. In fairness, Montana State is slightly better than Chicago State, IU’s first opponent, at least rankings-wise. The Bobcats enter Friday at No. 296 in the RPI compared to the Cougars' abysmal No. 343 ranking.

It’s also worth noting the Bobcats were largely expected to compete for the Big Sky Conference title in 2017, but after starting 11-6, they lost 12 of their final 14 games.

So while it's no Duke, Kansas or even Rutgers, Montana State should be slightly better than what IU saw in its opener.

Who does Montana State have on its team?

Montana State Coach and Seymour, Indiana, native Brian Fish brings back most of his important players from last season. The backcourt duo of senior Tyler Hall, who averaged 17.5 points per game, and junior Harald Frey, who averaged 13.1 points per game, should anchor the Bobcats’ scoring.

Hall is also a lethal three-point shooter, having knocked down 99 shots from behind the arc. At 6 feet 5 inches, he’s got the size to matchup with most of IU’s guards.

Expect senior forwards Keljin Blevins, Montana State’s third-leading scorer a year ago with 9.7 points per game, and Sam Neumann to do much of the dirty work on the glass. Though they stand just 6 feet 5 inches and 6 feet 7 inches, respectively, Blevins and Neumann both averaged at least 4.5 rebounds per game last year.

An upperclassmen-heavy team, the junior college additions of junior guards Ladan Ricketts and Russell Daniels should also sure up the Bobcat’s rotation behind Hall and Frey.

Defensively, Montana State will mimic the zone-heavy defensive scheme that helped Dana Haltman’s Oregon team to the Final Four in 2017. A former assistant coach under Altman, Fish spent four years on his staff before heading to Bozeman, Montana.

It’s no secret IU has struggled in recent years against the zone. Furthermore, with a lack of knockdown shooters on this year’s roster, the Hoosiers may see the Bobcats stick around longer than expected.

What to expect from Friday's game

IU is going to win this game. The Hoosiers are too long, athletic and talented to drop a contest against a team outside the RPI top 275.

Montana State is undoubtedly better equipped to stay competitive with IU than Chicago State was. The Bobcats' zone-centric defensive scheme could also give the Hoosiers some initial fits. Yet the talent gap remains light-years apart and should ease IU through this one.

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