Observations: Yogi Ferrell big part of Indiana’s fast start in Big Ten

Yogi Ferrell is quietly playing the best all-around basketball of his career.

Indiana’s 5-0 start in Big Ten play has been spearheaded by its renewed commitment to defense, but there’s no way that the Hoosiers would be undefeated in league play right now if Ferrell wasn’t affecting the game in the amount of ways that he is.

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The senior point guard is averaging career-highs in rebounds (4.5), assists (5.9), steals (1.3), field-goal percentage (47.4) and 3-point field-goal percentage while averaging 17.1 points.

Tom Crean personally challenged every player in Indiana’s program last summer to become better leaders and Ferrell’s ability to lead by example has been evident by his willingness to touch all areas of the box score.

The 6-foot-1 point guard had 20 points, seven assists, and six rebounds in Saturday’s 70-63 win at Minnesota, but most importantly only committed one turnover in 37 minutes of action.

Often times players who stay in college for four years get overlooked as their careers progress because so many people in college basketball pay attention to newcomers and forget those who grow over the course of time.

That’s exactly what’s happened with Ferrell.

His evolution is a major reason why the Hoosiers have had their best start since the 2012-13 season.

Hilton Magic could be a factor Monday when Iowa State hosts Oklahoma: The Cyclones suffered a setback when they lost at home last Saturday against Baylor and must beat the top-ranked Sooners Monday if they want to keep pace in the Big 12.

Iowa State displayed razor sharp focus in Saturday’s road win at Kansas State and held the Wildcats to 63 points in the victory.

Doing the same thing Monday against Oklahoma may prove to be awfully difficult.

The Sooners are averaging 86.0 points this season and their back court of Jordan Woodard and Buddy Hield is averaging a combined 41.2 points between the two of them.

It’s going to take an extraordinary effort for the Cyclones to win Monday, but we’ve seen in the past that “Hilton Magic” can play a factor when these two teams play.

Iowa State trailed by 20 points in the second half last year when Oklahoma visited Hilton Coliseum, but rallied to win thanks to a furious second-half comeback which saw the Cyclones score 22 straight points during one sequence.

Could history repeat itself Monday in Ames, Iowa?

We’ll find out soon enough.

Villanova has become the Kansas of the Big East: Bill Self’s dominant run of 11 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles has allowed the Jayhawks to reach a different level compared to their league counterparts and the same thing is starting to happen with the Wildcats compared to the rest of the Big East.

Jay Wright’s squad has an overall record of 41-5 against conference opponents since the league formed prior to the 2013-14 season and is beating Big East teams during that run by an average of 15.2 points.

Like Kansas, Villanova has become the flagship program in its own conference and the Wildcats are showing no signs of slowing down.

The Big East’s depth is always improving, but right now Xavier looks like the only legitimate challenger to Villanova’s supremacy in 2016.

The Wildcats beat the Musketeers 95-64 in their first meeting earlier this season and will visit the Cintas Center on Feb. 24.

This Just In

  • Wichita State’s Landry Shamet (stress fracture) will return in early to mid February, Shockers coach Gregg Marshall told CBS Sports.
  • Louisville’s Mangok Mathiang (foot) is hopeful to return to action in the next three-to-four weeks, Cardinals coach Rick Pitino said.

Yogi Ferrell had 20 points in the Hoosiers' 70-63 win vs. Minnesota.  (USATSI)
Yogi Ferrell had 20 points in the Hoosiers’ 70-63 win vs. Minnesota. (USATSI)

This and That

  • Maryland becomes a different team when Rasheed Sulaimon scores the ball at a high level. The Terps are 5-1 this season when the fifth-year transfer scores 15 or more points and their average margin of victory during those games is 21.4 points. Sulaimon had 22 points and was 9-10 from the field in Saturday’s win over Ohio State.
  • Think Korey Billbury was a key pickup for VCU ? The fifth-year transfer from Oral Roberts had 20 points and eight rebounds in Saturday’s overtime win at Richmond and has completely stabilized the Rams’ other wing spot across from Melvin Johnson. Billbury is shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 42.8 percent from 3-point range this season.
  • Mike Brey has now beaten Mike Krzyzewski and Duke in each of the past three seasons following Saturday’s win at Cameron Indoor Stadium. This is the type of win that will get the Irish into the NCAA Tournament in March. Notre Dame is currently 12-5 overall and 3-2 in ACC play.
  • Looking for an under-the-radar transfer? Try Nebraska’s Andrew White. The former Kansas wing had 21 points and 13 rebounds in the Cornhuskers’ win at Illinois on Saturday and is averaging 18.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in six Big Ten games.
  • This might be the week that Shaka Smart officially feels the rigors of the Big 12. Texas plays West Virginia and Kansas on the road back-to-back — yikes! The Longhorns are 11-6 overall and 3-2 in conference play.
  • Quenton DeCosey is officially Temple’s X-Factor. The Owls are 5-1 this season when the 6-5 senior scores 20 or more points. Temple is just 3-6 when he doesn’t. Fran Dunphy’s squad is 9-7 overall.
  • Cincinnati has now lost four games this season by two points and sits at 13-6 overall after Saturday’s double-overtime loss at Temple. The Bearcats continue to have issues closing out games and are literally four possessions away from being a Top-15 team in the country. Mick Cronin’s squad next hosts Memphis on Thursday night at Fifth Third Arena.
  • Are there 10 better coaches in all of college basketball than Wyoming’s Larry Shyatt? The 64-year old coach lost four of his five top scorers from last year’s team that made the NCAA Tournament, but still has already beaten both UNLV and New Mexico this season. It would be really interesting to see this guy with the same caliber of talent as the people he regularly coached against.
  • Evansville looks like Wichita State’s top challenger in the Missouri Valley Conference. Marty Simmons’ squad is 16-3 overall and only lost to the Shockers by three points on Jan. 6 in Wichita. Wichita State visits Evansville on Jan. 31.
  • One important thing to remember about Monmouth? The Hawks’ potential at-large chances only get better as Notre Dame and USC continue to surge in their respective conferences. King Rice’s squad owns wins over the Irish and Trojans as well as both UCLA and Georgetown. Monmouth is 13-4 overall and next hosts Siena today.

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