There’s TJ Leaf, the imposing freshman forward who is second on the team in scoring. The coach’s son, Bryce Alford, has made more three-pointers than any power conference player in the country. Isaac Hamilton, Thomas Welsh, and Aaron Holiday are all averaging double figures as well.
Holiday is scoring at a clip of 13 points per game and plays starter minutes for Alford, but the point guard has come off the bench in all 31 games this season. He started every single game in his first season.
“I just have to come in with an aggressive mindset,” says Holiday. “Coming off the bench cold, you can’t be passive. So being aggressive gets me going and helps everyone in the long run.”
One more bench player, freshman Ike Anigbogu (a raw but talented big), rounds out a seven-deep rotation for the Bruins that few teams across the country can match.
“It’s a fun group to coach and a fun group to be around,” Alford said after the win in Tempe. “I think we are really starting to grow and hit our stride. We’re playing good basketball right now so hopefully we can continue that.”
Curiously, thanks to Thursday’s other results, Illinois’s profile took a double hit as their sweep of Northwestern lost some value. The Wildcats fell out of the Top 50 with their win over Rutgers! That result dropped the Illini’s Top 50 record from 5-9 to 3-9.
All in all, the future is brighter for Indiana, mostly because they’re still playing. With a win over Wisconsin in Friday’s quarterfinals, look for the Hoosiers to at least jump into this group. But looking at the past, Illinois has a slight edge this morning.