Indiana Basketball: Final Regular-Season Grades for Hoosiers
The Indiana Hoosiers are exultant in this picture, but by the end of this article, the mood might be slightly more subdued.
After all, it's that time that many college students dread: report card day.
With the regular season now behind us, it's time to examine which Hoosiers met preseason expectations and who fell short. Those expectations will be the basis of our grading scale, from "A" players who vastly exceeded their expected impact to "F" players who did little of any note.
Grading will be conducted for those players who played in either 16 of the Hoosiers' 31 games or a total of 90 minutes on the season. The rest will be given "Incomplete" grades on the opening slide.
The only picture of Etherington from this season was of him writhing in pain after injuring his knee against Central Connecticut State. So, we had to go back to December 2011 to see him in action.
Etherington was the kind of guy Tom Crean scheduled a weak non-league slate for. He produced 11 points in 24 minutes against Sam Houston State and Ball State, but between those two games, the sophomore racked a pair of Did Not Plays at the Legends Classic in Brooklyn. It's not likely he would have been seen much time in Big Ten play, if at all.
Four points in two minutes against Coppin State was the highlight of the junior walk-on's career, as they came on his first two made field goals in an IU uniform.
Already considered a project, Jurkin's momentum was completely destroyed by an NCAA suspension that cost him and Hanner Mosquera-Perea their first nine games.
Jurkin never rejoined the rotation, and coach Tom Crean may not have much hope for him going forward. Otherwise, it's likely Crean would not have burned a potential redshirt year to give Jurkin seven minutes in three games.
Even against the non-league cupcakes, the sophomore walk-on never saw more than three minutes in a game. Two points against Florida Atlantic and a pair of rebounds against North Dakota State qualify as highlights.
The final member of the walk-on brigade, Wayer carded 10 minutes, one offensive rebound and seven trillions (a number in the minutes column, followed by a long string of zeroes). He didn't even see time in the thrashing of Purdue at Mackey Arena, a game in which everyone short of Kyle Taber saw some time.
Hanner Mosquera-Perea's athleticism vastly outstrips his skill, and that discrepancy was on display every time he stepped on the court.
Perea contributed the occasional offensive rebound, tearing down seven in Big Ten play, representing 13.4 percent of his available chances. When asked to do much of anything else, though, he struggled.
Making only 4-of-11 from the floor and 6-of-15 from the line, his scoring will need work. Defensively, he committed more than nine fouls per 40 minutes.
A full offseason and nonconference schedule next year should help immensely. Between an early foot injury and the NCAA smacking Perea with its ban hammer, however, this year has been mostly a wash.
Derek Elston's primary role early in the season was as mentor and inspirational leader, as this story from Inside the Hall highlights. A torn meniscus sidelined him for much of the non-league slate, then he struggled to find minutes early in the Big Ten schedule.
In mid-February, though, he began to earn time as a primary frontcourt reserve. Elston put up 12 points in 26 minutes against Michigan State, Minnesota and Iowa.
Occasionally showing a perimeter stroke, Elston should keep seeing minutes as the primary bench forward through the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. He could make an unexpected impact if the Hoosiers need a lift in a close game.
His season to date, though, has been more of a testament to perseverance than a run of sustained production, so the grade suffers a bit.
Maurice Creek will never again be the guy who dropped 30 on Kentucky as a freshman. Too many injuries have taken their toll, making him an inconsistent scoring option even when he does find minutes.
These days, fans are usually nervous when Creek is in the game, because he's often in the backcourt alongside Remy Abell. The Hoosiers have often ground to a halt without Yogi Ferrell or Victor Oladipo in the lineup, and part of that is due to Creek's appearances being too brief to find a shooting rhythm.
Since Creek's return from his latest injury, he's scored every time he's been granted more than five minutes of playing time. The loss to Ohio State, however, is the only such game in which IU wasn't romping to a blowout victory.
Creek didn't play at all against Michigan, and he may not see much time during tournament games, either. Not enough to find his stroke, anyway.
A top-50 RSCI recruit, Jeremy Hollowell could have had much greater impact at other programs less loaded than Indiana's. What he's done in his limited time, though, especially in Big Ten play, has been occasionally impressive.
Hollowell recorded three games of multiple blocks, including three in the first meeting with Michigan. Five times, he racked up three or more rebounds, proving especially effective on the offensive end (11.1 OR% in Big Ten play).
In the Hoosiers' final two games, he contributed seven points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes. His two baskets in the finale at Michigan were key strikes that helped IU take its first lead of the second half.
While the freshman isn't the guy to bet on for a major shooting spree, his length and athleticism should make him a transition and putback threat in early postseason games. A deep run could harden him to the point of being a major contributor under the brightest lights.
Sophomore Remy Abell was a major contributor in the nonconference schedule, even making a key three-pointer against Georgetown at the Legends Classic. His stellar shooting had him positioned as an early Sixth Man of the Year candidate, but Big Ten play still awaited.
A four-game stretch without a field goal early in the Big Ten schedule signaled that Abell wasn't quite ready to be a major contributor in his own right. However, he's served as a capable enough defensive player that he can give rest to any of the Hoosiers' three starting guards.
In the preseason, if told that Abell would be an occasionally worthwhile defensive player and little else, IU fans may have been fine with that. The early hot start, however, may have spoiled the most eager observers and driven them to expect that kind of production all year.
Abell is a player that allows shooting woes to affect the rest of his play and, like Maurice Creek, he needs a few minutes at a stretch to get into a groove. He's not likely to see those minutes in tournament action.
The story of the Indiana bench has, by and large, been the story of Will Sheehey this season. While players like Hollowell, Abell and Perea struggled to find their roles, Sheehey has performed well in any requested role.
Defend three positions? Sure.
Stroke threes? Why not?
Scrap for rebounds, steals and other assorted loose balls? No problem.
Sheehey's shot has drifted in and out at times, but his effort has never flagged. A fierce competitor, the junior is the kind of player who will make his opponent play the game of his life if he seeks to get over.
The main thing that suffered for Sheehey this season was focus. He occasionally let his fire rage out of control, most notably in racking up an unnecessary technical foul that loomed large at the end of IU's loss at Illinois.
Officials will file away incidents of that nature for future reference. Since the Illinois game, Sheehey has been whistled for 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes, up from his season average of 4.0.
As long as he's not trying too hard to be the antagonist, Sheehey is an essential piece of the Hoosiers' championship aspirations. Don't be surprised to see him rack up a couple of double-digit games in the NCAA tournament.
Through the first 14 games of Indiana's Big Ten schedule, Christian Watford was perhaps the most dependable Hoosier. Each of those games ended with him scoring in double figures, he amassed a pair of double-doubles and his 20-point night against Ohio State was a promising sign, being his first such game against an opponent with a pulse.
Late in the season, though, the senior has struggled to find any consistent groove. Only a pair of threes in the final minute at Minnesota kept him from a miserable two-point night. He ripped six rebounds at Michigan, his most since a double-double against Nebraska before Valentine's Day, but only made one shot all afternoon.
Watford's been a solid complementary piece since Cody Zeller's arrival, and the blossoming of Victor Oladipo has pushed him even further from the primary role he filled as a sophomore. When he's at his best, however, is when Indiana looks most like a national champion.
Watford averaged approximately 15 points and nine rebounds over a four-game span in early February. That Watford is the guy that needs to be located before the Hoosiers start playing win-or-go-home games.
There was more pressure on Yogi Ferrell than any other member of Indiana's touted freshman class, since IU's primary weakness was the lack of a dynamic point guard. Ferrell has endured his growing pains, but he's largely filled the role well.
Starting from day one, Ferrell has had his shaky days (six turnovers against Butler) and his spectacular ones (19 points and five assists against Iowa). While turnovers are a bugaboo he must still guard against, his Big Ten turnover percentage has dropped slightly from the nonconference schedule, falling to 23 percent compared to his season average of 23.5.
A great four-game stretch in late January in which he averaged nearly 13 points on 61 percent shooting offered a tantalizing glimpse of Yogi's scoring potential. However, for the most part, Indiana has struggled when Ferrell has looked too hard for his shot.
Three times this season, Yogi has attempted 10 or more shots. All three games have ended in losses, and Ferrell has shot a combined 30 percent. Ferrell could become a solid scorer in time, but for now, he may be better off just steering the ship and letting others scorch the nets.
Anyone who says they expected Victor Oladipo to crack the national player of the year discussion before the season is either a liar or has a copy of Gray's Sports Almanac handy. Highlights like the ones pictured here have become almost routine for the Maryland native.
Oladipo's meteoric rise has him drawing comparisons to former Tom Crean pupil Dwyane Wade, from no less an authority than the coach himself, as reported by the New York Times. His draft stock has risen from mid-second round to the top 10, according to NBADraft.net.
A 13.7-PPG scoring average doesn't leap out at you, and that's about the only thing about Oladipo that doesn't, including the man himself. When he's not scoring, though, he fills the rest of the columns faster than a bad Tetris player.
He's ripped six or more rebounds 20 times, had 15 games of three or more steals and blocked multiple shots six times.
In one of those statistics that makes sense when you think about it for a moment, Oladipo has only gone without a steal four times in Big Ten play. One was the Purdue game in which he missed the second half with a knee injury, but the other three were the losses to Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio State.
For a Hoosier team that thrives on turnovers and the resulting runouts, that number underscores Oladipo's importance to IU's near future as well as any. If Oladipo's causing havoc, the Hoosiers will be hard to beat.
Senior sharpshooter Jordan Hulls has benefited from the rapid growth of those around him. If Yogi Ferrell hadn't adapted to the college game as quickly as he has or Victor Oladipo hadn't established himself as one of the nation's top all-around threats, Hulls might be an easier player to neutralize today.
The potential existed for Hulls to be forced into playing the point. Without the full burden of running the offense, though, the shooter is allowed to roam and look for his shot, and he's produced in the biggest games.
Against the other four contenders for the Big Ten title (Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State), Hulls' scoring was down slightly at 8.4 points per game, compared to his 10.6 average. He's made his shots, though, knocking down 44.4 percent from three in those seven games.
The team scores 1.32 points per possession that Hulls uses, making him one of the most efficient offensive players in the nation. While he's a shooter first, second and third, he's a capable enough ball-handler to take some of the load off of Ferrell when needed. Hulls records 2.4 assists for each turnover, a ratio slightly better than Ferrell's.
If a knock can be made on Hulls this season, it's that the 90-percent foul shooter of the past two seasons has been replaced by a 76 percent shooter this year. He has, however, not missed a free throw since January 27, a span of a mere 11 free throws.
Despite the media spotlight shifting to Victor Oladipo, it should not be forgotten that Cody Zeller finished third in the Big Ten in scoring, second in rebounding and second in field-goal percentage. If a player with that resume can be knocked, it's only in relation to the sky-high preseason expectations that had him as nearly everyone's national player of the year.
Zeller's efficiency numbers took a dip from his superb freshman season, thanks to the bull's-eye that the preseason hype placed on him. He's struggled against teams who push him around, with the loss at Minnesota being a prime example.
Still, the moments where the IU offense is most effective is when it runs through Zeller. When he gets the ball inside, it's a fairly rare moment when he doesn't either get a score or a foul. He makes 67 percent of his shots at the rim and attempts 7.2 free throws for every 10 field-goal tries.
For every game where Zeller vanishes on the boards (see last week vs. Ohio State), there's two games where he cranks out a double-double (see the two games surrounding that one, Iowa and Michigan).
His grade here partially reflects the unreasonable preseason expectations, but mostly tips a hat to his strong finish, all the way down to dropping in the last six points of the title clincher over Michigan.
For more from Scott on college basketball, including this week's players to watch at every conference tournament, check out The Back Iron.