Indiana Basketball: Predicting the Hoosiers' 2013-14 Rotation
Pictured here: the two most important players on next season's Indiana basketball roster.
Point guard Yogi Ferrell (No. 11) will be entering his sophomore season having never missed a start. Swingman Will Sheehey (No. 0) will have all of 18 career starts under his belt entering his fourth season in Bloomington.
With a substantial talent exodus expected due to graduation and potential NBA defections, the Hoosiers' roster will look markedly different from the group that led the program's resurrection.
How does next season's lineup project as of this moment? Read on and let's discuss.
For better or worse, the Hoosiers are Yogi Ferrell's team next season.
Whether anyone intentionally gave Ferrell the No. 11 jersey to court comparisons to Isiah Thomas, those parallels will follow him throughout his career. Thomas averaged 14.6 points and 5.5 assists on 51 percent shooting during his freshman year, well ahead of Ferrell's 7.6, 4.1 and 40 percent.
Even the legendary curmudgeon Bob Knight allowed Thomas the opportunity to play with a freedom he rarely allowed any other player. Next season, current IU coach Tom Crean may need to open up the offense for Ferrell, as much out of necessity as respect for Yogi's talent.
For Ferrell to improve on his freshman production and keep the Indiana offense among one of the nation's most efficient, he'll need to attack the rim more frequently and improve his strength to be able to finish.
About 34 percent of Ferrell's shots came at the basket, and he made slightly less than 58 percent of those tries. Even the willowy Jordan Hulls made 60 percent at the rim, albeit in a miniscule sample size. (Numbers via Hoop-Math.com)
Ferrell can also increase the production of his teammates by drawing the defense in on himself. Equaling his 25.6 assist percentage from his freshman year while using more possessions overall would have him easily leading the Big Ten in assists per game.
Backup Remy Abell is also expected to return. The 6'4" Louisville native offers a better defensive presence than the 6'0", 180-pound Ferrell. That's his stock in trade, and it's helpful considering that he hoists a jump shot that looks like basketball's equivalent to Charles Barkley's golf swing.
Recruit Troy Williams, pictured here, has drawn favorable comparisons to the likely departed Victor Oladipo. Both are killers in transition, with the ability to start a fast break with a well-timed steal.
Williams enters college with a slightly stronger offensive game than Oladipo did, but he's not up to the All-American's standards as an on-ball defender.
If somehow Oladipo does return for his senior season, Williams would seem to suffer from the loss of playing time but would actually benefit immeasurably. A freshman year spent facing Oladipo in practice would set Williams up well to excel as a sophomore.
If Oladipo leaves as expected, Williams is still the newcomer most equipped to start in Tom Crean's backcourt.
Williams' classmate Stanford Robinson would serve as a superb caddy, being a strong defender and solid shooter. Remy Abell could also play at the 2, serving as a designated stopper if an opposing 2-guard gets hot.
Behind the freshmen lurks a potential scholarship controversy, as the Hoosiers are currently over-signed by one even if both Cody Zeller and Oladipo leave for the draft.
Senior-to-be Maurice Creek could take his final year of eligibility and transfer elsewhere in search of more consistent playing time than the mop-up minutes he received this season. Of course, no matter where Creek goes, any minutes would be contingent on his staying healthy. That has been Creek's greatest difficulty throughout his college career.
Small Forward/3rd Guard
Expect Will Sheehey to assert himself as one of the Hoosiers' primary scorers next season. He's able to put up points from nearly anywhere on the court, combining 35 percent career shooting from deep and a 70-percent mark at the rim this season, according to Hoop-Math.com.
As a senior and a starter, Sheehey may be asked to moderate the edge that characterizes his game and occasionally comes back to bite him. A technical foul late in the first half of February's loss to Illinois seemed trivial at the time, but the free throws and extra possession would loom large when the Illini rallied to win.
Officials will be much more able to make note of Sheehey's antics and take him to task when he's playing 30-plus minutes than when he's on for 20.
The Hoosiers are likely to employ a small lineup, especially if Zeller leaves, due to a lack of capable size. The 6'7" Sheehey is capable of swinging between frontcourt and back, as are freshmen like Williams and Robinson. Overall, what the Hoosiers will likely lack in size, they will make up in versatility and athleticism.
If freshman Collin Hartman finds minutes, rather than getting shipped off to prep school as I anticipated back in February, this will be where they come. Lacking a guard's quickness and a forward's size, Hartman could find playing time hard to come by, especially once Big Ten games begin.
Jeremy Hollowell's development now needs to accelerate rapidly. After a freshman season spent backing up Christian Watford, Hollowell stands to gain more playing time than any other returnee. His 9.7 minutes per game could easily triple if he's able to show consistent production.
Prior to the February 2 win over Michigan, all of Hollowell's significant minutes had come in blowouts. He's flashed an ability to hit the offensive glass and block some shots on the defensive end. The 6'8" freshman recorded a 3.8 block percentage, which fell just shy of Cody Zeller's 4.3.
If Hollowell shrinks from the limelight, it will mean the Hoosier lineup gets even smaller and younger. Greater playing time would be needed from freshmen Noah Vonleh and Luke Fischer, as well as Hollowell's underachieving classmate Hanner Mosquera-Perea.
Another freshman, Devin Davis, is a good athlete with the ability to hit the glass, but his 6'6", 200-pound frame will be a detriment in college. Like several fellow recruits, he'll need weight-room time in the present to find success in the future.
There's no true center on next season's IU roster, whether Cody Zeller returns or not. Zeller's issues this season left him with major questions relating to his ability to handle stronger or longer big men in college, let alone the NBA.
Still, the Hoosiers will be overjoyed if Zeller foregoes the draft for one more season, since there is painfully little interior depth on next season's roster if he goes.
Recruit Noah Vonleh, pictured here, should be expected to take over a starting frontcourt position, but he's not an interior banger by trade. At a still-growing 6'8" and 220 pounds, Vonleh may have the best frame on the team. But the low post will not be where he excels in college, at least not immediately.
He's an instinctive and athletic rebounder who can demolish a defense with his handle and passing ability from the high post. Over a year or two, he could gain the required strength to bang with the horses inside, but the same was said of Zeller.
Fellow recruit Luke Fischer actually recalls Zeller quite closely in athletic ability, quickness and high-post productivity, but he's even skinnier than Zeller at 6'9" and 210 pounds. He would be best served backing up Vonleh and living in the weight room.
Rising sophomores Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin achieved little in their debut seasons, and Jurkin is considered a potential scholarship casualty. Perea will need a great deal of technical improvement to go with his boundless athleticism if he's to be a productive Big Ten player.
The possibility exists that Perea will start, as he's probably IU's strongest low-post player. He'll need endless reps and drills in the gym over the summer for that to prove the wise course.
The same is true for Jurkin, who has seen foot injuries eat up two of his last three seasons. Staying healthy enough to get into practice is his first priority. Even if that happens, his ceiling appears to be as a designated shot-blocker and rim protector.
The Depth Chart
Tom Crean has recruited a cast of wildly talented characters. However, if he can't convince Zeller and/or Oladipo to stay in school, he'll have a puzzle on his hands worthy of Erno Rubik.
We tried this once before, but let's examine the depth chart again and see what Crean will be working with come October:
There are 13 names on this depth chart and 13 scholarships available.
Therefore, the paradigm shifts a bit, to Austin Etherington leaving, Maurice Creek staying and Collin Hartman arriving. Realistically, whichever of the two departs isn't likely to matter, as neither will see substantial minutes in an Indiana uniform now that Crean's collection of 4- and 5-star prospects is growing.
Once again, the Hoosiers have an athletic team coming in, one capable of pushing tempo even faster than the 2012-13 crew. Still, the same vulnerability to half-court slugfests (i.e. Big Ten basketball) will linger.
Adjust expectations accordingly.
Just in time for the Final Four, check out last season's ranking of a half-century's worth of NCAA championship games.