Indiana Basketball: 5 Burning Questions for Hoosiers' Offseason
A team lauded for its transition game in 2012-13 faces a major one heading into the 2013-14 campaign.
Four talented starters departed the Indiana basketball program after its Sweet 16 loss, leaving behind more urgent questions than proven answers.
Tom Crean is now in a position to reload rather than rebuild, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have his work cut out for him. A handful of role players must become leaders and a group of talented newcomers must be integrated quickly.
What follows is a sampling of the issues facing Crean and the Hoosiers during this pivotal offseason.
Evan Gordon's Impact?
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The commitment of Arizona State transfer Evan Gordon to follow in big brother Eric's Hoosier footsteps is an important decision, but one that is easy to overrate.
Gordon will play an important role as a ball-handler who can give Yogi Ferrell the occasional rest. He's reputed to be a talented perimeter defender and can also drain shots from the outside (34 percent last season in Tempe).
He's also only 6'1". Gordon's not the next Victor Oladipo and doesn't even measure up physically to outgoing transfer Remy Abell.
Perhaps Gordon can serve as a more athletic, if not quite as efficient, Jordan Hulls. Starting him next to Ferrell rather than throwing freshmen Troy Williams or Stanford Robinson into the lineup returns the Hoosiers to last season's dilemma, where opponents with long, athletic guards created defensive mismatches.
His greatest value, however, may simply be as another voice to teach the freshmen how to manage the rigors of college basketball. As a graduate student, Gordon is well-versed in the college athlete's eternal balancing act. Even if he doesn't equal last season's 10.1 points per game, his leadership will be key in making sure players like Williams, Robinson and 5-star Noah Vonleh understand how to peak at the right time.
Yogi Ferrell's Ceiling?
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A brief comparison of some recent Big Ten point guards and their offensive ratings as freshmen, per StatSheet.com:
Trey Burke 105.6
Yogi Ferrell 105.4
Kalin Lucas 104.4
Lewis Jackson 92.3
Tim Frazier 89.8
Darius Morris 89.1
Of that group, Ferrell was the only one to start all of his team's games as a freshman.
Is this meant to suggest that Ferrell should be expected to win national Player of the Year honors next season? Absolutely not. However, the name that could soon go hand in hand with Ferrell's is that of Kalin Lucas.
A side-by-side comparison of Lucas's freshman season with Ferrell's yields some interesting similarities. Lucas was more of a shoot-first guard, attempting almost 100 more shots in 100 fewer minutes, but the two players boasted very similar effective field goal and true shooting percentages.
Their assist/turnover ratios were almost identical, although Lucas's assist and turnover percentages were both stronger than Ferrell's.
If IU's offense remains heavily dependent on the transition game, Ferrell's numbers may not jump to quite the level that Lucas's did as a sophomore (14.7 points and 4.6 assists per game). Still, it should be expected that Ferrell will see more scoring opportunities and gain more playmaking responsibility in the half court. All of that adds up to a likely All-Big Ten season for the Hoosier point guard.
Will Sheehey's Leadership?
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Will Sheehey was set to be the roster's only senior until Evan Gordon agreed to come to Bloomington. Even so, Gordon isn't versed in the way Tom Crean runs his program. Sheehey is.
As a player who was nobody's idea of a blue-chip prospect in high school, Sheehey has had to fight his way into a starter's role. When this season's touted freshmen arrive, they'll have to outduel him on the practice court, the first step in toughening them up for the grueling Big Ten schedule.
When those tight, emotional games start, Sheehey will need to do a better job of keeping his composure than he has done in the past. A reserve getting ejected with a game in hand is one thing, but a senior starter drawing technicals is another matter altogether.
Crean has undoubtedly reminded Sheehey of the responsibility he will now shoulder. If Sheehey contains and channels his admirable passion for the game, managing to instill it into his new teammates, he can play a major role in the Hoosiers once again ranking with college basketball's elite.
Who's Making Shots?
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Jeremy Hollowell is on this slide for one reason and one reason only: pictures of Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey have already been used. The three of them are the only players on next season's roster who have made more than three three-point shots in an Indiana uniform.
Sheer volume of shots is not the point of the IU offense. After all, a team featuring shooters like Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford only ranked seventh in the Big Ten in three-point attempts. The team did, however, rank second nationally in free-throw attempts.
To utilize that offense to its utmost, multiple options must be available to spread the floor and open driving lanes for athletes like Troy Williams, Stan Robinson, Ferrell and Sheehey.
Evan Gordon, who took 61 percent of his shots from long range last season according to Hoop-Math.com, will certainly help fill the niche. One or more of the freshmen will likely lock themselves in the gym and hoist jumpers all summer, hoping to get their own minutes in this role.
Are Perea and Jurkin in the Gym?
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Speaking of people locking themselves in the gym, IU big men Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin need to be the first ones in and the last ones out every day.
The time for blaming the NCAA suspension for arresting their development is over. Minutes are available on a team that lacks plentiful post options, and the sophomores can determine the course of their respective careers by how they spend this offseason.
Jurkin's nagging foot injury lingered most of the season, and his health needs to improve before great things can be expected. The seven-footer's sheer size is something that the Hoosiers don't have a lot of otherwise.
Perea, however, had no injury battles to fight and has all the necessary tools to be a productive college player. Inside the Hall reported that Perea has been impressive in spring workouts, but how much of that includes actual ball drills? Perea is a workout warrior to be sure, but it was technical flaws that cost him last season.
Both sophomore bigs may have the ability to produce, but they need to make the most of this time when the coaching staff isn't around. The Hoosiers will struggle with some of the Big Ten's talented big men if Perea and Jurkin aren't ready to do serious work come October.