After Indiana's 2012 recruiting class had the luxury of easing in as supporting pieces, the 2013 crew may largely get thrown to the Big Ten's wolves immediately.
Headlined by McDonald's All-American Noah Vonleh (pictured), the new baby Hoosiers will certainly find minutes there for the taking. Projecting what these players, like any freshmen, will do with those minutes is a highly inexact science.
Still, that never stops us from trying, does it? Read on for a few theories about how the newest Hoosiers will spend their debut seasons.
Yes, we're all familiar with Vonleh. Here, I laid out some expectations for his debut, and it's not hyperbole to say that he'll be the straw that stirs the crimson Kool-Aid next season. A first-team All-Freshman performance may be the minimum expectation for him.
Don't be surprised, however, if 6'6" swingman Troy Williams joins Vonleh on those All-Freshman rolls. His length, combined with Yogi Ferrell's waterbug quickness, will make IU's backcourt a dangerous one defensively. Williams will get caught gambling a few times until he learns when he can and can't take those chances, but the payoff should be a handful of Oladipo-esque highlights.
Offensively, Williams has underrated range out to 22 feet, but will need to gain consistency with that shot. If he can shoot around 35 percent from long range, he could produce a sneaky 12-14 points per game, and that should be quite enough to make him an all-rookie performer.
One-trick shooters can find minutes on next season's Hoosier roster, but expect Crean to give the first opportunity to junior forward Austin Etherington. If Etherington stays healthy, freshman Collin Hartman will be out in the cold.
At 6'6" and 200 pounds, Hartman was a solid high school rebounder, but he'll be pushed around mercilessly if asked to crash glass against Big Ten post players. He'll need time to either work on perimeter skills or bulk up to handle the dirty work.
Look for Hartman to play the Matt Roth sniper role eventually, but right now, there are more complete players in front of him on the roster. The similarly built—but more athletic—Devin Davis will see minutes on the interior, since there are fewer options there.
Early in the season, Crean will need to try a lot of different combinations. The nonconference schedule is still up in the air, aside from dates with Notre Dame, Syracuse, Evansville and a trip to Madison Square Garden for the 2K Sports Classic.
With the roster as fluid as it is, don't expect the Hoosiers to load up on big games. The youngsters will get the chance to take their shots against opponents of similar stature to last season's dates with Florida Atlantic or Jacksonville.
Post options are currently lacking, and Crean may be forced to use three-guard lineups featuring Vonleh and Will Sheehey up front. Ferrell, Williams and Stanford Robinson may be the most effective trio on both ends of the court. The 6'1" Gordon could be exploited on defense in a manner similar to what Jordan Hulls experienced last season, so the 6'4" Robinson's size will come in handy.
If anyone goes down with an injury, Robinson could also be the beneficiary. It should not surprise anyone to see Robinson penciled into the starting lineup 10 or more times next season.
When playing in those nonconference games, especially when the schedule features some cupcakes and other pastries, some surprising players will rack major numbers.
Hanner Mosquera-Perea tore down 10 rebounds against Florida Atlantic. Jeremy Hollowell carded a combined 26 points against Bryant and North Dakota State.
Perea, of course, disappeared from the rotation early in the Big Ten slate. Hollowell appeared in all the conference games, but his minutes varied wildly.
In 2013-14, expect to see 6'6", 200-pound forward Devin Davis to play some productive minutes early. With the Hoosiers lacking brutes on the glass, Davis' athleticism will play well against low-major opposition.
He's unlikely to see minutes against Syracuse, Notre Dame or any Big Ten opponent, but if Crean schedules some MEAC or SWAC opposition, look for some crooked numbers on the Warren Central product's scoreline.
As mentioned before, IU's nonconference season will be a time for experimentation. At some points, Noah Vonleh will work alone on the interior, but will a three-guard lineup be the most efficient?
By the time Big Ten play starts, expect the athletic and skilled Luke Fischer to see more minutes than the merely athletic Hanner Mosquera-Perea. Crean should eventually decide to roll Fischer out next to Vonleh, allowing the McDonald's All-American to operate facing the basket.
IU's tempo will fit Fischer's speed and soft high-post jump shot, occasionally allowing him to conjure memories of Cody Zeller. He'll struggle early on to hold low-post transition even more than Zeller did, but Fischer's skill level should help him make enough plays to become a reliable starter.
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