Indiana Basketball: Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Hoosiers in 2014
Heading into the 2012-13 college basketball season, Indiana boasted a roster full of proven veteran players, many of whom had shown themselves capable of producing at an All-Big Ten level.
As we look down the road at the 2013-14 campaign? Not so much.
Only three Hoosiers have been starters at the Division I college level, and only two of those did so in the Big Ten. The other, Arizona State transfer Evan Gordon, spent his first two years at Liberty before one season in the struggling Pac-12.
As a result, IU fans have a difficult time determining what to expect from the bulk of this season's roster.
What are the floors and ceilings of Indiana's projected contributors? Read on.
Players are presented in alphabetical order. Collin Hartman, Peter Jurkin and non-scholarship players are unlisted.
Expect the 6'6", 200-pound Devin Davis to start quickly. His motor is one of the strengths most commonly lauded by scouts, including in this ESPN Insider profile.
With IU not expecting to have a major non-conference opponent outside of its trips to the 2K Sports Classic, the annual Crossroads Classic and the rematch with Syracuse at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the schedule will look similar to last season's.
Lots of minor-conference foes will be expected to travel to Assembly Hall and collect a paycheck to be blown off Branch McCracken Court.
Jeremy Hollowell had a pair of double-digit scoring games against such opponents, and Davis could easily do the same when seeing minutes in early garbage time.
If early performances carry him to a level that earns coach Tom Crean's trust in Big Ten play, all the better.
Davis struggles to find a position, getting pushed around by power forwards and being unable to shoot well enough to play the wing.
He'll certainly see minutes in the early going, but if he's playing less than 10 minutes against the Sam Houston States and Jacksonvilles of the world, he certainly won't show up against Michigan or Iowa.
Austin Etherington stays healthy.
At this point, that's a victory. After all, Etherington has survived only 23 games in two seasons.
If the 6'6" junior does stay healthy, he'll see the first opportunity at the Matt Roth designated shooter role off the bench. He may see the second opportunity, too, since there aren't a ton of other visible candidates aside from Evan Gordon, who may crack the starting lineup.
Etherington's getting stretchered off the court again, and one more injury may seal his fate as a Hoosier. Even if he can come back, Crean is likely to hand his scholarship to a 4-star prospect who can make it to Christmas without crutches.
If Yogi Ferrell finds openings to shoot from range and drive the lane, he's capable of being the best all-around point guard in the Big Ten.
The NCAA tournament game against James Madison showed that Ferrell could score in spurts when opponents keyed in on his teammates.
However, there are two problems with expecting so much this season: There aren't a ton of Hoosiers for whom defenses will ignore Ferrell in 2013-14, and that game was against James Madison. He didn't score at all in 54 minutes against Temple and Syracuse.
Even if his shooting numbers don't improve a lot, Ferrell could still lead the league in assists with the kind of athletes who'll surround him in the next year or two.
Ferrell's shooting figures look even worse than last season, since defenses are ready to make him a primary focus.
His PPG will still improve, since he'll take more attempts, but many of them may be rather ugly. At some point, Ferrell will simply throw himself into contact, seeking to go to the line. Another 80 percent season from the stripe would actually make that a worthwhile strategy.
If Ferrell doesn't make at least honorable mention All-Big Ten, that could safely be considered a worst-case season.
Often compared to Cody Zeller, Luke Fischer steps in and conjures memories of the Big Handsome with his pace and athletic ability. It's unlikely that he'll be able to contend with Big Ten centers on the glass, but if he can keep rebounds alive and tip them out to his forwards or guards, he'll offer great value in starting the break.
His hands are a strength as well, and he'll be a frequent target for drop-off passes when Yogi Ferrell penetrates and forces defenses to rotate. In addition, he should pull opposing bigs out of the lane if he can efficiently sink his 15-foot jumper.
It's possible that Fischer ends the season as a Big Ten All-Freshman team member.
Fischer's AAU coach touted his lower-body strength as a major plus, but are his legs strong enough to keep him from getting pushed around in the Big Ten?
If not, opponents may feast on the offensive glass, earning numerous extra possessions and baskets. IU finished ninth in the Big Ten last season in defensive rebounding percentage, and that was with Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford doing yeoman work on the glass.
As a baseline, Fischer's scoring numbers should look slightly better than the 6.2 PPG that Mitch McGary brought into the NCAA tournament. His rebounding average resembling McGary's 5.5, however, would be a minor surprise.
Evan Gordon rains shots down in a similar manner to fellow ex-Liberty Flame Seth Curry.
A 44 percent shooting effort from three-point range, however unlikely from a player whose career rate is 10 points lower, would qualify as a rousing success in Gordon's final season.
If Gordon shoots anywhere near that well, he'll be hard to keep off the court.
Between shooting opportunities in the flow of the offense and the occasional steal-and-break layup, Gordon could average around 12 points per game, similar to his figures at Liberty.
Gordon's shooting numbers look more similar to backcourt mate Yogi Ferrell's rookie effort. If the percentages are that dire, it will equal a lot of lost possessions for the Hoosiers, since Gordon's never been shy about hoisting threes (5.1 career attempts per game).
Even if Gordon's shooting is decent, his defense will need to be something more. At 6'1", he will be dwarfed by some Big Ten shooting guards when he plays alongside Ferrell. While Gordon is considered a strong perimeter defender, that size deficiency will be an issue against big and skilled backcourts like Michigan's and Ohio State's.
Jeremy Hollowell not only fights his way into the starting lineup, he establishes himself as a reliable presence from 15 feet and in.
In his limited minutes as a freshman, Hollowell recorded a block percentage just slightly short of Cody Zeller's and a respectable 10 percent offensive rebounding rate, according to StatSheet.com. He shot better than 50 percent on his two-point attempts and made better than 60 percent at the rim.
His length will be needed up front, and greater minutes could allow him to rank among the Big Ten's top shot-blockers.
Hollowell wants to replace Christian Watford as one of the Hoosiers' primary three-point threats and has no more success than he did last season.
Among IU players who played more than eight minutes per game last season, only Jordan Hulls and Watford took a greater percentage of their shots from three-point range than Hollowell, according to Hoop-Math.com.
If that jumper does not improve, Hollowell will need to fight the urge to rely on it. Otherwise, Crean will elevate Troy Williams or Stanford Robinson to the starting lineup and not look back.
Hanner Mosquera-Perea beats out Luke Fischer for a starting frontcourt position. At the moment, that would be considered a major upset, since Perea played a whopping total of 28 minutes in the months of February and March.
If he's going to maintain steady minutes, Perea should be expected to stand either first or second on the team in rebounding, getting the bulk of his points on putbacks.
His rebounding percentages, 15.7 offensive and 13.8 defensive per StatSheet.com, were outstanding, yet deceptive, since most of his productive minutes came in garbage time against overmatched, non-conference cupcakes.
By way of example, 10 of his 29 rebounds came in one game, an easy win over Florida Atlantic.
A summer of heavy gym work amounts to minimal improvement, and Perea is left as a backup making brief, uninspiring cameos.
He'll be guaranteed to see some minutes, since he, Fischer and Noah Vonleh may be the only men on the roster remotely equipped to be Big Ten post players. Still, another season in which Perea looks baffled by college basketball may inspire Crean to redouble his recruiting efforts to attract a more skilled big man.
Stanford Robinson cracks the starting lineup and plays the role of a poor man's Victor Oladipo.
The 6'4", 185-pound guard is an active defender with boundless energy, similar to Oladipo. He is, however, a more accomplished offensive player as he enters college than Oladipo was.
A summer of putting up shots in Cook Hall may extend his jumper to three-point range, and if he's comfortable in taking his chances where he finds them, Robinson could be a surprising double-figure scorer.
His size also makes him a more attractive starting candidate than the smaller Evan Gordon.
Robinson struggles to grasp when he needs to be aggressive offensively and sees minimal minutes as a backup to Yogi Ferrell.
At Findlay Prep in Nevada, Robinson was a shooting guard in name only, as point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, now a Washington recruit, vultured many of the shots. By season's end, Robinson was actually handling the point in some scrimmages, trying to adapt to that position at Tom Crean's request.
Robinson is a calm, almost passive, player who will not force bad shots, and there's something to be said for that. Most players, however, will come across opportunities to take a game over, and Robinson will be no exception. His ability to rise to those occasions will determine how strong his IU career—and his hopes at the next level—will ultimately be.
Will Sheehey establishes himself as a versatile offensive threat, capable of scoring inside and out, and leads the Hoosiers in points.
As a junior, Sheehey produced an effective field-goal percentage of 54.0, according to StatSheet.com. That figure was just two points shy of Cody Zeller's eFG% and better than Christian Watford's.
Hoop-Math.com shows Sheehey as a 70 percent shooter at the rim, a figure that no Hoosier equaled except Victor Oladipo. As YouTube will readily show, Oladipo's figure was buffed up by a host of run-out dunks. Sheehey had a few of his own, to be sure, but not nearly the And1 mixtape that Oladipo produced as a junior.
If Sheehey can maintain something close to last season's efficiency, or even improve on it, 15 PPG and an All-Big Ten selection are very possible.
Sheehey buckles in the spotlight of constant defensive pressure and struggles with his shot selection.
His sophomore season was actually more efficient than his junior year, and last season saw a few bumps in the road. After a perfect night from the field against Purdue, Sheehey followed up by missing 13 of 20 shots over his next four games.
He shot less than 40 percent over the Hoosiers' last four postseason games, including only 2-of-11 from three.
Noah Vonleh stampedes to the Big Ten Freshman of the Year award, attracts some All-Big Ten votes and plays himself into NBA lottery-pick status.
Okay, maybe that last is not so "best case" for Joe IU Fan, but if Vonleh plays to his sizable potential, brace yourselves.
At a still-growing 6'9" and 230 pounds, there's not a Hoosier more physically equipped than Vonleh to play the post next season. His ball-handling skills make him a dangerous face-up weapon, and his high-post jumper will be feared.
Vonleh struggles with physical Big Ten post players and finds himself in frequent foul trouble when he attempts to stand up for himself.
The more Vonleh struggles to stay on the court, the more pressure is laid on the shoulders of the under-fed Luke Fischer and the underskilled Hanner Perea.
Even if foul trouble is part of the game from day one, Vonleh should find himself with enough shots to score 10-plus PPG. That won't carry IU to a strong Big Ten finish, though.
Troy Williams wins a starting role from day one and never relinquishes it through the experimental non-conference season.
The 6'7" Williams starting at shooting guard would give IU an absurdly lengthy lineup outside of Yogi Ferrell.
The concerns of last season, in which Indiana found itself undersized in the backcourt with Ferrell and Jordan Hulls together, would evaporate. It would leave in their place an aggressive defensive crew with the physical gifts to spend another year near the top of the Big Ten in opponent turnovers.
Williams may be the player most equipped to put together an Oladipo-esque highlight reel in 2013-14. If he does, look for him on the Big Ten All-Freshman team.
Williams tries too hard defensively, gambling his way onto the bench when Crean tightens the rotation for conference play.
On a recent Tailgate Tour stop in Jasper, Ind., Crean called Williams "a cross athletically between what Victor (Oladipo) and Will (Sheehey) were." That's high praise, indeed, but the kind that can force a player into too many risks trying to justify the hype.
On the flip side, such hype can sometimes convince a player to coast, and that would be equally dangerous. Oladipo and Sheehey achieved their career accomplishments by being the hardest-working players in the gym, and if Williams isn't prepared to put in a similar effort, similar results may not be forthcoming.
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