Indiana Basketball: The 4 Biggest Concerns for the Hoosiers Entering the Season
Jason Miller/Getty Images
There is a different story from last offseason to this summer for the Indiana Hoosiers. IU lost seven players to the NBA draft, graduation or because of their transfer to another school. The Hoosiers have six incoming freshmen and a senior transfer to fill the void. Indiana has many more concerns for next season than the team did during last offseason.
IU will not enter this season as the No. 1 team in the country as the Hoosiers did last year. Indiana is not expected to have two All-Americans on its 2013-14 roster.
This year's team is much younger than last year with 10 underclassmen on scholarship. IU is very deep at small forward but could potentially lack depth at most other positions.
Here are the four biggest concerns for the Hoosiers entering the 2013-14 season.
4. Three-Point Shooting
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
The Hoosiers were third in the country in three-point field goal percentage last year. As a team, IU made more than 41 percent of its shots behind the arc.
IU lost its top four three-point shooters, by percentage, from last season.
Remy Abell, who transferred to Xavier in the offseason, made 48 percent of his 33 attempts. Christian Watford made the same percentage but took 124 three-point shots last season. Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo were both 44 percent shooters.
Will Sheehey is the best returning player from behind the arc, and he only made 35 percent of his threes. Yogi Ferrell made 30 percent, and Jeremy Hollowell made 23 percent of his three-point attempts, which means that IU has its work cut out to improve on its long-range shooting.
The addition of Evan Gordon, who connected on nearly 35 percent of his threes last season, will give the Hoosiers another three-point threat.
In an interview with Inside the Hall, Stanford Robinson's Findlay Prep coach, Todd Simon, said that the 6'4" guard has improved as a shooter:
He got a lot better here. I think a lot of it for him was defining when and where his shot was and also shoring up his release a little bit. He kind of had a little bit of a drawn out release, but he did a nice job of tightening up his shot pocket. A lot of his balance and those things improved as his core and his strength training kicked in. That certainly made him a more consistent shooter.
Would I put him in a great shooter category? You know, he’s still got work to do. But all of his mechanics are there and he shot a decent percentage for us this year.
Unless Ferrell, Gordon, Sheehey and Hollowell can take the next step forward with their outside shooting, it could be a long season offensively for IU.
Three-point shooting is the lowest of IU's concerns because teams can be successful without relying on outside shooting. Louisville won the national championship last season, and the Cardinals were tied for 219th in the country in three-point shooting percentage.
3. Backcourt Depth
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
If Yogi Ferrell wasn't on the court last season, IU could use Remy Abell, Jordan Hulls or Victor Oladipo to lead the charge on the perimeter and help orchestrate the offense. All three players are no longer playing for the Hoosiers, which means Indiana has to look elsewhere for a depth at the guard position.
If Ferrell and either Arizona State transfer Evan Gordon or incoming freshman Stanford Robinson are in the starting lineup, it remains unknown who will play the two guard positions besides those three players.
Robinson is listed as a small forward by ESPN but a shooting guard by Rivals, which makes him one of the leading candidates for a backup, or even the starting, shooting guard role.
Justin Albers of Inside The Hall wrote about IU's void in its backcourt:
Arizona State transfer Evan Gordon is one option, but Robinson may be an even better one. He’s bigger than Gordon at about 6-foot-4, which would keep Indiana from starting two small guards like it did a season ago, something that could especially help on the defensive end.
Albers wrote more about how the Hoosiers have only one true point guard:
Whether or not Robinson lands the starting job at shooting guard, he will likely spend some time playing point guard in a backup role for Ferrell. Gordon and walk-on Jonny Marlin are other options.
Simon said he and his staff spent a good part of Robinson’s senior season getting him ready to play point guard, per Tom Crean’s request.
Indiana does not want to get to the point where it's relying on walk-ons to add depth at guard, but it looks like the Hoosiers may have to. Another option is to give some of the team's many small forwards—Will Sheehey, Jeremy Hollowell, Austin Etherington, Troy Williams, Collin Hartman and Devin Davis Jr.—opportunities to play the two.
Having small forwards play some at shooting guard would also give the Hoosiers extra height in the backcourt. Part of IU's downfall in its NCAA tournament loss to Syracuse was that the combination of Ferrell and Hulls was too small to be successful against the Orange's long 2-3 zone.
ESPN's Jeff Goodman tweeted in March that IU's small backcourt was "exposed" by Syracuse. Considering that the Hoosiers play Syracuse next season in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, IU will need all of the extra height possible in order to seek revenge.
Tiny Indiana backcourt has really been exposed in this game. Carter-Williams told me yesterday he was excited about going against IU guards.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 29, 2013
IU's backcourt certainly emphasizes quality over quantity but the team's lack of depth at guard could come back to haunt the Hoosiers next season.
Backcourt depth is the third biggest concern for IU because while the team may lack quantity, the Hoosiers don't lack quality. Ferrell and Gordon have both proven they can play at a high level in college. Not knowing who the team's fourth or fifth best guard should not be a major concern at this point when Indiana has potentially two All-Big Ten-caliber players in its backcourt.
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Indiana will be a very young team this season. The Hoosiers only have three upperclassmen and 10 underclassmen on scholarship.
Will Sheehey is the next in line to step up and lead the Hoosiers. He is the only scholarship senior who has spent his entire career at IU, and he is one of IU's two best returning players.
However, Sheehey plays with an "unmistakable edge" that makes him "bullish" and "brazen," according to Zak Keefer in a USA Today Sports article. Keefer pointed out instances such as when Sheehey barked and flexed towards the Purdue student section during an and-one basket.
The 6'7" forward was ejected from a game against Penn State in January of 2012 for his involvement in a scrum at the end of the game.
Those actions were acceptable in the past when Sheehey was the team's sixth man and played the role of high-energy, tough guy off the bench. As a senior and starter, Sheehey will need to set a better example for his younger teammates. He still needs to play with toughness and an edge, but he has to avoid the unnecessary technicals and taunting.
Not that the other three members of the senior class can't be effective leaders, but two are walk-ons (Jeff Howard and Taylor Wayer) and one is in his first year at IU (Evan Gordon).
Yogi Ferrell will also need step up and give the Hoosiers a sense of direction. He ran the offense last season, but he was never "the guy" because he shared the court with Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford. As a sophomore, Ferrell will have to be one of the team's leaders and help the team's seven new players what Indiana basketball is all about.
One positive sign for IU is that the team is developing a sense of group leadership and responsibility.
Indiana's strength coach, Je'Ney Jackson, met with the media this week and said that players had been thrown out of workouts by their teammates for not working hard enough:
Je'Ney Jackson said a few players were thrown out of a workout earlier this summer for not working hard enough … by their teammates. #iubb
— Justin Albers (@Justin_Albers) July 31, 2013
1. Frontcourt Depth/Rebounding
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Indiana was 24th in the country in rebounds per game last season with nearly 39 per contest. However, the Hoosiers lost their three leading rebounders to graduation or the NBA draft. IU only returns 31 percent of its rebounding from last season. Two of the Hoosiers' top three scorers—Cody Zeller and Christian Watford—played in the frontcourt and are no longer with the team.
Two of IU's incoming freshmen—power forward Noah Vonleh and center Luke Fischer—should be starters in the frontcourt, which will help fill part of the void in rebounding and scoring.
Vonleh is now up to 241 pounds and recently touched 12 feet on a vertical leap test, according to Jeff Rabjohns of Peegs.com. Vonleh's achievements seem to indicate that the freshman could be a monster rebounder in his first college season.
Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh is up to 241 lbs, has touched 12 feet, IU strength coach Je'nay Jackson said.— Jeff Rabjohns (@JeffRabjohns) July 31, 2013
In an interview with Inside the Hall, Fischer's high school coach, Justin Litscher, said that the center is a very strong player:
Luke’s really developed his lower half and his ability to just seal. Once he seals, it’s over, he’s gonna score. His lower half is so strong, and people just look at him and say, ‘He’s gotta add strength.’ But from the waist down, he’s a strong kid. I mean very strong.
Additionally, sophomores Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin will play bigger roles on this year's team. Both players are very long, and they were limited last season due to their nine-game suspensions.
It will still be an uphill battle for these four underclassmen to allow IU to transition seamlessly from the loss of two top-four NBA draft picks and a third player who is playing professionally in Israel. The good thing for IU is that its frontcourt players realize what they have to replace and they have been working hard this summer to prepare for the season:
Perea on he and Fischer and other bigs: "We have a huge responsibility."
— Dustin Dopirak (@DustinDopirak) July 16, 2013
Indiana's frontcourt play is its main concern entering next season because the Hoosiers lost a lot of production from Watford and Zeller. IU doesn't have a single power forward or center who has proven that he can play a lot of minutes at a high level in college.
Vonleh and Fischer were ranked highly coming out of high school, and Mosquera-Perea and Jurkin will likely play more minutes next season, but they still need to show that they are capable of anchoring the team's frontcourt.