Indiana Basketball: Ranking Hoosiers' Most Indispensable Players
It’s no secret who led Indiana basketball to success last season. All-Americans Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo and senior leaders Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls were the team’s core. Indiana would have gone nowhere without them.
Those four are gone and the roster looks completely different. So, who figures to have a similar level of importance for the Hoosiers in 2013-14?
This slideshow will rank Indiana’s five most indispensable players. The rankings were made based on how the play of each individual will affect the team's success.
5. Jeremy Hollowell
Indiana is depending on a huge season from sophomore Jeremy Hollowell. He didn't have a fantastic freshman campaign (2.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG), but showed enough promise to get the coaching staff and fans excited.
While there is a good chance Hollowell won't start next year, he is still very valuable. Indiana may have Will Sheehey and Noah Vonleh as starting forwards, but obviously they can't play the whole game.
The Hoosiers need a sixth man, and Jeremy Hollowell is fit for the job.
He would be a great sixth man because of the experience he gained last season. He might not have played a ton of minutes, but he still appeared in 33 contests.
Compared to the incoming freshmen vying for a similar role, Hollowell possesses a wealth of knowledge.
He will likely be Indiana's spark off the bench. When the starters are struggling, it will be up to Hollowell to provide a jolt of energy or scoring, much like Sheehey did a season ago.
Hollowell is still young, but he's due for a solid season and will give IU production it will need.
4. Evan Gordon
Yes, Evan Gordon has not yet suited up for a single game for the Hoosiers. Despite this, Gordon is valuable because of his experience, ability to handle the ball and scoring.
The Hoosiers are going to be a very young team this season. Indiana's roster features six freshmen and four sophomores.
Gordon is a senior, so this year won't be his first rodeo. He can help the younger players adjust to life as a college basketball player.
Gordon's value on this team increases because of the point guard situation. Outside of returning starter Yogi Ferrell, Indiana is pretty thin. The only other player on the roster with any experience at the position is Jonny Marlin, but he hasn't played against big time competition like Gordon.
While Gordon is more of a shooting guard, he can bring the ball up the court if necessary. Depending on how Tom Crean configures his lineup, injuries, etc., Gordon could spend considerable time at point.
Finally, Gordon has shown he can put up points. He spent two years at Liberty University, averaging 12.0 and 14.1 points per game, respectively. Last year at Arizona State, he scored 10.1 points per game.
For a team facing questions on the offensive side of the ball, Gordon is a key piece for the Hoosiers.
3. Noah Vonleh
While it's still a mystery how the hyped freshman Noah Vonleh will play, there's no denying he's going to be a key member of the 2013-14 Hoosiers. It's been reported (subscription required) Vonleh has been impressive so far this summer. Most likely, Tom Crean already penciled him into the starting lineup.
This year's team could very well go as he goes.
If Vonleh doesn't live up to expectations, the Hoosiers might not hear their name called on Selection Sunday.
Despite this, he lands at No. 3 on the list because he has yet to officially take the court for Indiana. It's still way too early to tell how integral Vonleh will be to the team's success.
He's definitely going to be an important piece, but how important is still to be decided.
2. Yogi Ferrell
Yogi Ferrell is indispensable because he is in charge of the Hoosiers' offense. As point guard, the ball is constantly in his hands. He sets the tempo, runs the plays and puts his teammates in position to score.
His value has increased because he's the only proven point guard this team has at the moment. If Ferrell has a subpar season or gets injured, it will be catastrophic.
Indiana is depending on Ferrell to build on an impressive freshman year (7.6 PPG, 4.1 APG) and take his game to the next level. Without improvement, Indiana could be in for a long season.
1. Will Sheehey
Face of Indiana basketball.
This is why senior Will Sheehey is IU's most indispensable player.
IU lost its top four scorers from last season. Sheehey averaged 9.5 points per game, making him the leading returning scorer. If the Hoosiers are without an improved or healthy Sheehey, the offense will surely struggle.
Sheehey's worth is priceless because he is Indiana's heart and soul and its most tested veteran.
He's familiar with the rigorous Big Ten schedule. He's faced hostile crowds night in and night out. He's played in March and tasted NCAA tournament success.
Sheehey gives a young Hoosiers squad someone to look up to and emulate. When Indiana is in the tough winter months, grinding through the season, it will need his presence to keep everyone sharp and motivated.
This team is now in Sheehey's hands. The expectation is he will play the best basketball of his career. If he can do that and get his teammates to rally around him, IU has a chance to be special.
If Sheehey falters, Indiana will too. Without his scoring, energy and leadership, the Hoosiers will be a shade of what they were last year.
Sheehey has to be spectacular. Indiana lost too much talent and experience to afford him not to be.
To put it simply, Indiana will end up wherever Sheehey takes it.