Indiana Basketball: Mismatches Hoosiers Are Dreading in 2014
A season ago, Indiana basketball was the class of the Big Ten conference. The Hoosiers won their first outright regular season conference title since 1993.
Indiana was a complete team. It had shooters (Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford), athleticism (Victor Oladipo), a legitimate big man (Cody Zeller) and a spark off the bench (Will Sheehey). The roster created problems for nearly every team it faced.
This season could be much different. The roster has completely changed and chances are Indiana won't be the bully of the Big Ten. There are teams on the schedule IU does not want to see.
This slideshow will discuss mismatches the Hoosiers will face this season.
Iowa might not have the most talent in the Big Ten, but it does have experience. The Hawkeyes return every player except for one, including their entire starting five.
Indiana has more raw talent than Iowa but if the talent can't play together, the team will struggle to win (see Kentucky in 2012-13).
Iowa is already a cohesive unit. The players are familiar with each other. Everyone knows their roles. Head coach Fran McCaffery knows how to use what's at his disposal.
Tom Crean knows little about how his team is going to come together. He has no idea who will play well together and who won't mesh. While the Hoosiers are trying to figure things out and install offensive and defensive sets, Iowa will be practicing the game plan it already knows and improving.
The veteran Hawkeyes already have a leg up on the youthful Hoosiers.
Purdue struggled last season (16-18, 8-10 Big Ten), but will be much improved in 2013-14. The Johnson brothers of Terone and Ronnie and a solid recruiting class featuring Kendall Stephens will keep the Boilermakers competitive, but the reason Purdue makes this list starts and ends with big man A.J. Hammons.
Hammons (7'0", 256 lbs) poses a large problem for the undersized Hoosiers. He torched Indiana for 30 points, five rebounds and five blocks in a January 30 loss, and Cody Zeller was still wearing an Indiana jersey.
Potential post players IU can throw at Hammons simply don't match up. Luke Fischer (6'9", 200 lbs) and Hanner Mosquera-Perea (6'8", 225 lbs) will have trouble with Hammons' height. Peter Jurkin (7'0", 230 lbs) has the size but is still very inexperienced.
If Purdue can get the ball inside early and often, the Hoosiers will be in serious trouble.
The national runner-up has not lost a step. Michigan may not have Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., but it has reloaded with a legitimate recruiting class. The Wolverines signed three players ranked in ESPN's 100, headlined by Zak Irvin.
IU has to be concerned with the talent, experience and size Michigan brings to the table.
Each has a boatload of experience after last season, and McGary (6'10", 255 lbs) is an aggressive force in the post. Like Purdue's A.J. Hammons, he will give Indiana trouble.
All three of those sophomores should be much improved, a scary fact for the Hoosiers.
This team will be brimming with confidence after last season. IU, on the other hand, has a totally retooled roster and is unsure of itself. That is not a recipe for success against the Wolverines.
Michigan State should be the clear favorite to win the Big Ten and is definitely a national championship contender.
Payne and Harris will be a tough cover for the Hoosiers.
Harris is the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He averaged 12.9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. Expect him to improve and greatly increase his production.
Most likely, Will Sheehey will be tasked with slowing him down. Sheehey is a solid defender, but asking him to try and contain Harris for an entire game is a lot.
Payne is a dynamic post player who can play down low and hit outside shots (38.1 percent from three). When looking at Indiana's roster, it's hard to find the right combination of size and speed to stop Payne.
Noah Vonleh is the likely candidate to battle Payne. Vonleh has the speed to stay with him, but what will happen when Payne goes to the block? Can the lanky Vonleh really battle down low like a big man?
Michigan State definitely poses a problem for the Hoosiers.