For Indiana basketball, Hoosier Hysteria and the official start of practice is a little more than two weeks away. This year's team has a lot to live up to after last season's squad won a Big Ten title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The thing is, the Hoosiers' starting lineup is going to be completely different and is still a mystery. Yogi Ferrell is the only returning starter, and it's still unclear who his four comrades will be when the season begins.
Despite this, it's never too early to predict the Hoosiers's starting five. A very likely lineup includes Ferrell at point guard, Evan Gordon as the shooting guard, Will Sheehey and Noah Vonleh as the forwards and Luke Fischer at center.
In order for the Hoosiers to compete for a conference title and make noise in March, each of these projected starters has to set a list of goals and knock them out one by one. Surely each player has a lot they want to accomplish, but which goal is most important?
This slideshow will discuss the biggest goal for each projected starer. These goals were picked based on how accomplishing them will positively affect IU's success the most in 2013-14.
Just a season ago, Yogi Ferrell finished third in the Big Ten in assists per game (4.1). Pretty good for a freshman.
Tops in the conference was former Michigan star Trey Burke (6.7). Upping his assist totals to that range is perfectly realistic for Ferrell.
As a sophomore, his game is going to progress. He's going to be much more comfortable in Tom Crean's offense.
This should be Ferrell's top priority because Indiana must have this type of production in order to be successful.
The Hoosiers are going to rely on Ferrell much more this year because of the players on the court with him. Last year, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller were some of the best in the country at creating their own shot. Oladipo could get the ball at the three-point line and be at the rim in a flash. Once Zeller got the ball on the block or elbow, he could take it from there.
This crop of Hoosiers will need a little more help finding open shots. It's up to Ferrell to be an expert creator and make things easier on his teammates.
Ferrell needs to constantly draw double-teams, cause havoc by getting in the lane and always be looking for the open shooter. If he does, his assists will go up, his teammates will gain confidence, and Indiana will win games.
Evan Gordon has a daunting task in front of him. He is the one who has to replace hometown hero Jordan Hulls.
The Bloomington native had a superb career for the Hoosiers, making a living from the three-point line. As a senior, Hulls shot 44 percent from beyond the arc.
Hulls' presence will be missed, but Gordon can certainly help ease the pain. He isn't a bad three-point shooter by any means (35 percent in 2012-13).
Obviously, asking him to replicate Hulls' 44 percent is unrealistic. It would be shocking to see his percentage make that high of a jump. However, it is reasonable to think Gordon could move up from 35 percent to 39.
If Gordon can be better from three, it will go a long way in helping Indiana replace what it lost with Hulls' departure.
Will Sheehey is aggressive. He relentlessly attacks the rim. It's his best attribute, next to his mid-range jump shot.
The problem is, for a player who loves to get to the basket as much as he does, he is awful from the free-throw line. Last year, he shot 66 percent from the charity stripe and has never made more than 70 percent of his free throws in any season.
Sheehey has to convert when he earns free-throw opportunities. He gives away way too many points at the line. IU needs him to take advantage of these chances for easy points.
As previously mentioned, Sheehey shot 65 percent last season (63-of-96). Shooting 75 percent means he would have made 72 of 96, a nine-point difference.
That doesn't seem like much, but remember, Sheehey was the sixth man. Now, he's a starter. The basketball will be in his hands plenty, and he will get to the free-throw line much more frequently.
If he shoots poorly again, the points he misses out on will really start to add up over the course of the season.
This season, 5-star recruit Noah Vonleh doesn't have to be the team leader. Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell can take care of that.
What Vonleh needs do is live up to the billing. He is one of the top recruits in the country, and now it's time to prove it.
Vonleh must make his presence felt in every game. His goal should be to affect the team like high-profile Indiana freshmen before him. He has to understand that Indiana will only be dangerous if he plays to his potential.
It's a lot to ask of the freshman, but he should own the challenge being presented to him.
Obviously, Vonleh isn't perfect, and there are going to be times when he struggles. Is he going to have some off nights shooting the basketball?
Will there be times when he doesn't grab every rebound?
When one part of his game isn't clicking, he better make up for it with passing, defense, etc.
The pressure is on this high-quality recruit to perform. He will be under the microscope all season, and everything he does will be examined and critiqued.
Vonleh's goal should be to show everyone he's the real deal.
The Hoosiers lost their top three rebounders from 2012-13 (Cody Zeller, 8.1 per game; Victor Oladipo, 6.3; Christian Watford, 6.3). If Indiana doesn't rebound effectively, it will be in major trouble. Scoring points is glamorous, but rebounding wins games. Someone has to pick up the slack.
Enter freshman center Luke Fischer.
Fischer (6'11, 230 lbs) is the type of rebounding presence Indiana needs. He averaged 9.5 boards per game as a high school senior.
Fischer has to know what's at stake with Indiana's top rebounders no longer suiting up in a Hoosier uniform. He has the size and ability to be a great rebounder, and now he must dedicate himself to crashing the glass.
Rebounding is the biggest way he can make an impact this season. He doesn't yet possess the offensive prowess of a Cody Zeller, so let others worry about putting up points.
The opportunity for Fischer to be a real difference-maker is waiting for him like a missed shot hanging in the air. Now, he just needs to box out, jump and grab it.