The term "rebuilding year" is thrown around a lot in college basketball. It is often used to refer to a team depleted by graduating seniors and underclassmen opting for the NBA. The Indiana Hoosiers are redefining the term this season. Eric Gordon and DJ White were each drafted in the first round of this year's NBA Draft. Seniors Lance Stemler, Mike White, and Adam Ahlfeld have graduated. What does that leave? Very little. Virtually every other player on last year's roster was lost (either due to transfer or were kicked off the team) in the fallout of Sampson-gate.
Sophomore walk-on Brett Finkelmeier and 5th year senior former walk-on Kyle Tabor are the only returning players from last year's squad. The two combined for a total of 272 minutes and 36 points last season. Thirty-six points. Thirty-six points throughout the entire season. Holy shit.
Tabor and Finkelmeier are joined by 14 new faces this season. With all those new players, it's difficult to predict who is going to stand out from the pack and lead this team.
Here's a breakdown of Indiana's roster:
Junior college transfer Devan Dumes and freshman Verdell Jones will handle the point for the Hoosiers this season. They will get some help from freshman walk-on Daniel Moore, who will remind Hoosier fans of former fan-favorite Erik Suhr (both in size and scrappiness).
Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Freshmen Matt Roth, Nick Williams, and Malik Story will command the majority of minutes at the 2/3 positions this season. Matt Roth is the definition of a pure shooter. He is the holder of the Illinois high school state record for career 3-pointers and has the proven ability to light it up from deep with a hand in his face. However, he has his work cut out and needs to improve on his speed, ball handling, and defense.
Nick Williams and Malik Story are similar in a lot of ways. Both are proven scorers who are expected to be leaders on this young team. Additionally, both are big: Williams comes in at 6'4", 211 pounds while Story is listed at 6'5", 222 pounds. Expect to see these two sliding over to PF when the post players need a breather or get into foul trouble.
This part of the roster has more question marks than answers. There are only three players on the team over 6'6". Returning senior Kyle Tabor (6'8") is joined by incoming freshman Tom Pritchard (6'9") and junior college transfer Tijan Jobe (7'0").
Pritchard has looked good and demonstrated solid mobility and rebounding in pre-season games, but needs to work on finishing around the basket. Tabor is coming off of an injury that caused him to miss six weeks of practice. As the team's leader and sole veteran, he will need to remain healthy for this Hoosier squad to be competitive. Jobe has good size, but he's just too raw at the moment to provide more than rest minutes for Tabor and Pritchard. If the Hoosiers get into foul trouble this year, they are in trouble. Don't be surprised to see Indiana running with four guards this season.
The key to Indiana's success depends on their ability to run and stay out of foul trouble. These young players will have to mature quickly and stay confident if (when) they get into a stretch of losses. The general consensus among fans is that reaching double-digits in the win column and finishing 9th in the Big Ten would be considered a success for this team.
Looking down the road, Tom Crean has locked up the #6 recruiting class in the nation for the class of 2009 according to Rivals.com. With the influx of talent next year, Indiana should be back in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth. However, next year's success starts with the development of this year's team. If there was ever a rebuilding year, this is it.