A preseason look at the stats that matter for Indiana

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While it’s true talent is the biggest factor in winning big at any level in sports, there are also numbers and trends that we can correlate to success. Advanced statistics are the reason why Ken Pomeroy’s ratings are often more predictive than any top 25 poll or preseason prediction.

This preseason, Indiana is being picked all across the board and the season that lies ahead holds more uncertainty and intrigue than last for a variety of reasons.

Among them:

- The Big Ten, beyond Wisconsin, appears to be wide open.
- Indiana underwent major roster turnover for a second straight offseason.
- Indiana added several players who appear capable of shoring up a major 3-point shooting deficiency.
- Indiana lost the best rebounder in the conference and it’s fair to ask: “Does this roster possess the pieces to replace that production?”

All of those themes and questions will come more into focus over time as the games are played and the season rolls along. It’s quite possible the Big Ten will have a more defined hierarchy than many believe. It’s also possible that Indiana’s shooting will be better (or worse) than many are predicting. And the rebounding and roster turnover pieces may (or may not) play as big of a role as we think.

But as we study the numbers and look at what it’s going to take for Indiana to be successful this year, several things stand out. Here they are:

· Turnovers should be a major focus: Many of Indiana’s failures last season were blamed on turnovers. This was not unjustified. The Hoosiers ranked 330th nationally in turnover percentage, last in the Big Ten and last among teams in a BCS conference.

Interestingly, something not many are talking about is Indiana has been average at best in this department for the last six years. Here’s Indiana’s turnover percentage and Big Ten rank for conference games over the last six years:

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Indiana in strong position early with top 2017 in-state prospects

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Mike Peterson has traveled a lot to Bloomington over the past couple years. And he knows he will continue to make the hour drive to IU plenty of times in the near future.

As the head coach of the Indy Hoosiers Grind AAU program, perhaps the top 15-and-under team in the nation this past summer, Peterson has had many of his players earn interest from Indiana.

Just this past Saturday, Peterson took several of his players to Bloomington for Hoosier Hysteria. And though it was not their first trip to IU, Peterson said he got the same reaction from his players that he usually gets following a trip to Bloomington.

“I think they all enjoyed going down to Bloomington and seeing that crazy fan support and getting the chance to see the new players and talk to coach (Tom) Crean,” Peterson told Inside the Hall on Thursday. “I’m not really hearing anything negative about IU from them. I think coach Crean and coach (Tim) Buckley have almost built like a close family oriented atmosphere with the kids. Everybody knows each other on a first-name basis. We’re down there a lot. I think they’re very comfortable with IU.

“I think the distance helps. I think the history helps. I think the way the coaching staff allows them to play and not only that, but the biggest thing is when you land in Bloomington, you leave a bigger, stronger, better athlete, better player than when you came. And that’s huge.”

Before three of Peterson’s players even played a game in high school, Crean extended scholarship offers.

Last year, the Hoosiers offered guard Paul Scruggs (Southport) and forwards Kris Wilkes (North Central) and Zach Gunn (Hamilton Southeastern). The trio led the Hoosiers to an undefeated record in 15U AAU action this past summer, including wins in the Under Armour Jayhawk Invitational, Under Armour Invitational and Under Armour’s The Finals.

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Hoosiers transitioning from practice to ‘game shape’

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Whether Indiana’s 2014-2015 squad is ready or not, the season is fast approaching.

The Hoosiers’ first exhibition against Northwood University is now just a week from today, and the season opener against Mississippi Valley State is only two weeks from Friday.

With that time-crunch, Indiana coach Tom Crean said he faces the annual challenge of getting the team into “game shape.” But as of last Saturday, Crean said the Hoosiers still have a long way to go.

“I think we have a lot to learn,” Crean said following Hoosier Hysteria. “I think we’re learning a lot. Like I said to them, right now, we’re in practice shape. And we’ve got to get more and more into game shape. And you only get game shape by being in games and being in multi-scrimmages. And we haven’t had a lot of scrimmage situations.”

Since the Hoosiers traveled to Canada in August for their five-game exhibition tour, the team has yet to scrimmage at an extensive level. Saturday’s Hoosier Hysteria was the longest the team had even scrimmaged this preseason — and that was for just 20 minutes.

Crean said on Saturday that he has spent more time than usual “breaking it down,” as this year’s squad is behind in their details of in-game speed. With nine newcomers, it is not their fitness that is lacking, however, more of their defensive awareness, Crean said.

“So what happens is it’s not the fatigue that shows up real easily, well this guy didn’t run hard, or this guy didn’t cut hard or this guy didn’t have his feet ready,” he said. “No, it’s the fatigue defensively. It’s the fatigue where maybe we’re not as vocal, or we don’t have our ball-side foot up on the weak side, or we don’t have our hands up as much or we’re not stunting and stepping, all the little things we’re trying to teach.”

But Crean has taken encouraging signs from the Montreal trip.

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Around the Hall: Ferrell among nation’s best

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Around the Hall is recommended reading from the Inside the Hall staff.

· Yogi Ferrell is the 37th best player in college basketball according to SBNation.com and James Blackmon Jr. is listed among “50 more who just missed” the top 100.

· Nike announced Charlotte Hornets rookie Noah Vonleh is one of three rookies to recently join the Jordan Brand team.

· Ferrell and Blackmon are a big reason why Indiana is one of the top 20 backcourts in America, according to NBCSports.com and Ferrell was also listed as the fifth best lead guard in the country by NBC.

· ESPN.com released its preseason power rankings and the Big Ten has five teams in the top 25.

· In an ESPN Insider piece (premium link), ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman picked Indiana to finish eighth in the league.

· In a season primer of sorts, the Associated Press writes that Indiana is changing its attitude to change its course.

· Zach Osterman’s takeaway from Hoosier Hysteria: Hanner Mosquera-Perea is better.

· Ken Pomeroy details what factors play into his preseason ratings, which have Indiana slotted at No. 26 nationally.

· Four former Indiana players are on NBA rosters to begin the 2014-2015 season: Eric Gordon, Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller and Vonleh.

· The one-month contract that D.J. White signed in Spain expires next week.

Michael Jordan on Vonleh: “We never thought we’d have an opportunity to get him”

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After a one-year stop in Bloomington, Noah Vonleh is set to begin his NBA career as a Charlotte Hornet on Wednesday night against Milwaukee.

Like Cody Zeller, another former IU player drafted by Charlotte, Vonleh enters a unique situation as a rookie selected high in the NBA draft. Most lottery picks are thrown into the mix immediately out of necessity, but Vonleh will be brought along slowly on a team that once again has playoff aspirations.

“I felt very fortunate (to go to Charlotte),” Zeller told Inside the Hall over the summer. “I learned a lot. We have a good group of veteran guys and making it to the playoffs as a rookie was a big opportunity.”

The 6-foot-10 Vonleh will join Zeller in Charlotte’s frontcourt with hopes of helping the franchise get back to the playoffs. His pro career, however, got off to a slow start as he missed time in the preseason following surgery to repair a sports hernia that he suffered over the summer.

He did return recently to appear in one preseason game and scored four points and grabbed four rebounds in 19 minutes.

“He’s got a lot of talent. He’s eager and athletic,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford told The Charlotte Observer after his preseason debut. “There was a lot of good, a lot of bad (in his first game). Noah was the one guy who could not afford to miss September and October.”

While Vonleh is not expected to be in Charlotte’s rotation to begin the season, Hornets owner and chairman Michael Jordan said earlier this week that drafting Vonleh at No. 9 in June’s draft was an opportunity he didn’t believe he would have.

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Indiana schedules Haunted Hall of Hoops for Nov. 1

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Indiana announced on Monday it will hold its annual Haunted Hall of Hoops this Saturday, Nov. 1, at Assembly Hall.

The event, which will start at 12 p.m., is free of charge and will include a practice and scrimmage open to the public.

During the practice, games and candy will be available in the south lobby of Assembly Hall. Following the scrimmage, children in costume will be allowed to parade around the Assembly Hall floor and take pictures with both the coaching staff and players.

“We always enjoy this event with our fans,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said, according to a press release. “It’s important to have our team prepare as many times as they can in front of people and there are no better fans to play in front of than the Hoosier Nation.”

Five takeaways from Hoosier Hysteria

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Indiana’s season opening showcase, Hoosier Hysteria, took place Saturday night in Assembly Hall and included player introductions, a 3-point shootout, dunk contest and a 20-minute scrimmage.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from what we saw on Branch McCracken Court:

· Indiana’s offense should be significantly better: Yes, the sample size (five games in Montreal and a scrimmage) is small, but if there’s one thing that stands out right now about this team, it’s the possibility for a very good offense. The turnover issue still looms large, but the perimeter depth and versatility should make this team tough to guard. Yogi Ferrell is still one of the best guards in the country, but Tom Crean has surrounded him with an elite shooter and scorer in James Blackmon Jr., a combo guard who competes like an upperclassman in Robert Johnson, a veteran who seems confident in Nick Zeisloft and two sophomores, Stanford Robinson and Troy Williams, who love to attack off the dribble. There will be a learning curve to make all of the pieces fit together, but the upside of this group is tremendous.

· Mosquera-Perea shows flashes of improvement: Junior Hanner Mosquera-Perea showed a few flashes of improved hands and footwork in Saturday’s scrimmage. On one particular sequence, Nick Zeisloft cut from the right corner on the baseline, received a pass from Yogi Ferrell and then dropped the ball off to Mosquera-Perea on the left block. It was a pass that Mosquera-Perea may have had trouble handling in the past, but he caught it and went up against Emmitt Holt and missed. He then collected the offensive rebound off a tip by Devin Davis and finished at the rim.

“The bottom line is, we’re trying to keep it where Hanner is gaining confidence every day,” Crean said on Saturday. “The more confidence he gains, the more we can stretch his game. He’s on a good road, he’s hungry. I’m not going to over-exaggerate it, I’m not going to over-compliment him, but you’re seeing what we see – he’s really working to get better. We’ve got to stay on that path.”

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