Is Indiana a top 25 team heading into next season?

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A year ago, Indiana was a consensus top three team in most of the early rankings for the 2012-2013 season.

The decisions of Christian Watford and Cody Zeller to return to school coupled with other returnees like Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey and a talented recruiting class made the Hoosiers a popular pick to rise to the top of the polls and compete for a national championship.

The outlook isn’t quite as optimistic for 2013-2014 as Zeller and Oladipo have declared for the NBA Draft, Hulls and Watford have graduated and as a result, Indiana will be one of the nation’s youngest teams with just two true upperclassmen in Sheehey and Austin Etherington.

With the passing of the NBA Draft early entry deadline, preseason top 25 polls are beginning to trickle out and despite significant departures from a Big Ten championship team, Indiana is included in most of them. The most bullish prognostications come from NBC Sports, which has IU at No. 15 and ESPN.com’s Jason King:

20. Indiana Hoosiers: This Hoosiers team won’t be anywhere near as good as the unit that won last season’s Big Ten title while spending a large chunk of the season ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press poll. But that doesn’t mean Indiana won’t be salty in 2013-14. Point guard Yogi Ferrell (4.1 assists) is the lone returning starter after Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo entered the NBA draft, but forward Will Sheehey earned valuable minutes off the bench, and coach Tom Crean couldn’t be more excited about the progress of freshman forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea.

The X-factor will be how quickly Indiana’s highly touted, six-man signing class adapts to the college game. Headlining the group is Noah Vonleh, who is rated third among power forwards in the country by ESPN.com.

CBS Sports slots Indiana in at No. 24 while Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated has the Hoosiers at No. 25.

King’s colleague at ESPN, Andy Katz, doesn’t believe the Hoosiers are a top 25 team headed into next season (or even in his top 37):

Indiana Hoosiers (My pick — unranked; Jason’s — No. 20): The Hoosiers are back and will again compete for a top spot in the Big Ten and nationally in the coming years. But Indiana lost too much star power in Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, as well as 3-point threats Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls, to put it in the preseason top 25. Role players return and the recruiting class will include quality pieces or potential headliners, such as Noah Vonleh, but in this poll, putting IU in the top 25 is a bit generous.

Less optimistic on Indiana is statistics guru Dan Hanner, who didn’t have the Hoosiers in the top 25 of his line-up based projection model released back in early April or the post draft deadline edition, either. He explains the omission:

Indiana: The Hoosiers have a lot of good pieces, but the model doesn’t like how they fit together. It concludes based on last year’s substitution patterns that Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell and Will Sheehey will see plenty of action. And they just aren’t the most effective offensive players. Ideally the younger players will see a lot of playing time early, and some of them will become stars, but it should be a transition year.

Regardless of how you feel about preseason polls in early May, they are still an interesting basis for discussion with Hoosier Hysteria over five months away.

There’s certainly no shortage of talent on next year’s roster, but plenty of questions remain on how quickly the freshman — particularly Noah Vonleh, Luke Fischer, Stanford Robinson and Troy Williams — can adapt to college and who will assume the leadership role (Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell seem to be the top candidates) following the loss of so much experience.

  • jpniles

    We also cannot forget their returning pieces. Cauley-Stein started turning into a beast toward the end of last year. Defensive presence no doubt. I think we can expect Poythress will have his head extracted from his rectum by Calipari or he wouldn’t have come back this year. Wiltjer With the addition of Dakari Johnson, Wiltjer will be able to snipe from 3pt land, much like Ryan Kelly. Oh yeah, and they will have a legit point guard. And you can make the argument that freshmen point guards don’t work, but Yogi turned out pretty good last year. Just saying… If we clammer for sound logic from the professional prognosticators, we should demand the same soundness from our logic.

  • http://twitter.com/drewlyon__ Drew Lyon

    Crean actually just posted a tweet about Hanner about half an hour ago. “Hanner is being stretched right now to really expand his game, much like we do with all young players. He is attacking every challenge.” He also said Jeremy was turning into a 365 guy. If that tweet is any indication, Hanner must be really working hard, so that is a great sign.

  • PDXHoosier

    I agree; HMP and Hollowell HAVE to be way better this year for us to be competitive. Who knows what our freshmen will contribute.

  • IUMIKE1

    Great news, thanks for the update from the world of twitter. Since I don’t exist in the realm of twitter feel free to update us (me) with any other tweets related to how these two are coming along.

  • Ole Man

    Thanks. Hard to keep track of it all; and I knew that one of you more “astute” fans could help me out.

  • Ole Man

    Thanks! Even more complete info.

  • Ole Man

    The game is at Rupp Arena……102 to 37?

  • hoosier1158

    I was thinking the same thing. I hardly doubt a team that young should be ranked #1. Being down in southern Indiana, i can tell you U of L should be pre-season #1.

    Question: What team won the NCAA championship after the 2 previous by U of L? : ) I am ready for another.

  • 5_Banners

    I hate Kentucky, too…but Kentucky will be really good next year. I do agree with you about the Harrison twins, however they bring back some solid players from a year ago to go with this exceptional recruiting class. Now, they could easily lose in the tournament due their inexperience, but expect them to dominate the SEC next year.

    I also think IU will be better than most people in the media and on here predict. Next year really hangs on how good our recruiting class will be. If they can come in and contribute with the emergence of Hanner and Hollowell…I can easily see IU making a run in the tournament.

  • 5_Banners

    Not sure why people don’t think IU will be better than the 2011 team that won 25 games and lost to Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

    IU will look bad at times on the road against the top teams in the Big Ten…but this team will beat top teams at home like in 2011. IU really has to go 8-1 at home next year.

  • SCHoosier

    That coach was right about the Harrison twins. 1) they are good 2) they are whiners..especially the point guard. During the All-star games, h e would make a bad pass..and immediately show body language that put the blame on the guy to whom the pass was intended.. Cal I think is tougher on his kids than people give him credit..so if the twins don’t show more maturity they will find themselves on the pine. My prediction..they will.mature .and will be tough to handle given the entire class available.

  • MillaRed

    I would put this team right on the 25 mark and they can only get better IMO. I think they finish top 20. In terms of being dangerous I think 2014 is the year. So deep and talented. Especially if another 5-star or two is added to that class.

    I think Yogi becomes a man this off-season.

  • IUMIKE1

    Yea, and after last year he may be even harder on his players trying to ensure that anything that even remotely resembles last year materializes.

    Coach also says that he thinks Troy Williams may not be the most talented of any of the recruits coming in next year but will help IU more overall than any of the incoming freshman and that even with some expecting a contribution from him right away almost all will be pleasantly surprised by him and what he ends up being able to contribute after a short adjustment period.

  • IUMIKE1

    I can’t bring myself to even type it so I’ll just say that you are probably right about the part of your first sentence that came right after the …… lol

  • calbert40

    Right. Going back about a decade, let’s look at Tom Coverdale. The offseason after his freshman year, none of us would have expected anything from him. By the time he left, he was probably the engine that ran a team that finished as national runner-up.

    In the not so distant past, after his freshman year, none of us would have expected that Oladipo would eventually become 1st team AA and B1G within two seasons.

    I think Hollowell and HMP have the physical skills to succeed. It is up to them to work hard and the staff to extract as much out of them as possible.

  • Ole Man

    How can you say that we didn’t deserve it last year? With the players we had returning, our record from the previous year, and the class we had coming in, just HOW did we not deserve it.
    Maybe you do hate UK, but you don’t sound like an Indiana fan!

  • Ole Man

    Yep; definitely a pUKe fan in disguise.

  • hoosier1158

    Yep, don’t need Steve recruiting in Indiana. lol I would like to see IU focusing on more Indiana kids. IU can be fine getting the best in our state and a few others here and there.

  • jpniles

    Wow. Just wow. Questioning my loyalty to the team because I ask for a little consistency in logic? We had a large incoming “unproven” freshman class. I know we had pieces there, however, I hope that I showed that pUKe has pieces coming back also.

    I really hope you were trolling with the questioning of my loyalty to the team. You can go back and look at previous comments if you would like. Consistency is all that I ask for.

  • http://www.facebook.com/josh.nash.3956 Josh Nash

    Easily a Top 25 team next year, most likely Top 20. Beginning of the season might be tough at times since a lot of the guys will be learning their roles and/or learning their teammates. Once Big Ten season rolls around, I think the Hoosiers will be a solid team and will flirt with the Top 15 once or twice. Most likely a 5 seed heading into the Tourney

  • hoosier1158

    That’s a good one! : )

  • marcusgresham

    Didn’t you see the report where Calipari said they have 100% graduation rate? Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up.
    http://www.rantsports.com/ncaa-basketball/2013/05/01/kentucky-coach-john-calipari-brags-about-100-graduation-rate/

  • Ole Man

    We needed only one piece of the puzzle, a true PG.
    So, you still haven’t answered as to why you think we did not deserve it.

  • jpniles

    I didn’t say that I didn’t think we should have been number one. I was simply saying that the same logic to say that UK shouldn’t be preseason #1 could have been used for us last year. Large unproven incoming class, Freshman point guard, etc. But that is ok… I will go back to rooting for Kentucky…. Just let it go, man.

  • Ole Man

    No; the same logic does not apply. We were a veteran team; not five unproven rookies.

    Now, I can let it go.

  • G-Money IU95

    Hoosiers are WAY underrated for next year. UK can be a #1 team every year based on recruiting classes but IU can’t be ranked high based on a solid class (granted it’s not quite as high profile as UK)?

    How much was everyone supposed to contribute in 2012-13 with Zeller, Oladipo, Watford, and Hulls in there? Yogi did a phenomenal job running that offense as a freshman and Sheehey was Big Ten 6th man of the year. “Experts” can’t parlay that in to leadership??

    Sheehey and Oladipo were once pretty interchangeable before Oladipo just went off. How is Sheehey not an excellent candidate for similar development when he has all the same tools to develop a consistent shot and get involved in all aspects of the game as a seasoned senior leader?? Did anyone see the first 5 minutes against JMU for Yogi or the way he finished off Michigan in B-town? Yogi will shoot more next season (especially from beyond the arc) and could be a potential All-America candidate in my opinion.

    Perea started his career with a senseless suspension and joined the team for the Big 10 season, how was he supposed to develop? Why play Hollowell for more than 7 or 8 minutes if he struggles when it’s time to put Watford or Oladipo back in?? Do people really think Perea and Hollowell can’t develop confidence and good rhythm going to town on the pre-season cupcake schedule? I see Perea dunking on everyone and swatting shots, I see Hollowell developing in to a big time inside/outside threat and crashing the boards like Watford.

    Watford and Hulls, as valuable and historic as they were, had their limitations. When Hulls couldn’t shoot, he was almost useless. Watford lacked quickness and intensity at times. Look at Louisville – look at Syracuse and Temple. You wanna do well in March, you need speed, athleticism, length, and interchangeable parts. The 2013-14 Hoosiers are overflowing with guys from 6-5 to 6-9 that will more closely resemble your typical Syracuse or Ohio State team. What if Hartman and Etherington are 6-6 versions of Hulls and Matt Roth… how dangerous is that???

    As for the Big 10, Spartans are deadly but Michigan loses Burke and Hardaway, Ohio State has to replace a go-to guy in Thomas, Illinois loses Paul and Richardson, Minnesota loses Mbakwe and Williams. It’s wide open. I cannot wait to see the 2013-14 Hoosiers.

  • Ole Man

    To say that “when Hulls couldn’t shoot, he was almost useless” couldn’t be farther from the truth.
    What about leadership.
    And since you seem a stats guy, did you know that Hulls’ plus/minus was off the charts on the plus side?

  • Ole Man

    Let’s hope you’re right.
    Although I’m not sure if I’d include OSU on that list.
    And I don’t see how you could have a much better flow than with a team that avg. 80 pg.

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