Offseason storylines: Can Thomas Bryant maintain his efficiency?
Welcome to offseason storylines, a look into some of the biggest storylines surrounding the 2016-2017 Indiana Hoosiers. Next up, a look at where Indiana sophomore Thomas Bryant stands among the Big Ten’s best post-up players and whether he can maintain his efficiency as a sophomore. (Previously: How will Indiana replace Yogi Ferrell?)
Despite taking criticism from some for an offense that is too dependent on perimeter scoring, big men have flourished in Bloomington under Tom Crean.
From Cody Zeller, who led the program’s turnaround during his two seasons at Indiana, to Thomas Bryant, who was amazingly efficient as a freshman, Crean puts talented big men in a position to succeed. His two featured big men prior to Bryant – Zeller and Vonleh – went on to become NBA lottery picks. Bryant could be on track for similar destiny following his sophomore season.
As a sophomore, Zeller was third in the conference in post-up possessions with 172 (nearly five per game), according to Synergy Sports. The volume of touches for Zeller in the post came on a team that had the nation’s fourth best 3-point shooting, anchored by Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Victor Oladipo.
The two other Big Ten players that had more post-up possessions in that season than Zeller: Michigan State’s Derrick Nix (212) and Purdue’s A.J. Hammons (219). Neither player was as efficient as Zeller, who scored .92 points per possession in the post.
In 2013-2014, Vonleh had the sixth most post-up possessions of any Big Ten player and posted a nearly identical points per possession mark (.918) to Zeller’s sophomore campaign. Vonleh went on to become the ninth pick in the 2014 NBA draft. Crean also deserves some credit for not restricting Vonleh solely to the post. As his freshman season moved on, he was given the freedom to step out and take perimeter shots.
And now, there’s Bryant. He shot an incredible 70.6 percent on 2s as a freshman. It was Bryant’s efficiency in the second half of a second round NCAA tournament game against Kentucky that carried the Hoosiers to the Sweet 16. He made all five of his second half 2-point attempts.
Even with the fourth best 3-point shooting team in the country, Indiana still found plenty of ways to feature Bryant in its offense. His 139 post-up possessions were the seventh most of any Big Ten player and will be the fourth highest returning total in the conference behind Purdue’s Isaac Haas, Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes and Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan.
Of the four, only Haas came close to the efficiency Bryant displayed in his first collegiate season.
Here’s a look at the players returning to the Big Ten for 2016-2017 who had more than 100 post-up possessions last season, along with their efficiency in those opportunities:
As Bryant enters his sophomore season, the challenge for Crean and his staff will be to figure out a way to utilize him more without experiencing too much of a dip in efficiency.
The Hoosiers lost plenty in terms of perimeter firepower with Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, Nick Zeisloft and Max Bielfeldt all moving on, but the remaining mix of talent should allow Bryant to continue operating with space in the post.
One of the keys in both Zeller’s 2012-2013 season and Bryant’s 2015-2016 was Indiana’s ability to surround each player with an efficient four-man. In Zeller’s case, it was Christian Watford, who splashed in 48.4 percent of his 3s as a senior.
And with Bryant last season, it was often Troy Williams, a great slasher and finisher who could also knock down the occasional 3 despite some erratic decision making. And even when the Hoosiers went to the bench, there was Collin Hartman, OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan, all of whom could keep opposing defenses honest.
This year’s Indiana team returns Hartman, Anunoby and Morgan and also adds De’Ron Davis, who has a reliable mid-range game that makes him less likely to clog the paint if he plays alongside Bryant.
Provided the Hoosiers don’t fall off too much with their perimeter shooting, a more mature Bryant should take another step forward and solidify himself as the Big Ten’s best post player as a sophomore.
Harbaugh says he’d root for IU in hypothetical hoops matchup with Michigan
Harbaugh, who is entering his second season as the head football coach at the University of Michigan, is the brother-in-law of Indiana coach Tom Crean.
The Wolverines are expected to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff this season and are ranked in the top 10 in nearly every preseason top 25.
In the interview, conducted by David Kaplan, Harbaugh was asked who he’d root for in a hypothetical Indiana-Michigan basketball matchup for the Big Ten championship.
“I would, first it would be great if that happens, but I would be rooting for Tom Crean and the Indiana Hoosiers,” Harbaugh said after a pause. “The families always come first.
“You had to ask that question, didn’t you David?” Harbaugh continued with a smile. “Because you’re a media person and you know that I would always tell the truth.”
Kaplan attempted to move on to a question about satellite camps, but Harbaugh had one final statement on the matter.
“I used to think you were a good guy,” he said. “But you had to ask that question.”
Harbaugh was in attendance for multiple Indiana games last season, including the Indiana-Michigan game at the Crisler Center as well as the Sweet 16 game against North Carolina at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
Michigan beat Indiana in football, 48-41 in two overtimes, last season at Memorial Stadium. The two programs will meet this season on Nov. 19 at Michigan Stadium.
Around the Hall: Is Assembly Hall the Big Ten’s toughest venue?
Around the Hall is recommend reading from the Inside the Hall staff.
1. Indiana Hoosiers: Assembly Hall, opened in 1971
Were this a list of the best basketball venues in Indiana, Hinkle Fieldhouse would win. (Though there would be a few mid-century, 7,000-seat high school arenas in the running.) Toughest, though? That’s Assembly Hall. It’s bonkers-loud, even when the team is just so-so. The sideline stands rise impossibly, and imposingly, into the rafters. And you can forgive the student section’s incongruous split between the baseline, corners and upper deck for two reasons:
– The deep-pocketed who occupy the prime sideline seats are as locked-in and rowdy as most 20-year-olds.
– The 17,472-seat gym typically packs in 7,800 students a night. No setting in college basketball has more. Few are this daunting.
Schools like Georgetown, Tennessee, Cal, and Marquette have been working hard on the Expressions star, yet it is three others that have stood out with Samuels. “Xavier, Villanova, and Indiana,” he said, pertaining to those that look to have the best shot with him. Samuels spoke further on each of the schools at hand.
“Instant playing time, development, a great education, and a coaching staff that can get me where I want to be.”
“Tom Crean is telling me he sees tons of potential in me if I go there. He stresses development, development, development.”
“Coaching, playing time, the fit, and development again.”
With Tom Crean having watched Nike South Beach multiple times, Brown says that the Indiana head man was most impressed by his motor.
“This was the first time that he had ever seen me play,” Brown said. “He sat and watched four or five of my games at Peach Jam. He said he liked my game and that he had heard about my work ethic, heard that I work hard.”
One Big Ten head coach told CBS Sports that Indiana’s Robert Johnson could be the league’s most underrated player. “He’s a two-year starter that can play multiple positions,” the coach said of the 6-3 Johnson, who averaged 8.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists last season. “Don’t be surprised if he winds up playing a lot of point guard next season.”
The 2016-2017 Indiana basketball schedule: What we know
The full 2016-2017 Indiana basketball schedule won’t be released until later this summer when the Big Ten finalizes the conference slate, but a good chunk of dates and non-conference opponents for the upcoming season have already been revealed.
· Year six of the Crossroads Classic: Indiana needed a second half comeback to beat Notre Dame in last year’s Crossroads Classic, but the Hoosiers got the job done and have now won two straight in the event. Overall, Indiana is 3-2 in the Crossroads Classic. The Hoosiers will face Butler this season on Dec. 17 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and should be favored. The Bulldogs graduated both Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones and are unranked in early preseason top 25s for next season. The Crossroads Classic was extended through 2019 back in August of 2014.
· The Indiana Classic:Indiana will play in a four-team exempt event called the “Indiana Classic” that will feature games against UMass Lowell (Nov. 16), Liberty (Nov. 19), a game against IPFW in Fort Wayne (Nov. 22) and one opponent that is still to be announced (likely to be Mississippi Valley State). That contest is expected to take place after the IPFW game.
· Sweet Sixteen rematch in Assembly Hall: The Hoosiers will play in one of the marquee games of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge when North Carolina comes to Assembly Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 30. It will be the second time in four years that the two programs meet in Bloomington. Indiana beat North Carolina 83-59 on Nov. 27, 2012 at Assembly Hall. The Tar Heels are ranked No. 6 in ESPN’s way-too-early preseason top 25.
· Armed Forces Classic: Indiana will open the regular season away from home with Kansas in the Armed Forces Classic at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii on Friday, Nov. 11. It will be the first meeting between Indiana and Kansas since 1995. The Jayhawks lead the all-time series 7-6. Kansas is ranked No. 4 in ESPN’s way-too-early preseason top 25.
· IU sitting out of the Gavitt Tipoff Games: After facing Creighton last season in the inaugural Gavitt Tipoff Games, Indiana is not in the event this season. The Gavitt Tipoff Games features eight Big Ten and Big East programs facing off in the opening week of the season. Indiana will appear in the event at least three more times through 2022.
· Louisville series tips off: Indiana and Louisville will begin a three-year series on New Year’s Eve at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. In year two of the series, the Hoosiers will travel to the KFC Yum! Center and the final game of the series will take place in 2018 at Assembly Hall. The Cardinals are ranked No. 13 in ESPN’s way-too-early preseason top 25.
· More guarantee games to come: So far, just eight of Indiana’s 13 non-conference games have been revealed. Given that IU already has Kansas, North Carolina, Louisville and Butler on the schedule, most, if not all, of the remaining games are likely to be guarantee games. So far, just three guarantee game opponents have been announced in UMass Lowell, Liberty and Southeast Missouri State (Dec. 4).
· The unbalanced Big Ten schedule: The unbalanced league schedule is going to be a topic of conversation each year with 14 teams playing an 18-game slate. This year will be no different. Here’s IU’s draw:
– Big Ten double plays:Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin – Big Ten single plays (home): Illinois, Nebraska, Michigan State, Rutgers – Big Ten single plays (away): Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio State
This schedule projects to be a little bit tougher than last season when Indiana played Maryland, Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State just one time. This year, Indiana will play both Wisconsin and Purdue twice, but does get the benefit of facing Michigan State just once with the game in Bloomington.
Class of 2017 Fort Wayne Snider forward Malik Williams, an Indiana recruiting target for more than three years, announced a list of eight finalists on Monday afternoon.
The 6-foot-11 Williams is still considering, in alphabetical order, Georgetown, Indiana, Iowa, Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Purdue and UCLA.
Williams is ranked the No. 34 player nationally according to the 247Composite and has taken multiple unofficial visits to Bloomington.
As a junior, Williams was named honorable mention all-state by the Associated Press and averaged 21 points and 13 rebounds per game. Snider finished the 2015-16 season with a 14-9 record.
Williams was also a core member of the Indiana Junior All-Star team and participated in last month’s NBPA Top 100 Camp at the University of Virginia.
Indiana has one commitment for the 2017 class thus far in Berkmar (Ga.) guard Al Durham Jr.
Ranking the Big Ten’s incoming recruiting classes
The Big Ten will welcome plenty of new talent into the league for the 2016-17 season in the form of incoming freshmen, transfers who will become eligible, redshirted players from last season and graduate transfers.
Here’s a ranking, from 14 to 1, of the incoming classes heading into the 2016-17 season. All players are freshmen or junior college signees unless otherwise noted:
14. Rutgers Additions: Issa Thiam (247Composite rank: 238), Matt Bullock (247Composite rank: 363), Candido Sa Why they’re here: It’s going to be a long road for Steve Pikiell to build Rutgers into a respectable program. This class is unlikely to help move the needle, which means the Scarlet Knights need to do major work in the 2017 class and beyond.
13. Wisconsin Additions: Aleem Ford (247Composite rank: 342), D’Mitrik Trice (247Composite rank: 357), Andy Van Vliet (redshirted last season) Why they’re here: Ford and Trice (both from IMG Academy) were unknowns when they committed to the Badgers this spring, but the key piece here is Van Vliet. The Belgium native is the talltest player on the roster at 6-foot-11 and is reportedly a very good shooter from the perimeter.
12. Illinois Additions: Tejon Lucas (247Composite rank: 142), Kipper Nichols (Tulane transfer who becomes eligible by midseason at the latest) Why they’re here: Lucas figures to crack the rotation as a freshman, but Tracy Abrams is the starter if he can stay healthy. Nichols, a transfer from Tulane who plays on the wing, has drawn praise from John Groce in offseason workouts. However, it’s not known if he’ll be eligible at the start of the season or after the first semester.
11. Northwestern Additions: Rapolas Ivanauskas (247Composite rank: 148) Barret Benson (247Composite rank: 154), Isiah Brown (247Composite rank: 237) Why they’re here: This is a solid haul by Chris Collins and staff, who have continued to build a better base of talent in Evanston. Both Ivanauskas, who is 6-foot-8, and Benson, who is a solid 6-foot-9 post player, had heavy interest from other Big Ten programs.
10. Purdue Additions: Carsen Edwards (247Composite rank: 118), Spike Albrecht (graduate transfer from Michigan) Why they’re here: The Boilermakers are lower than this on many of the Big Ten team rankings, but Edwards is a steady point guard who can help fill a need. And Albrecht, if healthy, should also be a member of the rotation.
9. Nebraska Additions: Isaiah Roby (247Composite rank: 136), Jeriah Horne (247Composite rank: 176), Jordy Tshimanga (247Composite rank: 163), Anton Gill (Louisville transfer becomes eligible) Why they’re here: Andrew White’s departure should give both Roby and Gill, a former top 60 recruit at Louisville, an immediate opportunity to score. Three recruits in the top 176 of the 247Composite rankings is a very solid class for Tim Miles and his staff.
8. Ohio State Additions: Derek Funderburk (247Composite rank: 74), Micah Potter (247Composite rank: 243), Andre Wesson (247Composite rank: 267), C.J. Jackson (247Composite JUCO ranking: 27) Why they’re here: Funderburk should be able to help in Ohio State’s frontcourt right away and Jackson, a combo guard, could be in the backcourt rotation with the transfer of A.J. Harris.
7. Iowa Additions: Tyler Cook (247Composite ranking: 73), Cordell Pemsl (247Composite ranking: 231), Ryan Kriener (247Composite ranking: 303), Jordan Bohannon (247Composite ranking: 298), Maishe Dailey (247Composite ranking: 354) Why they’re here: Cook, a 6-foot-8 forward, is the headliner here. He should slide right into the frontcourt rotation, which lost Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury.
6. Michigan Additions: Xavier Simpson (247Composite ranking: 66), Jon Teske (247Composite ranking: 145), Ibi Watson (247Composite ranking: 240), Austin Davis (247Composite ranking: 177) Why they’re here: Could Simpson come right in and challenge Derrick Walton for minutes? The Michigan staff must believe that is the case or Spike Albrecht would have been back in Ann Arbor for a fifth year. Teske and Davis should help backup Mark Donnal. Watson could provide shooting from the wing.
5. Minnesota Additions: Amir Coffey (247Composite ranking: 49), Eric Curry (247Composite ranking: 112), Michael Hurt (247Composite ranking: 217), Akeem Springs (graduate transfer from Milwaukee), Davonte Fitzgerald (Texas A&M transfer becomes eligible), Reggie Lynch (Illinois State transfer becomes eligible) Why they’re here: Richard Pitino needed to upgrade his talent level and it appears he’s done that with Coffey and Curry in the freshman class to go along with several transfers who could also crack the rotation.
4. Penn State Additions: Tony Carr (247Composite ranking: 51), Lamar Stevens (247Composite ranking: 99), Nazeer Bostick (247Composite ranking: 300), Joe Hampton (247Composite ranking: 257), Terrence Samuel (Connecticut transfer becomes eligible), Mike Watkins (sat out last season due to academic issues) Why they’re here: Carr and Stevens should be rotation players right away as should Watkins, who was ranked the No. 102 player in the 2015 class in the final 247Composite rankings. With that trio, Pat Chambers has essentially netted three top 100 players, which is unheard of in State College.
3. Indiana Additions: De’Ron Davis (247Composite ranking: 40), Curtis Jones (247Composite ranking: 85), Devonte Green (247Composite ranking: 198), Grant Gelon (247Composite ranking: 322), Freddie McSwain (247Composite JUCO ranking: 24), Josh Newkirk (Pittsburgh transfer becomes eligible) Why they’re here: Davis and Jones are unlikely to start, but both should play key roles on a team that is expected to open the season in the preseason top 15. Newkirk, who is expected to challenge for the starting point guard spot, is also a key addition for the Hoosiers.
2. Maryland Additions: Micah Thomas (247Composite ranking: 155), Anthony Cowan (247Composite ranking: 62), Kevin Huerter (247Composite ranking: 64), L.G. Gill (graduate transfer from Duquesne), Justin Jackson (247Composite ranking: 83), Joshua Tomaic Why they’re here: Maryland lost a ton of talent and needed a very good recruiting haul. Mark Turgeon did his job. A trio of top 100 players are in the class along with Gill, who should help in the frontcourt immediately as he arrives from Duquesne.
1. Michigan State Additions: Miles Bridges (247Composite ranking: 12), Cassius Winston (247Composite ranking: 33), Josh Langford (247Composite ranking: 20), Nick Ward (247Composite ranking: 41), Ben Carter (graduate transfer from UNLV) Why they’re here: This wasn’t even close as Spartans reeled in four top 41 players along with Carter, who should be a nice role player. The gap could widen further if Andrew White, who is considering Michigan State after leaving Nebraska, chooses the Spartans.
Video: 2017 forward Malik Williams highlights
Class of 2017 Fort Wayne Snider forward Malik Williams has been an Indiana recruiting target since the start of his high school career.
The Hoosiers tracked Williams, the No. 32 player nationally according to the 247Composite, closely during the July evaluation period. Here’s a look at Williams via Ball is Life, which recently released this video of the rising senior:
Report: Troy Williams agrees to free agent deal with Memphis
Former Indiana forward Troy Williams, who was not selected in June’s NBA draft, has agreed to a free agent deal with the Memphis Grizzlies.
According to David Pick, Williams received a partially guaranteed deal from Memphis. Terms of the deal were not disclosed in the report.
According to multiple reports, Williams had interest from as many as four NBA teams.
Williams played for Phoenix in the Samsung NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, where he averaged 12.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 22.3 minutes per game.
Over Phoenix’s final three Summer League games, Williams averaged 20.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and two steals.
Because Ferrrell’s initial deal with the Nets was for the Summer League, he was a free agent and able to sign with other teams at the conclusion of his time in Vegas.
Terms of Ferrell’s deal with the Nets have not been disclosed.
The All-Big Ten guard averaged 8.8 points, 1.8 assists, 1.5 rebounds in 17 minutes per game in the Summer League. He shot 43.8 percent from the field, 18.2 percent on 3s and 71.4 percent from the free throw line.
The Nets roster, which was at 15 players before the Ferrell signing, is heavy on guards with Jeremy Lin, Greivis Vásquez, Isaiah Whitehead, Caris LeVert, Randy Foye and Sean Kilpatrick already signed for next season.