Christian Watford Archive

Notebook: Fischer makes large leap in ESPN rankings

050213bcxAt last month’s Derby Festival Basketball Classic in Louisville, 2013 Germantown (Wis.) forward and Indiana signee Luke Fischer said he wasn’t concerned about where he fell in the national rankings.

“It doesn’t really bother me that much at all. I really don’t care about rankings,” he told Inside the Hall. “They don’t really mean much to me. I’ve just always gone out there and played and have done my own thing.”

Despite leading his high school to two straight undefeated state championships and winning Mr. Basketball, Fischer isn’t included in the Rivals.com or Scout.com top 100.

But one of the three major services, ESPN, took notice of Fischer’s production as a senior and gave him a major bump in its final 2013 rankings that were released on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-10, 210-pound big man jumped from No. 67 to No. 34 after averaging 21.3 and 9.5 rebounds as a senior.

Three other IU signees — Noah Vonleh (13), Troy Williams (54) and Stanford Robinson (99) — were also included in the ESPNU Top 100.

Indiana’s class ranks No. 4 nationally behind Kentucky, Kansas and Memphis.

Oladipo, Zeller hold steady in mock drafts

With the passing of the NBA’s early entry deadline for the draft on April 30, several publications have updated their mock drafts and Indiana junior Victor Oladipo and sophomore Cody Zeller are unanimously in the lottery.

The NBA will hold its annual combine later this month in Chicago and the event will air live on the following times and dates:  10 a.m. May 16, ESPNU;  2 p.m. May 16, ESPN2; 10 a.m. May 17, ESPNU; 2 p.m. May 17, ESPN2.

Here’s a look at where each player is currently projected:

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That’s A Wrap: Defense

IUMinnITH0011Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our recap of the 2012-2013 Indiana Hoosiers. Today, the final installment: Indiana’s defense.

Final stats (36 games): 62.1 ppg, 43.2 FG %, 44.0 eFG %, 30.4 3P FG%, 27.0 % FTR.

As the 2011-12 college hoops season wrapped and many national pundits ranked the Hoosiers No. 1 heading into this past season — a ranking that eventually carried over to the official AP preseason Top 25 — there was one black mark on Indiana’s resumé: its defense.

“Indiana may well be the proper pick as the best team in the land, but I think if you locked people in a room in late March and made each individual figure it out on his or her own, it wouldn’t have been nearly as obvious that a team with a suspect defense last season should be the best team in the land this season, and at least a few people would have struggled to put them in the top five,” wrote Stats Lord Ken Pomeroy in late October.

ESPN’s Blog Star Eamonn Brennan on the same day: “As the Hoosiers themselves will readily admit, they were not a good defensive team last season. It is rare for a team with a defense so mediocre — they finished ranked No. 64 in adjusted defensive efficiency — to seriously contend for a national title the next season.”

All true and fair. But Indiana quickly shed such a reputation once the ball tipped on the season. It would finish the year No. 13 in adjusted defensive efficiency and show tremendous improvement across the board. The biggest change? Its communication and commitment to team defense. They understood when to switch, when to rotate, when to help and when to stay home. They held each other accountable. They realized good defense could turn into a quick transition bucket, that a turnover or long rebound often meant a dunk or 3-pointer on the other end.

The numbers bear it out. Where Indiana in seasons past struggled to defend the 3-point line — remember games like this or this or this? — they held opponents to a 30.4 percent mark from distance in 2012-2013, 30th best in the nation. An opponent 2-point percentage mark of 43.2 (No. 32) and eFG percentage of 44.0 (No. 15) also had them among the top teams in the nation.

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That’s A Wrap: Offense

IUUNCITH0013Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our recap of the 2012-2013 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Indiana’s offense.

Final stats (36 games): 78.6 ppg, 48.2 FG %, 54.8 eFG %, 40.3 3P FG%, 74.3 FT %, 45.9 % FTR.

Indiana’s offense was once again elite in 2012-2013, and paired with a much improved defense that wasn’t present in 2011-2012, the Hoosiers spent a majority of the regular season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press top 25 poll.

Despite a tough last month in which it scored just 1.03 points per possession, Indiana finished the season with the nation’s second best offense at 1.21 points per trip. That was up slightly over last season when IU finished at 1.206.

The improvement was a bit more defined in Big Ten play where IU scored 1.136 points per possession compared to 1.112 last season.

Once again, the efficiency was led by Cody Zeller’s presence in the middle, getting to the foul line and IU’s ability to find shooters on the perimeter. Zeller’s biggest impact was in getting to the foul line, where he posted a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 73.2. Indiana shot 904 free throws and made 672 of those attempts compared to 563 attempted for its opponents. Offensive rebounding was a big area of improvement this season as Indiana rose from 59th nationally in on the offensive glass all the way up to seventh. Both Zeller and Victor Oladipo ranked in the top seven in the Big Ten in offensive rebounding.

The 3-point shooting percentage was down from last season, but was still fourth best nationally with four guys — Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Oladipo and Remy Abell — finishing at better than 40 percent. After shooting better than 41.2 percent in each month from November through February, the Hoosiers managed just 31.5 percent from behind the arc in March, which was a big reason the offense sputtered down the stretch.

The offense was again incredibly balanced with five guys scoring 9.5 points per game or more and a sixth, Yogi Ferrell, averaging 7.6. The two biggest movers year-over-year were Oladipo and Watford. After an up-and-down sophomore season, Oladipo put it all together as a junior and finished seventh nationally in effective field goal percentage (64.8). Watford shot a ridiculous 48.4 percent on threes, which was up nearly five percent from his junior season and almost 17 percent from where he finished as a freshman.

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That’s A Wrap: Christian Watford

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Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2012-2013 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Christian Watford.

Watford (36 games): 12.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 43.2% FG, 48.4% 3PFG, 81.1% FT in 27.9 minutes per game.

They said Christian Watford, for all his talent and scoring ability, despite the biggest shot in Indiana hoops in some time, was too inconsistent.

Watford would disappear when he was needed — missing shot after shot during Big Ten games. His effort waxed and waned like the moon.

But in his final season in the cream and crimson, Watford shed that reputation. It didn’t start that way. He had trouble fitting into the Hoosiers’ uptempo transition style. Against North Carolina in Bloomington — perhaps the most dominant, entertaining performance by Indiana all year — Watford decided to play outside the team construct and hunt for shots. He had a dunk that looked nice, but it would be the only shot he’d make all evening (1-of-9).

Play like this simply wasn’t going to fly.

Slowly, Watford found that conforming to the construct of IU’s efficient offense had its benefits. He wouldn’t be the one scoring at the rim in transition. He wouldn’t be the one bringing the ball up the court, either. But Watford’s trailer 3-pointer off the left wing was deadly. If we scratch Remy Abell’s 48.5 percent mark which came on just 33 attempts, Watford led the team in 3-point percentage (48.4 percent on 125 attempts). And for a team that made it a point to get to the line often, Watford would use his ability on the block to get the charity stripe (a team-high 81.1 percent mark) or score otherwise if the foul didn’t come. (Though, he wouldn’t always find success there. His shot fell 55 percent of the time at the rim, tied with Yogi Ferrell for worst among IU’s rotation players.)

As the Big Ten season rolled along, Watford’s numbers were a model of consistency. Not only did he score in double-digits in 17 of the 20 games, but he was strong on the boards as well, tallying eight or more rebounds on seven occasions.

Rebounding like that doesn’t come without consistent effort. Watford was finally bringing it game in and game out. He also hit one of the biggest shots of the season, a runner and-1 in the lane against Michigan State up in East Lansing that helped the Hoosiers win there for the first time in 22 years.

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Draft watch: Oladipo and Zeller have decisions to make

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With the 2012-2013 season complete, Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo have decisions to make in the near future concerning the 2013 NBA Draft with both players projected as lottery picks in most projections.

Here’s our latest edition of Draft watch, with a focus on the decision making process for each player, as well as a look at the stock of Christian Watford:

Cody Zeller
ESPN: (10) Draft Express: (3) NBADraft.net: (6)

· Analysis: Zeller’s final game of the season, and perhaps his Indiana career, was fuel for those who believe he’s not ready to jump to the NBA. He struggled to score against the length of Syracuse and had more of his shots blocked (5) than made field goals (3). But as alarming as that performance may have been in the eyes of some, the complete body of work for Zeller is still quite impressive. His scoring and rebounding numbers improved from a season ago, despite a dip in efficiency, and he was excellent in transition and at getting to the foul line. Whether he’s ready to be a regular rotation player in the NBA is up for debate, but his position as a lottery pick is not. That’s a proposition that’s hard to pass up for any player.

· Expert opinion: “Some scouts love him, many don’t. His stock is a bit more volatile [than Oladipo]. Not sure where he lands and whether he’d be better off returning for a year to add strength and a jump shot to his game.” – ESPN.com’s Chad Ford.

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Video: Crean, players preview Syracuse

Tom Crean, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, Cody Zeller and Jordan Hulls addressed the media Wednesday afternoon at the Verizon Center before Thursday night’s Sweet Sixteen matchup with the Syracuse Orange.

Tom Crean:

Oladipo, Watford, Zeller and Hulls:

You can read a full transcript here.

Hoosiers won ugly, and now they’re more dangerous than ever

IUTempleITH0037DAYTON, Ohio — This was the type of game Indiana rarely finds a way to win. The pace slow, the play physical, the score low, the game ugly.

We’ve seen it too many times before. Butler. Wisconsin. Minnesota. Wisconsin again.

Temple gave the top-seeded Hoosiers everything they could handle on Sunday afternoon in Dayton. They had them on the ropes, had them frazzled. Their dream season was quickly slipping away.

But this time, Indiana found a way — an ugly, low-scoring and physical one — and the Hoosiers are moving on. They won a game in a way they never can. Now, the Hoosiers are more dangerous than ever. Now, they have won in every imaginable way.

Indiana 58, Temple 52.

“It was just a matter of time, the way our guys approached it, that things would break for them,” said Indiana coach Tom Crean. “If we just continued to defend, if we continued to get good shots and good ball movement and get the ball inside out on offense … That’s exactly what happened.”

What made this one different? Well, it’s really quite simple: Leadership. This team’s seniors have been through it all. They’ve lost too many times to Wisconsin and Wisconsin-like teams to let it end their collegiate careers.

Jordan Hulls, who took a brutal hit to his shoulder in the first half only to come back and hit big shots later, made sure his teammates never quit. He took control in the team’s huddles during timeouts.

“He said, ‘We were down by five with 52 seconds to go at Michigan,’” associate head coach Tim Buckley said of Hulls. “He said that with two minutes to go in the game.”

“Jordan kept saying, ‘We’re not done, we’re not done,’” Yogi Ferrell said.

Hulls’ words were important, but his actions were even more so. He was clearly in pain — he constantly grimaced late in the first half — but he refused to remain on the bench in the biggest game of Indiana’s season. Hulls wanted to be on the floor.

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