An early look at the 2010-2011 backcourt

  • 07/01/2010 9:36 pm in

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 08:  Jeremiah Rivers #5 of the Indiana Hoosiers dribbles the ball against the Pitt Panthers during the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 8, 2009 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)It’s been a quiet couple of weeks from a news perspective, but that should change next week as the evaluation period begins Tuesday. I’ll be at the adidas Invitational in Indianapolis on Tuesday and Wednesday and will probably head to the Kentucky Hoopfest in Louisville at some point on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

It’ll be a great opportunity to watch, interview and capture video of top prospects from across the country and observe which players the IU staff are tracking the closest.

With that said, let’s dive into an early look at some of the storylines to keep an eye on with next season’s backcourt:

+ Maurice Creek’s health: This might be the No. 1 storyline leading into next season. Creek’s horrific injury probably cost the Hoosiers at least a couple more wins in 2009-2010 (if not more) and also kept one of the best young players in the Big Ten from playing  in a conference game. Creek’s progress towards 100 percent, based on his comments on Twitter and updates from Tom Crean, seems to be steady. A healthy Creek in 2010-2011 gives Indiana something it lacked when the going got tough late in games: A player you can rely on for a critical basket.

+ How much will Jeremiah Rivers contribute? Prior to last season, The Herald-Times referred to Rivers as Indiana’s unquestioned leader. As the season played out, this characterization spoke more to the state of IU’s program than Rivers’ ability to lead. Rivers showed flashes of brilliance, but was inconsistent and often unreliable from the foul line. As IU’s lone senior, Rivers will enter next season as more of a question mark than a known commodity. If he plays to his skill-level, the potential is there for Rivers to make a positive impact.

+ Verdell continues to grow: As a sophomore, Jones posted an impressive 16.7 ppg in 18 conference games. His shooting percentage wasn’t great overall at just a shade under 40 percent, but Creek’s return should free up Verdell for better looks as opponents will no longer be able to key on him. The keys to Jones blossoming into an All-Big Ten level player are continuing to put on weight and adding upper body strength that will allow him to finish plays at the basket instead of relying primarily on the pull-up jumper.

+ Is Jordan Hulls ready to lead? The answer, from my perspective, is yes. Statistically speaking, Hulls won’t put up gaudy numbers. And no, his glaring offensive weakness — penetrating all the way to the basket — isn’t ideal for the dribble-drive offense Crean wants to employ. But nobody will outwork Hulls, he can knock down shots and his natural instinct to make intelligent decisions will make it next to impossible to keep him off the floor.

+ New kids on the block: Crean has already made it clear that he’s not interested in newcomers Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey biding their time in Bloomington before making a splash. Oladipo will help right away because he’s a high-level athlete that will defend and rebound from the guard position. Crean wants rebounding from his backcourt and Oladipo can provide it. Sheehey is a slasher that should fit well in the dribble-drive, is an above-average rebounder and can guard multiple positions.

+ Where will Matt Roth fit in? You can never have too many shooters, but for Roth to warrant serious clock, he’ll need to do more than simply spot up, right? Maybe, but maybe not. If Roth gets on a roll, it’ll be hard to keep him off the court. But in order to warrant consistent playing time, he’ll need to defend better than he did as a freshman and add a serviceable mid-range game to keep defenses honest.

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