An early look at the 2010-2011 frontcourt

  • 07/02/2010 3:43 pm in

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 11: Forward Christian Watford #2 of the Indiana Hoosiers drives with the ball against forward John Shurna #24 of the Northwestern Wildcats during the first round of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 11, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)So piggybacking off Alex’s good work yesterday in filling the summer malaise with some solid depth chart discussion as we hit July, let us open our textbooks to chapter two.

Last season’s frontcourt was something of a mixed bag, with young talents like Christian Watford and later Derek Elston emerging as legitimate scoring threats, while Tom Pritchard struggled most of the season with foul trouble and inconsistency.

So what to expect from this season’s edition of the Indiana frontcourt? There’s not much gone, although losing Tijan Jobe and Bawa Muniru does mean the subtraction of the Hoosiers’ two tallest players from a year ago. But the meat of IU’s depth chart down low returns, a year older, presumably a year stronger, perhaps a year better? Let’s take a look at a few important storylines.

+ Will Watford even be a post player next year? No, this isn’t more transfer speculation. (Quick note on that subject: Let’s be fair to Watford, who has said he wanted to stay — there hasn’t really been a whole lot of factual basis for the transfer rumors, mostly chat room speculation.) This is whether we’re going to see Watford operating in the post that often this season.

The player certainly has the skillset and the disposition to play on the wing as well, and being honest, that’s really his most natural position. It was a rough-and-tumble freshman year for Watford, who often found himself outsized down low, where he was asked to operate time and again. Still, it’s hard to sniff at a 12-and-6 points/rebounds average over nearly 30 minutes per game from a freshman. It was harsh, really, that he wasn’t at least an announced Big Ten Freshman of the Year candidate.

So where on the court is Watford’s future in an Indiana Hoosier? If it’s down low, then he’ll need to have spent this offseason bulking up significantly. If not, someone needs to step up for IU instead.

+ What should we expect from Tom Pritchard? Former IDSer Jordan Cohen alerted me to a striking statistic regarding Pritchard not long ago. In his first 16 career games, Pritchard had five double-doubles. In the next 46 and counting: none.

Now, that statistics ought to be put in some context. Four of those double-doubles came against IUPUI, Northeastern, TCU and Northwestern State, and expectations on Pritchard, thus far, have probably been far too heavy. But it’s also fair to expect progression, not regression, from a player’s freshman to sophomore year, particularly given how much court time Pritchard got in his first year. Instead, minutes, points and rebounds all went down, while average fouls per game stayed at a heavy 3.2.

Pritchard’s importance to this team isn’t just in his individual progression. Indiana needs a player like Pritchard or Bobby Capobianco to provide consistency and solid minutes in the post so that players like Watford and Elston can move into positions in which they can be more comfortable and, perhaps, more productive. Tom Crean needs Pritchard to emerge in his junior year as the Hoosiers’ primary post, if for no other reason that so that other players don’t have to.

+ So what do we expect from Elston? Which Derek Elston is the more likely candidate to show up in November? There was the Elston that never looked comfortable inside or outside, made questionable decisions with the ball and just generally looked isolated too often on the court. Then there was the Elston that averaged more than 10 points per game over the Hoosiers’ last five, hitting for double figures in four and appearing much more like a player who had started to figure out his role in his team.

It seems awfully tempting to pick the second, because Elston really did look like a player who had somehow gotten the right stuff to click on the court. He looked confident and willing in attack, and better — although still noticeably deficient — on defense.

Like Watford, Elston is probably more of an inside-outside player than a true post, and his defense still needs work. And like Watford, he’s still going to be expected to fill plenty of time down low this season, at least until IU develops a true post presence. But the flashes were there, and they ought to show up again.

+ And what do we make of this Guy-Marc Michel guy? Indiana’s newly-minted 7-footer from Martinique is nothing if not a mystery right now. He’s more well-known that was Tijan Jobe when he arrived in Bloomington, and current Hoosiers who have played with Michel have given him the stamp of approval.

At the same time, Michel is fighting perception. He’s not the first unknown big man Crean has hauled to Bloomington, and he doesn’t bring the most reassuring junior college stat line (seven points, seven rebounds, according to our friends at the H-T) to Bloomington.

The former Gonzaga recruiting target came to IU because he said he wanted lots of quick playing time. If he earns it, then he’ll give Indiana that post presence that it so desperately needs. Expectations probably ought to be more tempered than that, but Indiana could still use much more out of Michel than it ever got from Jobe or the now-departed Bawa Muniru.

+ Let’s not forget Capo: What role does Bobby Capobianco play? Probably something similar to the one he filled last season. No one expects Capobianco to start rolling in double-doubles, but with an offseason to get stronger, faster, etc., his role as a thumper and a physical post off the bench ought to keep growing.

Could he supplant someone ahead of him? Absolutely. But Capobianco’s best asset as a Hoosier right now is his strength and willingness to mix things up. Learn to do that without fouling so much, and Capo could be quite the important piece this winter.

Filed to:

  • Dmglotz

    I think one of our biggest problems last season was frontcourt defense, or lack thereof. TP, CW, & DE have all got to drastically improve their defensive abilities for us to be competitive. If not, then let’s hope Guy-Marc can fill this void…for maybe 10 minutes a games anyway…I understand he’s very prone to foul trouble.

  • BaseballBuc

    I believe that Watford should play the 3 but I still question if he has the speed and quickness to defend smaller guards. Elston, whom I love, just seemed a little out of control last year. He needs to work on his ball handling a lot to play consistently at this level. Too many times he tried to dribble into the lane only to get it knocked away or stolen. I am going to keep my expectations low for Guy. He was basically a straight up trade for Bawa. All I want him to do is come in, block some shots, get some boards, and put some people on the ground. Anything he gives us offensively will be a bonus as far as i'm concerned. I'm not sure if I see Capo getting much playing time this year with our added depth. I really have nothing to say about Pritchard.

  • JerryCT

    WHat happened to Jeff Howard ? Is he not on the team ? He has quick feet and will play in tough situations where we need to deny passes to a mobile big like Hummel who plays all over the floor. No one else is suited to do that among our guys bigger than 6'7″.

  • HoosNation

    I don’t think there is much debate about the front court. CW, DE, and BC will be the main course, with a side dish of GMM and perhaps TP as an after dinner mint (basically after we have the game won or somebody else gets a limb taken completely off- Sorry Jerry!!) I for one hope that we do get the frosh Pritch back bc he could do work next year with the players we have now.

    Can’t wait.

  • Kelin Blab

    + Watford with strength and more muscle this year will be hard to handle and alot more durable. I believe he got beat up and wore down at the end of last season

    + I am still a believer in big Tom and expect him to add to his double double total.

    + For me, Elston just needed confidence and I believe he has it now in himself and the coaches. He could be a guy that leads us in rebounds because he is so so active.

    + I am looking forward to Guy. I think with time this summer and coach McClain that knows him, he could be ready to contribute immediately.

    + Capo, just like Roth has a skill that he brings to the table that is unique….he came in with toughness…and it showed last year.

    If you look at this 'group' as whole they can check off alot of boxes….

    Length- Watford, Guy, Elston
    Physical – Elston, Capo, Pritch, Howard
    Run the floor- Guy, Elston, Howard, Watford
    Stretch the floor – Capo, Watford, Howard, Elston

    I love them as a group and there will be practice competition.

  • marsh21

    Coach Crean please don't make CW play in the low post this season. If you do and its another difficult season count on CW to hit the road as he should.

  • slikyslim222

    Watford is clearly a 3, backed up by Elston. The 4 spot goes to Elston if we are looking for some more “O” with Pritchard running a close 2nd (as he regains his freshman year confidence & some hard-learned lessons/seasoning.) The 5 spot goes to Pritchard and Michel splitting time with Capo challenging both if they slip or are in foul trouble.

    I love the guys we got and predict they will make a major swing upward individually AND especially team wise.

  • JerryCT

    A small point but you left off Pritchard when considering running the floor. This is a myth….. consider:

    1) spotted Battle 10 yds and still tracked him down to block his layup

    2) no other player hedges out at the 3pt line and still gets back on his man like TP

    I just watched the loss to Michigan this morning and TP defended Lucas Perry and still quick enough to defend SIms ……………more than once.

    No he is not our fastest player but he has enough speed .

  • JerryCT

    First , is it SILKY or SLIKY ?

    WHether it is important if CW is a 3 or 4 depends on what offenses we run. In dribble drive who cares. IF we are going to post him low and dump down to him then it matters. This is one reason to consider him as both a 3 & 4. Keep in mind he is a terrific rebounder.

    My problem with Guy is that we have not seen him play Div 1 and we donot know alot about him. To compete for time ( with TP anyway ) he will have to learn to:

    1) set the ball screens
    2) read the shot clock and set the screen to save the possession
    3) hedge on ball screens and still get back on his man to avoid the switch and mismatch
    4) read the press and in bounds the ball and/or set the screens to shake us loose from the press

  • hoosiergirl

    Who is Jeff Howard?

  • GFDave

    Collectively when I look at this group I see players that are not big, long and strong enough to be effective post players (GM-M excluded) nor quick, explosive and agile enough to play facing the basket on the wing. But, you've got to dance with the girl that brung ya', so:

    –GM-M is the key. If he can play, then a lot of pieces start falling closer to the place that they should, eg Capo and Pritch off the bench and Wat and Elston being able to play together while not hurting our interior D.
    –Elston: will continue his improvement, imo.
    –Watford: If he can put it on the floor and hit 18' jumpers, look out!
    –Capo: Reminds me of Charles Oakley (D1 version) a little. Plays tough and fearless.
    –Pritch: If GM-M takes his place as a starter, then maybe the pressure is off and he produces. But really, it hasn't been about skill as much as its been about fouls. He can't stay on the floor long enough to get anything done.
    –Howard: I don't know his game, but he's a walk-on so my expectations are low.

    In reviewing this group, its clear to me that we do not have enough athleticism up front. Kids like Perea (hyper athletic), Dawsen, Zeller (mismatch when he's on the court) and Behanan are an instant upgrade in that regard.

  • GFDave

    walk on

  • marcusgresham

    He's a “preferred walk-on”, which means he wasn't offered a scholarship, but he was invited to join the team without having to try out, like the other walk-ons will. He had a few scholarship offers, (Eastern Kentucky and a couple of other schools,) but he really wanted to go to IU.

  • marcusgresham

    There's Jerry's hedges again. I bet your yard looks like the Georgia football field.

  • MillaRed

    I think we got what we thought we would out of most of these freshmen but Mo Creek was the pleasant surprise.

    I say this year's surprise is Jeff Howard. He won't put up Mo's numbers but for some reason I think this guy is here to contribute. We need one guy to step up every year and in 2010-11 he gets my early vote.

  • slikyslim222

    Its Silkyslim222, sorry haste makes waste as the old saying goes…anyhoo

    You are right, Guy is the 'unknown' of our young developing equation. And you have clearly hit the nail on the head with your points 1 & 2. SET SCREENS to provide some oil for IU machine as it tends to sputter due to inexperience & un-motion. Nothing helps an offense more than good screens & cuts especially when our guys seem to lack the knack to dribble penetrate to create points or passes with any level of consistency. If Guy can screen, rebound, & block some shots, I will be patient as he develops his low post or HP game.

  • I'd be shocked if Jeff Howard gets more than garbage time, but hey, that's just me.

  • slikyslim222

    I disagree, Hoosnation, though I love Capo's aggressiveness he also tends to be foul prone which I hope he improves on. Elston plays more like a 3/4 especially rebounding more on the “O” side & not so much on the “D” side which hurts the team defensively. We won't do well if CW is our only guy trying to rebound underneath as he rebounds well for a 3 but is not a 4/5.

    That leaves the opportunity for Pritchard to have a Most Improved Player type season. I'm sure he will review the videos from last season learn tons and grow into his potential. Guy is a big question mark, but I am hopeful he adapts & learns fairly quickly (& set good screens, right JerryCT?!! :o) )

  • slikyslim222

    I loved Oak's game, (even Jordan missed him, though he & his teammates rarely missed Bill Carwright's elbows.) If Capo can bang without silly fouls & rebound, my heart will sing and so will IU wins. I hope you are right GFDave, and Capo becomes our Oakley.

    p.s. Someone send Capo some old tapes to show him what to aspire to.

  • slikyslim222

    Maybe Coach Crean can hire Bobby Knight for one summer session of “Individual & Team Defense WITHOUT fouling & Rebounding 101” because that was a problem last season !!! :o)

  • JerryCT

    Well, Michael Hedges was my favorite acoustic guitar player

  • JerryCT

    His coach said he defended point guards very well when they needed him to and then seeing the videos it proved how quick his feet are for his size.

    I add that up to a kid who could specialize this year in a few minutes to “overplay” and disrupt some guys we have proven in the past we cannot defend like….Diebler, Buford ( did he go pro ? ), Hummel. Joseph , Gaetens ……

    I agree that if this ocurred it would be a surprise ….. but we labeled it a “surprise” didn't we ?

  • ArtistFormerlyKnownAs_Aceman07

    I'd have to say that part of this problem was having freshman/freshman/sophomore and sometimes even f/f/f on the floor in the frontcourt! Let's face it, the thing you hear most about incoming freshman in any program is “he can do this and this and this, but he needs to work on his defense” and the rare cases who are freshman defensive studs are few and far between. Hopefully, and I stress hopefully, CTC and his staff have worked with these guys in the weight room and on the floor on their post defense because it was woeful last season and led to woeful rebounding games as well.

  • ArtistFormerlyKnownAs_Aceman07

    Could someone buy TP a dog before every game, then steal it and give it to a good family, then tell TP it died so we can see him come out and play pissed off like he did against PUke???

    Sorry, I couldn't resist but it was the only game last year where he came out and played with passion and put it to some guys!

  • ArtistFormerlyKnownAs_Aceman07

    Alex, I think you may be surprised. He's got some skills and his size just came late and he manhandled Hammons for most of their sectional game last year and he's supposed to be such a highly touted recruit! When he came out of the game, AJ, dominated, but when he was in there he was the better player. He cuts well, passes well, crashes the boards at both end and is a pretty good athlete! He just developed late. Had that development occurred before his junior year he'd be coming in as a four star recruit right now.

    This is all my opinion, obviously, but I've spoken with some people there in Westfield that know him and know the game and they tell me IU fans will be pleasantly surprised. It may take him some time to show it and earn time but I wouldn't be surprised at all when he does.

  • slikyslim222

    He DID struggle last year and played confused. He was either committing silly fouls or would be tentative and disappear. The soph. slump is past, expect good things from TP.

    How about we just shave the dog and tell him it was done by the upcoming team next on the schedule. :o)

  • slikyslim222

    If he can grap more than 3-4 rebounds a game with an occasion putback, I will be surprised & downright giddy! We need some good surprises to get our team over the top on those close games.

  • Hoosierwv

    Guy-Marc will improve every time he steps on the court. Not comparing him to anyone,but where would I.U. have ended up in the 86/87 season without Dean Garrett. But I feel he has good energy, and has an opportunity to be part of something special. His offense will come in time, but he wasn't brought in for that. We all have better days than others, so there will be some games that we will just be ecstatic he's on our side, and sould make a differance on some wins. Not saying we will hang another banner this year with him, just saying he can help make THIS team better! It's just my opinion, I just want I.U. back where they should be!!

  • HoosNation

    I guess the comment was based on the fact that BC has played alot and we know what he’s about. Elston has the potential to be a great rebounder on both ends this year if GMM is able to play well enough to get minutes. Guy can take alot of pressure off of our front court and IMO he’s the balance point of this team. Call me crazy……. Also, I agree that if Wat is our post presence than GMM is a bust/project ( it almost killed me to type that!) With the guys we have now including Howard, I really don’t see TP getting much of an opportunity unless he really shows something other than setting a monster screen at half court on a one man press. His hedging is terrible if you ask me, there were too many times his man ended up with a dunk after he stepped out to stop the ball handler 5 feet past the 3 point line. I would rather a guy take a 35 footer and TP sag back than to leave his man and not recover. If he hasn’t dramatically improved before the season starts, then IMO he shouldn’t get much run.

  • Anonymous

    There is a place and time for a properly set screen in any kind of offensive set in my opinion. This was probably my biggest criticism of our offensive flow, or lack of at some points, last year.
    One of the hardest, and I have never really understood why, things for a player now days to grasp is, first the importance of a well set screen, and secondly, that after setting a screen, turning and immediatly setting another screen for the same player they just set it for can be one of the best screens they can set and often results in the player that gets the second quick screen getting an open look whether it be an open look for a shot or a good pass. When I coached AAU ball I started and played a kid that wasn’t going to take anybody off the dribble and wasn’t a deadeye from 3 but screened his ass off in the right places at the right times and once the other players understood that his playing time was given to him in large part because of that the others, who were in some cases a better shot but didn’t understand that a well set screen a lot of the time was just as important as the shot or just wouldn’t set screens, came to understand that the so called little things could add up to take playing time from them and starting placing more importance on those kind of things.

  • Joe Brew

    regarding the poll i think Verdell is going to start at the point next season

  • Fisherman

    Being an old coach I think improvement comes from practice and you have a hard time improving without having anyone who pushes you in practice. The addition of all the new guys will cause last year’s starters and subs a harder time in practice with the hope that last year’s players have to improve or lose playing time. We did not have this in the last 2 years. Good players injured hurts also in games and in practice. If Watford and Elston had to chase Creek around when he was practicing at the 3 spot maybe they would have better defensive skills in games last year. When ask of the great IU teams of 1975 &76 who was the best team you played against this year they all agreed it was IU’s second team in practice. IMO a deeper team in practice should lead to a better team in games so I am hopeful about IU’s future! Go Hoosiers!!

  • MillaRed

    I understand why Alex and others would be surprised if the kid saw the
    court. But there isnt anything that is IU basketball more wide open
    than the 5 spot. I am sure he was well aware of that.

    I'm not expecting a lot. I just think by the end of the year he may be
    a pleasant surprise. Call it a gut feeling along with very little
    confidence in our bigs.


    but he really wanted to play for IU……this is a part of the, which recruit should be concentrate more on puzzle, that has to be factored into the equation in something more than a very small way. I think we are starting to get to the point that this can be factored into it more and more each year.

    Signed: Thinking Positive


    Better yet tell him that it was mistakenly given to Michael Vick and a certain level of play would intimidate Vick enough not mistreat it and to return it quickly and unharmed. LOL


    This is pretty much what I wa thinking maybe nothing but garbage time during most of his first year but with him competing at the 5, as you said our most wide open spot, and if he has the foot speed that some are saying I think he may be seeing a little more than garbage time, not much but some, by the end of the year. If CTC goes with a considerable amount of pressing this year this betters his chances of quality playing time even more. I hate to even say the I word but, any injuries that might happen could possibly fast track him playing some nongarbage time even faster.

    I guess it really shows that it is the offseason when we are discussing if and under what circumstances a walk-on will be getting playing time. Oh well, we have to so something to pass this down time and I can't think of any better way to pass it than discussing IU bball ! Guess it kinda makes Alex and Co. the guys throwing the life preservers to the people overboard.

  • Outoftheloop

    I don't think starting minutes are important at all. Minutes are important. Guy at C but only 20 min/game in the preseason unless he is playing great. Creek at SG but only 20 min/game in the preseason until he is totally healthy and strong. Watford at SF try for only 20 min/game in preseason but more to get the win. Elston at PF try for only 20 min/game in preseason but more to get the win. Jones at PG try for only 20 min/game in preseason but more to get the win. Capo and Pritchard split 20 min/game for Guy at C. Rivers, Sheehey and Oladipo as a group to press on defense, fast break on offense, and run the opponents out of the gym, as a group 15 min/game, but reward them if they play well. Roth 5 min in the first half and 5 min in the second for a “heat check”. He has to get off 2 shots in the 5 min and if he hits both keep him in until he is below 50%. Hulls is the first sub in for 20 min/game at PG and reward him with more min if he is hot from the 3 pt line and/or runs the offense great. That makes 195 out of 200 min. Obviously these are rough guidelines, not fixed time frames. You have to win the game and adjust to what is going on.

  • Outoftheloop

    Jerry, IMO you give the job to Guy for a minimum of 20 min/game in the preseason. We have seen Pritchard and Capo and they can not be the main C on a really good team. Split the remaining 20 min at C between them and reward the one playing great with more min at the PF position.

  • Outoftheloop

    I have to disagree with the comment “At the same time, Michel is fighting perception. He’s not the first unknown big man Crean has hauled to Bloomington.” No one at any time thought that TJ could play basketball. Everyone understood that Bawa needed coaching to develop. He was not given the commitment to develop his talents by the IU Coach and staff. Only time will show if the talent was there. But the jury is still out on that one. So neither was “unknown”, one was not a player, the other was a project. Guy carries ONLY his own promise and no one else's disappointments into this season.

  • ArtistFormerlyKnownAs_Aceman07

    Both great comebacks!

  • ArtistFormerlyKnownAs_Aceman07

    There's also something to be said for basketball IQ. In that sectional game against Carmel and Hammons, Howard had three early fouls and played smart basketball and managed to play the whole game without another foul. Hammons picked up three early fouls and fouled twice within seconds both times he was inserted in the game later on fouling out and giving his team basically nothing. Howard also had the key steal (good anticipation) and dunk near the end of the game to spark Westfield's run. I obviously think AJ Hammons will be the much better college player but in that game Howard showed he could be another Derek Elston lurking in the shadows with the skill to be a solid D1 player.

  • MillaRed

    The NCAA is looking into John Wall's relationship with his agent, who he apparently has known since his senior year in high school. The question being whether or not this guy “steered” Wall to Kentucky.

    Go figure…….

  • marcusgresham

    Oh, no, I'm thrilled to death that a guy who would appear to have some potential to contribute some time down the road chose to walk on. I was just explaining what “preferred” meant.

    And I agree with you, focus on the guys who sound like they want to be here (i.e., Thomas,) and if there are others who, for whatever reason, don't appear to be sold (i.e., Davis,) find someone equal or better who does. I won't be surprised if Davis ends up staying right at home and going to Ball State, the way his stock is dropping.

  • marcusgresham

    I'd check to see how well that agent knew World Wide Wes. It would be nice to get Criminalipari, UK, WWW, and a scummy agent all at once.

    The NBA needs to be a part of this equation and find a way to punish any agent who breaks NCAA rules. Suspend him from negotiating for a certain period of time, and eliminate him from any possibility of ever negotiating on behalf of the player involved in the infraction. Until the NCAA can gain assistance from the NBA nothing will change because there's no incentive to follow the rules for the player or the agent.

  • I'm guessing no but the NCAA can't punish agents at all right? If this is the case and there are no rules from the NBA regarding the situation technically speaking the agents are doing nothing wrong. I don't agree with it but what do the agents have to lose by getting involved earlier than they should? The players take on all the risk while the agents get paid.

  • marcusgresham

    I don't think the NCAA has any method of punishing agents because there isn't supposed to be any contact with them at all. That's why it needs the cooperation of the NBA–maybe that all gets rolled into the discussions of “one-and-done” players, if it ever takes place.

  • slikyslim222

    Agreed. The 5 spot is WIDE open. After Pritchard's last years struggling, and the raw unrealized potential of Jobe(though I loved his attitude) & Bawa, Capo's fouling, the unknown of Guy, Howard has as good as chance as anyone if he hits the boards hard! It would be a nice surprise that could not only get him minutes & the team more wins.

    Another factor to motivate the other bigs or another possibility — we run by platoon of bigs who play hard for 4-5 minutes and a sub will rotate in.

  • millzy32

    A picture tells a thousand words and all you have to look at is the one at the top of this page to see that he plays much smaller than his 6’9″ frame and really is more like a 2 or 3 in a 4 body. His upper body is parallel to the ground and this was more of the norm than the exception last year. Watching him post up at the 3 point line drove me crazy last year. What good can come from receiving the ball with your back to the basket 20 feet away? Get him out on the wing where he can move a little bit and let the wider bodies post up low.

  • millzy32

    There were some attempts at screens last season but the problem was that way too many times they were moving screens.

    Player control was a big issue that will hopefully be corrected this offseason. Moving screens which are essentially turnovers and other unforced ball control turnovers were rampant. I remember watching IU give away leads without even taking a shot for a few minutes because of unforced errors. I’m hoping that they are being taught properly and that they were just young and inexperienced last year.

    Looking for a fundamentally much improved team this year.

  • slikyslim222

    No shock here, if it is true, KY has often sold its soul for talents & wins only to fall short of victory, let alone victory with honor & integrity. Even with FIVE first round NBA picks they still failed to win a college championship.

    The old saying seems to hold true, “What goes around, comes around,” and you can sneak by sometimes on the little things, but it will eventually catch up with you, & you can't cheat life.