Is Indiana a top 25 team heading into next season?

  • 05/01/2013 12:32 pm in

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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.

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  • Evansville Hoosier

    Sadly, I don’t think we are a title contender this year. This probably is a transition year, as all those poll explanations noted. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Everyone has down years, and ours involves having (in my opinion) one of the top 25 teams in the country and a constant highlight reel on the court. And on top of all this, depending on how our current players develop (and if we grab stars in 2014 like Pinson and Exum) and who stays (Vonleh?) I think we have a good shot at being title contenders in 2014-15. And if not then, we’re looking at really talented 2015 guys, maybe that’s the year? Bottom line is Crean is starting to put together consecutive classes that have elite skills and athleticism, and doing this year in and year out means we’re going to be top 10 or 15 contenders for the foreseeable future.

  • calbert40

    I think we all think this will be a transitional season, but I find it hard to believe that this team doesn’t win 20+ and finish in the top 5 of the B1G. Based on that model, this is a Top 25 team. Who gives a flying rip if they are Top 25 in November?

    * Yogi should be one of the best returning PGs in the B1G and possibly the country.

    * Will was the 6th man of the year last season, and he is very deserving of increased minutes and expectations, especially as a senior.

    * We have the best recruiting class in the B1G this year, and while they may not all contribute immediately, it is not unreasonable to assume 2 or 3 will.

    The B1G will be tough again next season, but nothing like it was this past year. Looking ahead to our schedule, I’d figure that we should win 10-12 conference games. If you add that to our non-conference schedule as well as tournaments…I don’t see how this team doesn’t win 20-24 games and end up as a 4-5 seed in the tourney.

  • Brad Norrington

    Kind of off the subject, but does anyone know, namely Alex Bozich, whether or not IU will have a chance to play UK this year. I painfully work with mostly UK fans and, while this may not be a great year to play the kittens I would like the rivalry to be renewed. Although under dictator Cal it looks as though this may never happen.

  • IULaw79

    Zero chance of that happening. Both Crean and Calipari have stated it’s not happening anytime soon.

  • With Sheehey’s senior leadership and edge, I still have confidence in this team. Personally, I think it’s Yogi’s time to shine. I read Jason King’s prediction a few days back and was intrigued by his comments on Hanner’s development. I haven’t heard anything about his improvement thus far but if he develops that’d be huge for us!

  • Quote me people. IU will go farther in the tournament then we did this year. We will at first stink it up, but as the newbies get adjusted by the end of the year I think we can make a big run to the elite eight.

  • SCHoosier

    My heart says “yes”..but my b-ball instincts say Hoosiers are a Top-25 team only on paper. By the end of the season IU could be challenging for Top-25 votes..but the group is so young..with no experienced “bigs”..no reliable 3 pt. shooters and very little depth at point guard. The talent pool is impressive..but given the learning curve on the speed and physicality of the college game..fans will be disappointed if they expect too much too soon. Great potential here..but right now its only potential. A tremendous commitment to defense could move this group ahead faster than anticipated…players should be strong in transition…but very challenged in half court match ups.

  • Regardless of how they finish, I still think it will be a fun team to watch and it will be interesting to see how Yogi improves and how the freshman class steps in and contributes. It will feel more laid back but I see them winning some big games still this year and being a tough team to play against in the big ten.

  • These same people had Kentucky ranked #3 in the preseason last year and didn’t think we would make the tournament Zeller’s freshman year. Anything can happen. At least this year we won’t go in knowing exactly what to expect from everyone. We can sit back and watch the team improve and hopefully exceed expectations.

  • I think the wild card in all of this is the off-season development that IU has done and will continue to do with their players. Statistics and people who aren’t seeing them improve, work, or bust their butts can’t really have a good grasp of how good they’ll be because some players next year could very well be unrecognizeable compared to their past performances. I look for HMP and Hollowell to make HUGE jumps this summer and make a big impact next season. I could be wrong, but pre-season polls are not based on reality, they’re based on returning players, hype of incoming players, and general opinion. None of those bode well for IU and I’m ok with that. I sure wouldn’t mind a year where IU takes on the persona of Will Sheehey and plays with a chip on their shoulders all year…with their combination of athleticism and ability, they could downright nasty. Just a tought…

  • Aceman_Mujezinovic_07

    I keep saying it over and over again that this team will be WAY better than people think. It reminds me of Carmello Anthony’s lone Syracuse season or a poor man’s pUKe from two seasons ago. Here’s why I feel that way:

    Yogi – PG is the most important position on the court when it comes to experience and Yogi got plenty of that last year!
    Will – His shooting keeps improving and though he’s streaky, he’s also a freaky athlete who will step up as a senior leader.
    Jeremy – He’s a much more athletic, quicker version of Christian Watford and his shooting will improve. He rebounds and plays defense with more conviction than CWat as well (though CWat improved in those areas each season).
    Hanner – Watch out because if he progresses like I think he will and like Coach Crean he’ll be a starter and an athlete most teams can’t match up with.

    Luke Fischer is far better than he’s being billed and will get significant time when it counts next season if he isn’t a starter.

    Nogh Vonleh is a stud!!! Troy, Stanford, and DD may be ready early as well!
    Depth will be something this team has that last year’s didn’t! I think this team struggles early but will be a top 10 contender before the season ends!
    I know that’s a bit of a bold prediction, but I’ve been saying it for a while and I’m sticking to it!

  • Ole Man

    Yea, Katz; Indiana is too young. But that didn’t stop you from picking Kentucky for the top, did it?
    No way do I think we’ll contend for anything; but sportswriters, such as Katz, speak out of both sides of their mouths.

  • Ole Man

    Cal, love your optimism, but IMHO if we go 10-8 in the conference, we should throw a party.
    Also, last year’s class was one or two in the conference, and we saw how much they contributed.
    Hopefully, at least two of the incoming freshmen can contribute; a couple of last years make huge progress; and Yogi learns to shoot better.
    Also, I’m worried that Will puts too much pressure on himself and plays outside his comfort zone. He reads the same sources that we do and hears the same stuff.
    Hopefully, Crean can get him focused on just playing ball and not worrying about having to carry the team.

  • Ole Man

    Love your enthusiasm, so I won’t rag ya on it.

  • aHoopandaPrayer

    Dunk City 2.0?

  • Kenneth234

    This post seems to read like a horoscope or a fortune reader. I guess, I am just optimistic, I think that this team will finish 3rd or 4th in a tough Big Ten Conference, and will have a good shot at the Sweet 16 again.

  • Hardwood83

    I think 20-25 is a reasonable assessment. Let’s trust they improve as the season progresses and are dangerous in March.

    I do find it interesting that Kensucky is a projected #1 based entirely on freshmen and IU is dismissed for being too young. I don’t doubt the latest crop of mercenary thugs…I mean Gentlemen Scholars at pUKe are talented but #1? I don’t buy it.

  • Hardwood83

    I agree. Very tough to maintain an elite level in b-ball without having to retool every few years. Look at Mich St, they are a lot like IU this past season, talent, experience, some depth thanks to a couple guys unexpectedly passing on the NBA. But the next year? They’ll have nothing. Kansas lost everyone, the list goes on. All you can do is consistently bring in talented guys and develop the ones you have, which CTC is doing.

  • Hardwood83

    Could be, but a couple things give me some confidence. First the B1G will be easier, by a couple of levels, from last season- of the upper half of the league only MSU looks as good or better. Mich, OSU, Wisc, Minn & ILL all lost their best player(s) and lots of experience. Second, the big men IU has are athletic and that helps off-set youth. Oh yeah and supposedly PG is the most important position in college BB- and IU has one of the top 2-3 in the league.

    I think (hope) IU will be a top 5 conference finish.

  • Ole Man

    Off topic, but I need help. I keep looking for the 13-14 schedule and haven’t found it yet. Any help would be appreciated.

  • Evansville Hoosier

    It hasn’t been released yet.

  • Evansville Hoosier

    I think Indiana locks down 20 wins and a top 6 finish. Especially with Assembly Hall’s atmosphere.

  • Eastwood88_2

    Many of you sound extremely smart. Even u ole man. I am back. First and foremost this team will be much better defensively. Wat and hulls are replaced by more athletic players. Yogi is the key like you all say. I believe he will be second team all bigten. Wil is leading us in scoring. Hollowell will be huge this year. Kid can score and will start. Two freshman starting noah and luke. Ranked 30’s by espn today. Big move by luke. I like the pressure being off. Fun again.

  • marcusgresham

    Just saw UK’s non-conference schedule on the news tonight. They do have Robert Morris on the schedule, so they don’t shy away from every team that beats them.

  • Beard

    Jeremy blocked numerous shots last year, which shows a good deal of awareness and anticipation. Hanner just needs to settle down because his athleticism and size combination could make him a starter this year. People outside of the program have touted his skills, so I do not doubt Crean’s praise of him. They will definitely not be liabilities and I hope for great things, but expect at the worst one to start and the other to contribute.

  • Beard

    This team will be much more Crean’s style, so they will play better defense and run more because of increased athleticism. The freshmen will contribute more than last year simply because there are more openings for them. When you have Zeller, Watford and Oladipo in the game and Sheehey waiting on the bench, there are not many minutes to squeeze Hanner and Jeremy in. Granted, both got some sparse minutes, but this year’s freshmen will get much more. This team will run with the best of them in the country. The only thing I think we lack is a couple knockdown three point shooters, but we have several capable so hopefully that suffices.

  • iuoiu

    I definitely think we should *not* be top 25 going into the season, but I’ll bet we will be headed into the NCAAs. It’s the kind of team I love to watch because by their nature they will grow leaps and bounds as the season goes on. Not sure where it will end, but it will still be a fun year.

  • skotchie

    I’m looking forward to next season but am not getting my hopes too high. History shows players usually make thier largest strides of improvement between the 2nd & 3rd year, I am expecting that to hold true. I believe the wildcard is the freshmen, can Luke & Noah run with Will? Are Troy, Stanford, Collin, and Devin going to make a smooth transition to the size difference in college hoops? Devin should be the most prepared mentally given his high school coach is former IU great Greg Graham and the insights to expectations he’ll be held to as an IU player.

  • marcusgresham

    Hanner (and PJ, too, for that matter,) need to spend the entire off-season catching passes.

  • marcusgresham

    IU is always going to be able to run with Coach Crean because that’s his style. What they need to be able to do, however, is adjust when they get stuck in the mud against big oafs like Wisconsin who turn the game into a mud wrestling match.

  • marcusgresham

    I’ve always thought guys make the biggest improvements from the freshman to sophomore season.

  • David Oliver

    NIT for Indiana

  • calbert40

    A couple quick points: First, last year’s class’s struggles have no relation to this year’s incoming freshmen. To suggest that any incoming class will succeed or struggle based on the previous season’s class isn’t accurate or fair, IMO. Look at UK last year. I think that we will see significant contributions from at least 2 of that group and rotational minutes from 2 others.

    Secondly, outside of UM, MSU and OSU, is there any team in the B1G that is definitely better than IU? I understand that games aren’t played on paper, but IU is definitely better than PSU, Neb, NW, PU and Minny. I think they will be better than Illinois as well. The only two that are toss-ups are Iowa and Wisky.

    I don’t know who we play just once, but we know that we will play Neb, Illinois, Wisky and NW twice, and while it is dangerous to “chalk” games up, I think there are some nice opportunities for Ws in that group. Add at least one game each with PSU, Minny and PU, and I just don’t see how we aren’t at WORST 9-9.

    I think 10-8 is a very reasonable expectation for this team, and frankly, I’ll be disappointed if they don’t reach that mark.

  • calbert40

    It would be pretty cool if IU and UCLA would hook up now. The only issue is that it appears as though Alford is going to be recruiting the state pretty hard, so maybe CTC wouldn’t like to give him an opportunity to be seen so easily by some recruits?

    Still, I’d like to see that.

  • dwdkc

    Your point about opportunities for playing time is a really good one. No question part of the reason the freshmen disappointed is that they couldn’t get much game time with such an experienced lineup contending for a title. Freshmen will have to play next year and I expect more development as a result.

  • Ole Man

    Until someone has earned it with play on the court, they do not deserve number one.
    UK’s freshman are no more than an NBA D League team. Plus, all the hoopla is strictly on their “potential”. And that thought ties together my first two statements.

  • Ole Man

    LOL! Why did you single me out? Glad I could make your day.
    Being athletic does not make you a great defender, but it helps to have that to start with.
    Focus, desire, and practice make good defensive players.
    So, we have the potential to be a good defensive team. Just don’t forget that last year’s team was rated in the top 15 nationally on defense.
    And the last thing about athleticism–that alone does not a basketball player make.

  • Ole Man

    Thanks for saying that Marcus. I get tired of hearing how “unathletic” last years team was. And this year’s squad has a steep learning curve to get anywhere near last year’s team in its ability to run, shoot, and score.

  • Ole Man

    Just curious as to how you came to the conclusion that B1G will be easier next year?
    PSU: top two guards in conference
    Mich: Only real loss is Burke
    MSU: Lost only one Senior
    Wisc: Could put five D2 players on the floor and be tough
    OSU: They simply reloaded
    ILL: Some talent and an excellent coach
    Iowa: Might break the top four slots
    Purdue: Young players growing up; potentially best center in conference
    Minn & Neb: Any team is dangerous on their home court

  • Ole Man

    Aside from the incoming class, who are we really recruiting from Indiana?

  • CreamandCrimson

    2014 – James Blackmon (committed), Trevon Bluiett, Jaquan Lyle
    2015 – Jalen Coleman, Hyron Edwards
    2016 – Eron Gordon

    I don’t really know who else is in the 2016 class in the state but if elite Indiana prospects emerge and Tom Crean likes them, the Hoosiers will be recruiting them.

  • calbert40

    2014: James Blackmon, JaQuan Lyle, Trevon Bluiett (and another guy who committed, but backed out…who shall remain nameless).

    2015: Jalen Coleman, Hyron Edwards, Chandler White

    2016: Eron Gordon, Vijay Blackmon (quick aside – that class only needs to land those two to be fantastic!)

    Unlike 2012, where over 30 players received D-I scholarships and over half were to high majors, the 2013, 2014 and 2015 classes just don’t have that kind of depth in the state. The ’13 class has slightly over 20 D-I scholarship offers, and about 8 are to high majors. It just isn’t a class that CTC probably was that excited about.

    The 2014 class has realistically 4 or 5 high major recruits, and we are in on all of them (if you count that one guy who shall remain nameless).

    Still, I think CTC has to think years ahead on recruiting the state. The talent level coming out of Indiana is usually pretty high, but currently, we are in a slight dry spell in terms of depth. I’d think that he’d be wary of allowing Alford to come here every other season.

  • CreamandCrimson

    -PSU – They will be improved and I like Frazier but I don’t think they have the “top two guards in the conference”. I’d take Michigan State’s guards all day over the Nittany Lions.
    -Michigan – You don’t consider Tim Hardaway Jr. a loss? Plus saying they “only lost Burke” is discounting how much he meant to them. He was the National Player of the Year for a reason.
    -MSU – He included them as a team that looked as good or better than they were.
    -Wisconsin – Agreed, they will still be tough but losing Evans, Breusewitz and Berggren hurts them.
    -OSU – They lost the best scorer in the conference and didn’t replace him. They’ll still be good but I don’t think they reloaded.
    -Illinois – They do have “some” talent but they lost a lot of talent which you would think means they will be “easier” to beat than last season.

    He didn’t say the Big Ten would be easy, just that it would be easier than last season. It might still be the toughest conference in the country but I agree with him, it won’t be quite as tough as last season.

  • IUMIKE1

    Everyone keeps talking about the Harrison twins, and they’re good, really good, but I don’t buy that they will be as great as some think at the collegiate level. I believe they will be good and start and do well, but even after setting my hatred for all things pUKe aside, I just don’t see them setting the college game on fire next year like an awful lot people think they will.

    I went to the Derby Festival All Star game with what I consider one of the most knowledgeable coaches I’ve ever been around and our yearly outing to this game always gives us a chance to have in depth discussions about all things bball and he has predicted several things over the years that he turned out to be right about. One of the things that he put out there was what I stated about the Harrison twins. He told me to watch their body language when they play and things don’t happen just the way they want. He says that that says a lot of things about a talented player and how well they will do as the pressure mounts and the competition gets better and better. After the told me that I started watching that aspect in any clips that they were in and both seem to get fairly perturbed just about anytime something goes wrong and they seem to think it is always somebody else’s fault. Believe it was in one of the Dante Exum highlight clips that showed one of them emphatically throwing up his arms and yelling at his teammates several different times. Not that one needs another reason to want Exum but being able to frustrate them like that couldn’t hurt anything.

    We talked about so many things that night that I can’t remember for sure, but I believe he said that they never did win a state title while in high school and that the same school beat them in the playoffs the last two years.

  • IUMIKE1

    Seen that also and found it to be very interesting as well. Would loved to have had him go into that aspect of his critique deeper. Am wondering if that is what he thinks, heard Crean say it on some interview some where, if it’s what someone has told him Crean thinks or if Crean has relayed that thought directly to him in a conversation. If true it could go a long way in determining how competitive they are next year.

  • PDXHoosier

    I think Lunardi has us a 4 seed in his first bracketology. obviously way too early to tell, but he is usually pretty close.

  • IUMIKE1

    It’s just not like Criminalapari to take such a big risk as playing someone of their caliber in the pre-conference part of their schedule. DWS

    Guess he is looking for the chance to puff out the chest and do the, ” see last time was just an absolute fluke “, thing. Paallleeezzz

  • calbert40

    I don’t think anyone will argue that IU is not on the short list for B1G title contention next season. I’d say any realistic discussion has to have UM, MSU and OSU as the prohibitive favorites.

    That said, each of those schools have losses to overcome as well. As IU fans, we know more about our team and its perceived weaknesses going into a season; however, we can have a tendency to overlook the challenges other teams must face as well.

    UM lost Burke and Hardaway . How do they replace them? Who is going to run PG? Spike?!?! Can GR3 be counted upon as a consistent go-to scorer, or will he disappear for entire games like last year?

    OSU lost Thomas, and while I think they will still be tough, who is going to make up the 20 ppg? It isn’t like they scored 80 ppg last year anyway, and now they have to replace their only consistent offensive weapon.

    I’m not suggesting these teams will be bad, nor that they have had anywhere near the losses we have experienced; however, they all have question marks too.

  • jpniles

    Jeremy was probably one of our most consistent defenders at the end of the season. That is the reason he earned much of the playing time that he did. We also saw glimpses of him letting his defensive confidence drive his offensive production. If continues to find that groove, he will be very tough.

    I will admit that the jury is still out on Hanner. I just don’t know what to think. And it is safe to say that no one knows for sure. No doubt the athleticism is there, but is there anything else? We will see.

  • jpniles

    Then, we didn’t deserve it last year either. Come on, people. My hatred for Kentucky knows no bounds, but no one can deny that they have a historically epic recruiting class coming in. It is quite ridiculous.