Is Indiana a preseason top 15 team? Experts say yes

  • 04/27/2015 3:58 pm in

The early entry deadline for the 2015 NBA draft has passed and Indiana appears to be one of the nation’s biggest winners as all three Hoosiers who were considering leaving early returned to school.

Along with Maryland and Michigan State, Indiana looks like, at least on paper, a viable contender in the Big Ten next season with its top eight scorers returning and the addition of McDonald’s All-American Thomas Bryant.

As a whole, the Big Ten is shaping up to be very deep as Michigan should return to the top 25 with a healthy Caris LeVert, Iowa and Purdue both return four of five starters, Wisconsin brings back Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig and Illinois and Ohio State both add talented recruiting classes.

On Monday, Inside the Hall reached out to three of the most well-respected national college basketball writers in the country for their thoughts on where IU could stack up not only in the Big Ten next season, but also nationally.

Pat Forde, Yahoo! Sports

“The wise decisions of several players to return, coupled with the addition of Thomas Bryant, should make Indiana a contender for the Big Ten title and a top 15 team nationally.

“There are some areas in need of serious improvement — especially defensively — but more experienced (and bigger) players should be able to make some strides in those areas. The Hoosiers should be significantly better than the past couple of seasons.”

Dana O’Neil, ESPN.com

“If Indiana isn’t at the top of the Big Ten hierarchy next season, the Hoosiers ought to be very close. The league itself looks to be in great shape, with players returning to multiple teams, but while fans may not want to hear it, Indiana frankly overachieved last season.

“The Hoosiers were relatively young and inexperienced and the early drama didn’t help settle things, either. Now they will be the opposite – old and experienced and having come out on the other side of the adversity. As for the national pecking order, I can’t imagine the Hoosiers starting outside of the top 15 in the nation.”

Eamonn Brennan, ESPN.com

“Just after the national title game, the Way Too Early Top 25 slotted Indiana into a top-20 spot, and the only reason we didn’t have them higher was because of the somewhat bizarre uncertainty surrounding Yogi’s decision. (I found it hard to believe he’d want to leave, given how disinterested the NBA was; Europe isn’t going anywhere. But like you guys at ITH, a lot of folks who track the program closely insisted he was truly on the fence, and given how long the decision took, they appear to have been correct.)

“Nevermind all that. Getting back Ferrell — who will, barring injury, leave Indiana as one of the most productive players in program history — elevates IU from an interesting collection of pieces to a borderline top-10 team to start the 2015-16 season. There will be one Big Ten group with more sheer talent (Maryland) and even that is arguable, given IU’s overall depth and stylistic cohesion.

“Will they get to the line every now and then? Will they guard anyone, ever? October is a long way off. But for a program whose athletic director had to openly give its coach a vote of confidence as recently as March, the 2015-16 season is shaping up quite nicely, isn’t it?”

Evan Daniels, Scout.com

“I think adding an energy guy like Thomas Bryant and with the return of Yogi Ferrell, it changes the outlook of their season. Bryant is an immediate contributor and will instantly compete with the best post players in the Big Ten. He’s a terrific rebounder and shot contester and always plays hard. IU fans know how important Ferrell is to their team and their success. These were big decisions for Tom Crean and ones that will help in the win category this year. “

Filed to:

  • TomJameson

    With this offense, and just an average defense, I think we’re a top 20 team for sure.

  • TomJameson

    While I agree with you that RJ is in the shadow of JBJ, I think RJ is still a 4 year player. I think he’ll get better every year and be awesome in his 4th year.

  • TomJameson

    I think some only look to the circumstances that fit their own opinions. To discount one of the main factors as to why IUs defense was so bad last year, is doing just that.

    While I think coaching was ONE factor, I think player commitment, a necessity to focus on offense prior to playing their first game, and a few other things all play into the why of it.

  • dwdkc

    had to like both of those photos. good exchange

  • TomJameson

    Most analyst, most fans … most means a majority, more than a few.

    You are wrong and don’t have a point.

    Most didn’t expect them to get to the NCAA tourney, but the did with a solid 10 seed. That is over achieving.

    Defense was bad but they over achieved in spite of that.

    See how I’m writing in your style of bluntness and being rude and opinionated?

  • TomJameson

    Last season was better than our norm to that point. Hopefully that progression will continue like you say. That would be great.

  • dwdkc

    Wow, that is an extremely favorable Big 10 schedule. Those are likely 5 of our toughest opponents, no worst than 5 of the best 8 (Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa). That alone could make us the favorite even if you give a slight head to head edge to Maryland and MSU. However I think it is a travesty that they don’t protect one main rivalry–Purdue should always be home and home.

  • IUMIKE1

    True that !

  • Hoosier Hall

    I would bet neither of them plays very many minutes. I could be wrong but we go 10 deep without them…

  • ForeverIU

    Okay, Tom. So now tell me what percentage of the “most” that predicted a mediocre season for us would have predicted that our defense would end the season at a #218 ranking.

  • Hoosier Hall

    If we get to play Duke for the challenge… I’m getting excited already! I have some buddies that are ND fans and they keep talking about how they’ll be the best team in the state. I just don’t see it. Jerian Grant was a force and Pat Connaughton was a “do it all” guy. They’re going to miss those 2 big time.

  • 3AM Burrito

    I like RJ, but I think he is a 4 year player. Not explosively athletic, not great shooter, not a great ball handler. He is just kind of good at everything, just a real solid player and has pretty good size, but I don’t think he will leave early. He is kind of like a premium version of Remy Abell.

  • ForeverIU

    Tom, for the life of me I don’t know why many around here are so reluctant to blame much of our poor defensive rating on Coach and his crew (it’s not on Crean alone by the way). When you have a team with talent and work ethic (and actually more experience than many are willing admit), how can you not put the pressure on the coaching?

  • IUMIKE1

    Now that TB has inked his name on a LOI, the biggest and most important recruit, IMHO, is who takes McClain’s place on the coaching staff. We need the kind of impact from that recruitment that we feel like we’re going to get from TB’s commitment. If Crean isn’t just putting out there what he thinks the media and all IU bball fans want to hear when it comes to emphasizing defense next year, and is ready to make some decisions that prove it’s not just talk, he will not settle for anything less than a proven defensive mastermind. You know the kind, the kind that can see that you stop trying to switch defenses mid possession when all it does is confuse your own team instead of the other team, or better yet one that can teach a team to do that to where the confused team is actually the other team. How important is it that he gets that kind of coach, well let’s just say that if it comes down to whether or not there’s enough money if he finds that guy, then Crean should cut him a check out of his paycheck while he still has a paycheck to dip into.

  • IUMIKE1

    What the hell is going on ? I keep clicking the upvote button but it will only count the first one. lol

  • ForeverIU

    At first I thought this was a response to one of MY comments, and that you were agreeing with me, LOL!

  • ForeverIU

    What I’m hoping is that we didn’t lose much of our elite offense with the loss of McClain.

  • TomJameson

    That’s a different question altogether and not sure how it relates to the overachieving question. You’re wanting a percentage of a percentage?

    Okay, If I had to guess I’d say that “most”, at the beginning of the season, wouldn’t have thought the defense would be so bad. But that “thought” would probably have been based on the fact that CTC has always had average to slightly better that average, defenses.

    Reasons why this past seasons defense was so bad, has been beaten to death and nobody will budge on their opinions, or even bother to listen to others, so what’s the use of talking even more about that?

  • 3AM Burrito

    I just see next year as a mini-version of Cody freshman year to soph year. This team is not near as good on top end, however is deeper than that team. Cody freshman year needed a PG, got one the next year in Yogi. This team this year needed a big, now are getting one in Bryant. So with EVERY key player back, three top 150 recruits, got to think Troy and JBJ see NBA calling, they will improve, I just don’t get why not more bullish on this team, top 15 is selling team way short, goal should be a B1G championship and Final Four, they have all the personnel they need to get it done and can possibly go 10 deep with talent:
    Yogi/RJ
    Blackmon/Zeisloft
    Troy/OG
    Hartman/Juwan (Davis)?
    Bryant/Perea

  • ForeverIU

    What I’m saying is that “most” critics based their forecasts on aspects other than our defense, which just shows that most critics were actually way off. In fact, I think the performance from the year before and lack of faith in CTC is what prompted most critics in their predictions. Most of the “most” didn’t even have the time or interest to follow our team make-up closely. I, for one, and you’ll be happy to hear this, was not swayed by such critics (largely because I have A LOT of faith in CTC, and have always said that he is still a relatively young coach, lol, and that we should allow him room to grow in a non-toxic environment). But I would have never imagined (nor did Ken Pomeroy, if you listened to his excellent interview with Jerrod Morris at the beginning of the season) that we would have such a poor defensive showing.

  • TomJameson

    I agree that CTC has culpability with the bad defense, but I just don’t think he is the only reason. And, IMHO, part of his actions that brought about the bad defense was probably a gamble on his part. I’m talking about the focus on the offense and getting all those new kids to mesh with the returners.

    I would imaging that he thought they would/could develop the defense as they went along (and he said as much in a very early presser around the time of the Canadian games). The players just didn’t put in the effort to play hard at it.

    The last few games IU played the team, and some individuals, showed flashes as to what could have been, just wish they would have put in that same effort throughout the year.

    I think some people put all the blame on CTC for everything that goes wrong. In response, others over-react with their “over-support” dialogue. In response to each other, both sides over-state their “Crean hating” or “Crean lovers” positions. In reality it is somewhere in the middle.

    I’ve been guilty of this, you’ve been guilty of this, most everybody has at one time or another, been guilty of this. Probably because everybody want to be right! LOL

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    you can have all the talent in the world but if you don’t play D or aren’t taught to play D well……. the heck with a big ten championship, we need to talk National Championship. jell as a group and play D and this season could be historic

  • ForeverIU

    I never said coaching was the only factor. But it is certainly the one that we should be the most in control of. Programs like IU should never put themselves in a position where they have to pick between good offense and good defense. If this is where we are as a program, then there is immense bloating and inefficiency somewhere, and the problem might have deeper cultural roots (program culture, which is not so easy to change).

  • TomJameson

    Hahaha … Forever my friend, I think your are way overthinking this. lol

    Preseason forecasts are based on opinions of growth and development of existing players, usefulness of new recruits, opinions of the coach, etc…. Just a bunch of opinions base on whatever the heck that person wants to consider. You know the saying about what opinions are like, and how everybody has one. LOL

    1. Beginning of the season consensus – this is what we all think you’ll do.
    2. End of the season – this is what you did.

    If #2 is greater than #1 – you overachieved.
    If #1 is greater than #2 – you underachieved.
    Else – you achieved what I thought.

  • TomJameson

    I just think you’re putting too much thought into it Forever.

    The bad defense was an aberration in the CTC defense record. Too much is being made of the “why” of it because it is an aberration (and it cost us). It’s a nice discussion point (like you and I are doing) as long as it doesn’t get mean (like some have).

    I just think that If this were the 2nd or 3rd year of consistently bad defensive teams we’d have a lot to talk about, and that’s when I’d jump on that bandwagon.

  • ForeverIU

    I didn’t know that “thinking” is “over-thinking”, LOL. I suppose I should have just listened to the ESPN coaches ranking and accepted that CTC way over-achieved (because ESPN thought he didn’t even belong in the top 50 as a coach). To me the only healthy measure of achievement should be based on what would have been an “informed” initial assessment.

  • IUMIKE1

    All good and legitimate questions.

  • IUMIKE1

    I knew some like minded person would take over if I got down off of the, “just because we added TB doesn’t mean….”, soap box. Thank you.

  • IUMIKE1

    I’m thinking the same thing.

  • calbert40

    I think the lack of a big was a contributing factor in a similar way to drinking a 12 pack of PBRs everyday for 20 years is a contributing factor to liver failure and cirrhosis. 🙂 It was a BIG factor. Not the only factor, but a BIG one!

    Yes, the perimeter players need to do a better job keeping their man in front of them, but now they will have help behind them. If we can keep our AdjO in the top 20 next year, and improve our AdjD to the respectable level, this could be a top 10 team, but a lot of that is certainly dependent upon significant improvements on the defensive end.

  • IUMIKE1

    Size matters…… when it’s used correctly. Not saying Crean won’t use it correctly, but rather that it won’t be as simple as putting the size on the floor and us automatically benefiting from it.

  • Kyl470

    Thanks. People act like Bryant will solve all of our problems. Will he help? Yes. However, if JBJ, Yogi, and Troy keep getting beat out on the perimeter it’s going to put guys like Bryant in compromising situations where they might pick up fouls and possibly get in foul trouble.

  • IUMIKE1

    Gritty hard nosed ONE EYED junk yard dogs. lol

  • ForeverIU

    I think we’re already putting too much pressure on the kid (Bryant). He himself has in so many words told us that he is not a magic solution (by telling us on more than one occasion that he sees himself as a 2-year player at the least).

  • IUMIKE1

    If I was Crean I would put RJ in for JBJ the first time he played anything that even remotely resembled his defensive effort from this past season. Then when he came to the bench tell him that he will never make it to the next level playing defense like that or if he does, the first time that he plays defense like that the exact same thing is going to happen and he will get only a small number of chances to get back into an actual game to prove that he understands that that will put him either in the D league, overseas, or out of a chance to play bball for a living, anywhere, real quick.

  • IUMIKE1

    I guess if I had to go out on a limb and “had” to find some kind of overachieving it would be that we won as many games as we did with such a historically bad defense, but that is kind of a stretch in itself.

  • IUMIKE1

    With you on this. Coaching wasn’t the only factor, but it was by far and away the biggest contributing factor IMHO. I’m sorry but if we can legitimize paying someone 3 million dollars a year, he damn well better be able to coach more than one important aspect of the game per year, and none of those important aspects should have a ranking that is closer to 300 than it is to 200, or hell even 100 for that matter. People can blame it on the players in some form or another, but then again who is it that recruited and shaped those same players ?

  • ForeverIU

    If we are playing two guards, I would rather see RJ than JBJ next to Yogi. Just my own preference. My greatest fear is that if RJ feels he will be third wheel at guard his motivation might take a hit and he might take his talents elsewhere.

    Now this mini-drama of mine (lol) assumes we will be playing a mainly 2-guard line-up. A big assumption (no pun intended) when it comes to CTC, no? Although I think you and I would prefer the 2-gaurd scenario.

    If we are playing three guards, I wouldn’t be surprised if CTC gave all three roughly equal minutes, regardless who starts.

  • Ole Man

    Tom you learned rude and opinionated all by yourself.
    You certainly didn’t need any help from me.
    Don’t project your “loser” culture onto other people.

  • CreamandCrimson

    They will be interesting. They definitely lost two major impact guys and that can’t be understated. However, I think ND optimists are expecting another big jump forward from Jackson (he’s tremendous, watching him battle Yogi in Indianapolis is going to be fun), Auguste and Vasturia. Plus, they are probably expecting a lot more contribution from Colson, Beachem and Austin Torres. They also have a 4-star SG coming in that may help. I think IU will be better but I can understand where your ND friends are coming from.

  • IUMIKE1

    I don’t think I would go as far as saying that he could easily be a solid second round pick next year, but I do think he is good enough that if JBJ’s defense starts faltering and even starts to look like last year’s version I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to pull him and put RJ in his place. Hell, as far as that goes if his shot just isn’t falling, I wouldn’t hesitate to put RJ out there in his place. Depth, it’s a wonderful thing !

  • ForeverIU

    Absolutely!

  • IUMIKE1

    Good comment.

  • oldiugymnast

    Expecting results is not the same thing as expecting unreasonable outcomes that lack any foundation in reality. I don’t mind people being critical, but a lot of critical people (talking to you ole man) start from a foundational position that isn’t grounded in reality. That is both unfair and unreasonable. I have a bad habit of always expecting the best from everyone, but now that I count myself among the middle aged, I try to keep it based on realistic metrics. I feel like my heart will last longer that way.

  • cooper

    I agree but most say I’m overly critical. If you want my real opinion, if they don’t make the sweet 16 changes should be made.

  • aHoopandaPrayer

    IF Troy develops a jumper and
    IF Yogi becomes a pass-first PG and
    IF Coach can focus on Defensive fundamentals and improve ~150 spots in AdjD Efficiency and
    IF T Bryant can compete favorably w/ the 7 foot veterans in the league and
    IF Blackmon can keep his man in front of him and
    IF None of our existing bigs transfer and
    IF Chemistry is excellent

    then… you’re probably right! I’m optimistic. Go Hoosiers!

  • cooper

    If you want my real opinion, if they don’t make the sweet 16 changes should be made.

  • Bill Graham

    Great response. I completely agree. My biggest criticism on Crean has always been retention. This next year and future years will really give him the chance to retain players (and if they leave for the NBA then great! but we need to project this ahead of time and replace them) We cant expect guys like Bryant and Blackmon to be 4 year players. He has the talent assembled to mold (as you said) this team into anything he wants. We’ve got shooters, slashers, bigs, combo guards, runners, passers, and half-court set players. Now is when we can really judge CTC’s capabilities (or lack of) retention wise and X’s and O’s wise.

  • Bill Graham

    I agree completely Bob. I love that Hoosiers get so wound up about one season. Its great! but at the same time by getting pushed around and playing against older and taller competition we should be ready to go next year.

  • Jeremy

    Top 15 based on this coach. We have a roster to be no# 1 but an ify guy on the bench. Just my lame opinion.