An early look at the 2016-2017 frontcourt

  • 09/06/2016 10:18 am in

With the official start of practice a little less than a month away, the 2016-2017 season is growing closer. We’ll have comprehensive player-by-player previews next month, but here’s an early look at some of the storylines to keep an eye on with this season’s frontcourt:

· Indiana’s deepest frontcourt under Tom Crean: It’s not a stretch to declare this group of players the deepest that Tom Crean has assembled in his tenure as Indiana coach.

There’s an elite post player in Thomas Bryant. There are two very good defenders in Juwan Morgan and OG Anunoby. There’s a 6-foot-10 freshman who can block shots in De’Ron Davis. There’s a veteran who can play multiple positions in Collin Hartman. And there’s also an elite athlete in Freddie McSwain, who arrives from Neosho County Community College.

Bryant is the clear centerpiece, but Anunoby and Morgan both had a major impact on Indiana’s defensive turnaround last season. There could be a learning curve with both McSwain and Davis given their late arrivals on campus, but both possess the talent to contribute right away.

This stable of talent should give the Indiana coaching staff some flexibility with its lineups. Indiana will be able to go big at times with Bryant and Davis on the floor together. And if the Hoosiers go small, Hartman, Morgan and Anunoby could be on the floor at the same time.

· Is Bryant ready to be the man? Indiana’s sophomore forward is going to be talked about frequently this preseason. The hype has already started with Bryant landing numerous magazine covers and preseason All-America honors.

As a freshman, Bryant was Indiana’s third offensive option behind Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams. Going back to before James Blackmon Jr. was injured, he was behind him in scoring as well. Ferrell and Williams are both gone and Blackmon Jr. is returning from injury.

Crean has always wanted his teams to play through the post first and last season Indiana had one of the nation’s most balanced offensive attacks. Given how efficient Bryant was last season in the post, getting him even more touches and opportunities will be a strong consideration. Even if his field goal percentage takes a slight dip as his usage increases, making Bryant an even bigger part of the offense should pay off for Indiana.

· Larger roles for Anunoby and Morgan: The graduation of Max Bielfeldt and departure of Troy Williams for the NBA should provide an opportunity for both Anunoby and Morgan to carve out bigger roles.

While he’s battled a groin issue this offseason, Anunoby has worked on polishing his offensive game. He was an above average shooter and finisher as a freshman, but will need to be ready to make adjustments as defenses place him more prominently on the scouting report.

Morgan battled injuries for a good part of last season and having him completely healthy could be like adding an elite recruit for the Hoosiers. Although he never made excuses or missed significant time last season with his shoulder injury, it definitely held him back to an extent. After being recognized by the program for his work ethic over the summer, look for Morgan to take a major step forward as a sophomore.

· A shot blocking presence in the paint? The last Hoosier to rank in the top 100 nationally in block percentage was D.J. White in his junior season, which was 10 years ago.

Can Davis provide a shot blocking presence in the paint that has been missing? The numbers suggest he may be able to. In his final season on the adidas Gauntlet circuit, Davis averaged 2.5 blocks per game, which ranked eighth on the circuit. He also finished his career at Overland high school as the all-time blocked shots leader in Colorado.

His high school coach, Danny Fisher, believes Davis will elevate his game to another level playing against other members of the frontcourt in practice each day.

“I can’t wait to see what that does for him every single day,” Fisher said. “I think at the end of his freshman year, midway through his freshman year, we’re going to see a completely different player. He’s truly going to see what he’s capable of. It’s going to make everybody go back and look at those rankings and say ‘how did we miss on this kid?’ Because De’Ron is a kid who gets better through adversity and when he’s challenged.”

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  • N71

    Are there whispers down in Bloomington yet about how Freddie and De’Ron are doing? Great, terrible, other?

  • TomJameson

    I would love to see how a lineup featuring both Bryant and Davis playing at the same time. Almost anybody surrounding them would make a successful lineup.

  • IUBizmark

    Honestly that would be scary for opponents. Sprinkle in some OG on top of those two and that is a really imposing front court with some pretty good mobility/flexibility to defend in Davis and OG (Bryant is no slouch either)
    The strength of the front court has me really optimistic we’ll win 2-3 games this year that we might not have in years past. Which leads be to predict getting past the Sweet 16 this year.

  • Ole Man

    No “official” practices allowed.

  • BL4IU

    Alex, I like how you packaged OG and JM; confident both will have big years and will anchor an outstanding defense. Lot of talk about signing Indiana kids. Can u imagine the angst of Mizzou fans over losing those two?

  • OG has been battling a groin issue? I did not know that.

    I was a bit under the weather this past weekend, and I rewatched some of the Iowa games (available on YouTube). OG is a lot of fun to watch on defense (as well as on offense). I do hope that groin issue is know in the past.

  • inLinE6

    How about a lineup of Morgan, Anunoby, Hartman, Davis and Bryant, with Morgan running the point? Are we going to dominant the board?

  • TomJameson

    Yes, we would dominate the boards, but we’d have to because our shooting percentages would probably be down.

    First, I think I want a proven PG running the show. For me that’s either Josh Newkirk or Rob Johnson.

    Second, there has to be a real perimeter threat or the middle will get real congested as the defenses collapse around Bryant/Davis. Passing lanes will become almost nonexistent and we’ll have trouble scoring from anywhere. Think of Vonleh’s time … defenses collapsed on him because there was really only one outside option at the time. So, easy to guard both. OG and CH are the only 2 real perimeter threats in your lineup, and OG is still unproven in the consistent part of that threat.

    I was thinking more of …
    RJ, JBJ, OG, Davis, Bryant … or
    JN, RJ, JBJ, Davis, Bryant … or
    RJ, JBJ, CH, Davis, Bryant

    any combination that has 3 perimeter threats.

  • dwdkc

    Fun little post. Add Randy Wittman and Ted Kitchel to the snipers unit–the 1981 butt-kicking title team deserves more places here. And I’d put Tolbert in the Security unit as he was a dominant shutdown guy in the tournament (held James Worthy to one field goal in the title game!). Of course if your Chaplain is in charge of morale, he’s a great choice. Guy was one of the most popular players on campus ever.

  • I think tossing that lineup on the court would be good just to confound the opposition for a couple of minutes. At the very least, it would be fun to see.

  • IdahoHoosier

    A speedy PG and a couple good shooters would decimate that big lineup pretty fast. IU has depth at all positions this year so I expect to see some “big” and “small” lineups that will include plenty of balance. Going to be good stuff!

  • Fivelefts

    I think CTC is finally working with a full set of Knives! I’ve looked at each year, since the debacle of “The Movement” recruiting class, and CTC has satisfied a missing ingredient in each subsequent year. First year: Shooters (RJ, JBJ and NZ) Second year: Length/Size (O.G., JM, and TB) Third year: Depth and Experience (DD, DG,Cujo and McFly. I think IU now have a COMPLETE TEAM! It you couple that with Better Coaching, which CTC and staff has show improvement in.. We’re There! It’s OUR YEAR!! Go buy your Slippers! We’re dancing this year!

  • HeartoftheRockies_Hoosier

    Love the sniper list but you have to have Brian Evans!

  • Justin Beard

    Furnace coal feeder: MSB.

  • SoCal Hoosier

    Good add…meant to include him but forgot. Any others? Where would we put Archie Dees?

  • SoCal Hoosier

    Yep. I’d probably make Randy the Executioner – cold-blooded and ruthlessly efficient

  • Bill Graham

    Big fan of lists on here. Nice effort and detail!

  • Bill Graham

    So in your opinion (open question) what’s the achilles heel of this team? If heard some say its the PG. I’ve heard others say its the lack of a play making slasher. I’ve heard others that its defense. I’ve heard others that its the coaching.

    State your case and at least provide a reason…the last thing I want is trolling comments like “its the coaching. fire crean.” Everyone’s entitled to their opinions but regardless of what yours is please back it up.

    So what is it?