Big Ten Team Previews: Indiana Hoosiers

Posted by jnowak on November 5th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Indiana Hoosiers.

Where We Left Off: The Hoosiers had what many figured would be this year, last year. (That confusing enough for ya?) Meaning, Indiana overreached moderate expectations for a young squad that was expected to round into a Top-10 squad this season with a more mature Cody Zeller and a highly-touted recruiting class to be mixed in with a couple veterans. But when Zeller and Tom Crean revived Assembly Hall with thrilling home victories against then-No. 1 Kentucky and then-No. 2 Ohio State (not to mention a victory against Crean’s mentor, Tom Izzo, and No. 5 Michigan State), the basketball world realized that Indiana is finally back. And they are here to stay. The Hoosiers are the consensus No. 1 team in the country, with Zeller a near unanimous preseason All-America selection and a favorite for college basketball’s player of the year. Then, couple seniors Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford with’s fifth-ranked incoming freshman class, and this team is loaded from top to bottom. The Hoosiers ended last season with a Sweet Sixteen loss to eventual champion Kentucky, but Indiana has its sights set on much more this year.

Cody Zeller is the face of the Hoosiers this season. And for good reason.

Positives: When talking about the positives, you have to start with Zeller. He’s the best big man in the country heading into his sophomore campaign, after averaging 15.6 PPG and 6.6 RPG as a freshman. He has good footwork, runs the floor exceptionally well, and has a great nose for the ball. There’s no reason the Indiana offense shouldn’t move through him on every possession. And that brings us to the roles of Hulls and Watford. As seniors on team that will get a lot of its scoring from underclassmen — namely Zeller and freshman Yogi Ferrell, and though Victor Oladipo is a junior, he doesn’t exactly have three years of solid game experience — Watford and Hulls should have the know-how and the presence of mind to get the ball in and out of the post and through Zeller every trip downcourt. This depth and balance of scoring talent and Big Ten experience will do wonders for the Hoosiers this season.

Negatives: In a way, the Hoosiers’ strength can also be their weakness. They’re going to be relying heavily on the scoring exploits of young players, which can be shaky terrain. Ferrell was Rivals’ No. 19 overall player and he’s joined by fellow top-50 recruits Jeremy Hollowell (No. 41) and Hanner Perea (No. 43). Zeller, too, is only a sophomore now with plenty of weight on his shoulders, and the Hoosiers were guilty of seemingly forgetting about him during stretches — that, or he wasn’t assertive enough in insisting on touching the ball — last season. So long as Oladipo reins in his streaky style of play and the underclassmen turn in consistent contribution, the scoring should be fine. Beyond that, it’ll be a matter of the Hoosiers defending better than they did last season (10th in the conference, allowing 66.4 PPG).

Best Case: The Hoosiers hang their sixth national championship banner from the rafters at Assembly Hall. Indiana is certainly good enough to do so, and they could even do it without winning the Big Ten. The conference is so loaded this year — with Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State all also having legitimate chances at a conference title — that it will no doubt prepare  the Hoosiers for their bigger goal. But if we’re talking best case scenario (and all these prognostications are reasonable), the Hoosiers have every reason to believe that Zeller can become a first-team All-American and National Player of the Year while leading Indiana to the Big Ten and national championship. Oh, and that should guarantee Crean the Big Ten Coach of the Year award. Just in case they needed a cherry on top.

Worst Case: The Hoosiers’ youth turns out to be more good than bad. Zeller doesn’t build on his breakout freshman campaign, and averages only around 12 PPG and four RPG. Oladipo often struggles to find rhythm in the pace of the game, and Ferrell doesn’t contribute in the way Hoosiers fans were hoping. Meanwhile, Michigan’s freshman exceed expectations and the Wolverines follow their superstar sophomore Trey Burke to the conference title and the Final Four. Ohio State and Michigan State also finish ahead of the Hoosiers, who have to settle for yet another Sweet Sixteen. This time around, unlike last year, a trip to the NCAA’s second weekend is considered a disappointment.

Projected Lineup:

  • F — Cody Zeller (So) 
  • F — Christian Watford (Sr)
  • G — Jordan Hulls (Sr)
  • G — Yogi Ferrell (Fr)
  • G — Victor Oladipo (Jr)

Key Reserves: Will Sheehey (G, So), Maurice Creek (G, Jr), Jeremy Hollowell (F, So), Hanner Perea (F, Fr), Remy Abell (G, So), Derek Elston (F, Sr).

The Lineup: Crean has kept things pretty close to the vest over the last few weeks as to who his starting five will be, and he’ll likely tinker with it early in the season (he started the five listed above in last week’s exhibition win over Indiana Wesleyan). Really, the only certainty is Zeller. Beyond that, Hulls and Watford are likely and Oladipo was a breakout player last season. Ferrell is the Hoosiers’ most touted freshman in an excellent class, which would round out a starting five loaded with talent and balanced with experience. Will Sheehey is another player who could factor into the starting rotation, but he thrived in 11 games off the bench for the Hoosiers last year and would provide a versatile spark as a sixth man. The Hoosiers have no shortage of talent, and this is the kind of “problem” every coach dreams of.

jnowak (138 Posts)

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