Indiana’s Roster Changes Leads to Lack of Continuity and ChemistryPosted by Deepak Jayanti on March 26th, 2014
Indiana’s offense will look very different next season because of a few key departures that were announced in the last couple of days. It isn’t surprising to see Noah Vonleh declare for the NBA Draft because he is an excellent prospect with great size (6’10″) who has a chance to become a good rebounder in the Association. But the news about Jeremy Hollowell and Austin Etherington transferring is a bit surprising and it will create a hole in the Hoosiers’ lineup next year. Even though neither player was a major contributor this season, their departures will hurt the continuity of an offense that averaged just 1.0 point per possession during conference play.
Talent was not an issue for Tom Crean this year, but Indiana’s starting five never meshed all that well together. The half-court offense mostly involved the guards trying to break down their defenders one-on-one, and when it didn’t work, passing it to another guard to score in isolation. This chaotic approach to offense led to numerous turnovers as Indiana ranked last in the Big Ten with a 21.9 percent turnover rate this season. Vonleh and Hollowell will probably be replaced with talented freshmen, but it also means that Crean will have to start over with the offense again next year.
Even though Vonleh will most likely be a lottery pick, his freshman performance didn’t live up to the hype. Comparing his first season to Cody Zeller’s freshman year in Bloomington may be harsh, but the hype built around both players coming out of high school certainly warrants it. He didn’t disappoint in terms of rebounding the ball (9.0 RPG), but he could never find a way to become a pivotal scorer (11.3 PPG) on this team. It’s not fair to blame him for his mediocre scoring contributions because there was really no structure to the Hoosiers’ offense. When Zeller entered the program three years ago, Indiana guards Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls looked specifically to feed the post; but Yogi Ferrell and the perimeter players this year weren’t as disciplined in terms of feeding the big man down low. Nonetheless, Vonleh made the most out of his playing time with his great knack for rebounding. He has a niftiness around the rim with his lower body moving players around in a similar manner as Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger once did in this league. It would have been nice to see the freshman suit up for one more season in the Big Ten as well, but in the era where freshmen are the most valuable commodity in the NBA Draft, it makes sense that he would add his name to the mix while value is at its highest. Hollowell’s two-year impact on the program wasn’t great. With Vonleh and Ferrell carrying much of the offensive load, he wasn’t expected to average double-figures but he was versatile enough to have a defensive impact and play a role similar to Oladipo in the transition game. As Stanford Robinson continued to improve, however, Hollowell’s minutes declined and he was never able to insert himself back into the rotation.
These roster changes leads to the main question: Can Crean get his younger players to come together or does he need some continuity? Even when Zeller was a freshman, he still had experienced players such as Hulls and Christian Watford ahead of him to play the role of leaders. Replacing talent with talent could work, but there needs to be better consistency with the offense. These moves put more pressure on rising junior Ferrell because he will need to figure out how to lead another group of newcomers. He will likely be better individually after training for another offseason, but he will need some significant help from another scorer if the Hoosiers hope to get back into the Big Ten title race. And if they fall short again, Crean may have to figure out a way to retain some of his players because starting over every season is not a great strategy.