Top 68 Team Previews: #65 Indiana Hoosiers
Christian Watford led Indiana in scoring last season. (Icon SMI)
By Ryan Feldman
Friday, July 08, 2011
Last Season: 12-20 (3-15)
Key Losses: Jeremiah Rivers
Head Coach: Tom Crean
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Hulls 6-0 Jr.
SG: Verdell Jones 6-5 Sr.
SF: Maurice Creek 6-5 Jr.
PF: Christian Watford 6-9 Jr.
C: Cody Zeller 6-11 Fr.
Key Reserves: Tom Pritchard 6-9 Sr. PF, Victor Oladipo 6-5 So. SG, Derek Elston 6-9 Jr. PF, Will Sheehey 6-6 So. SF
It's only a matter of time before Tom Crean leads the Indiana Hoosiers back to relevance in the college basketball world. One of the most storied programs in college basketball history, the Hoosiers have struggled under Crean. With all but one player returning this season, there's no reason the Hoosiers shouldn't have their best season in the Crean era.
The lone senior from last year's team was Jeremiah Rivers. The Hoosiers will have to replace his leadership, but replacing his offensive production won't be difficult at all. They have a slew of capable guards returning, including Verdell Jones, Jordan Hulls and Maurice Creek, although none of them are pure point guards.
Creek and Jones are big, athletic scoring guards. Neither is a consistent outside shooter (both hovered around 30 percent from 3-point range last season) but both players can get to the basket and have a knack for scoring. Jones was second on the team in scoring last season with 12.5 points per game and led the team with 3.2 assists per game. Creek averaged 8.3 points per game and missed the final 14 games of the season with a knee injury.
Hulls is a pure shooter. The 6-foot junior averaged 11 points per game last season and shot 41.4 percent from 3-point range. Hulls has excellent range on his jumper. Once he gets over half-court, he doesn't need much room to get his shot off.
The frontcourt will be led by 6-foot-9 junior Christian Watford, who led the team in scoring and rebounding last season with 16.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Watford is a skilled, athletic big man with the ability to step out and knock down outside jumpers. He shot 38.1 percent from beyond the arc last season.
Indiana fans are excited about incoming freshman Cody Zeller, whose older brother Tyler currently plays at North Carolina and oldest brother Luke played for Notre Dame. Cody, like his brothers, is a 6-foot-11 frail big man with great size and length. He moves very well for a big man and can really run the floor. He knows how to score in the post and can also knock down jumpers. Zeller, who is ranked by ESPN.com as the No. 13 recruit in the class of 2011, will likely start from day one alongside Watford in the frontcourt.
Crean has some options with different kinds of lineups. He will likely start three guards and he has Victor Oladipo on the bench. He could play two of those guards at times and three forwards. Will Sheehey is a small forward, so he will be the easiest player to plug in along with two guards. Down low, Crean has Watford, Zeller, Tom Pritchard and Derek Elston. He could experiment at times with three of them playing together along with two guards. Because of the quality of the Hoosiers' three starting guards, it's unlikely Crean will do that, but it's a viable thought in certain situations.
Could this be the year Indiana finally breaks into the upper half of the Big Ten and reaches the postseason? Could the Hoosiers possibly even earn an NCAA tournament berth? They have the talent and experience. Now, the Hoosiers just have to put it all together and figure out how to win games.