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2012-13 Preview: #3 Indiana Hoosiers (#1/#1)

The Hoosiers should have an excellent season, but we cannot rationalize them as being the best in the country.

Indiana has tremendous talent and undeniable depth, but now it gets down to coaching. Tom Crean is a great PR man, but are there concerns with the X’s and O’s? Having tons of talent is better than having no talent, but optimally balancing this group of players throughout the year could prove to be quite a challenge.

The newcomers are terrific and Late Night Hoops has watched them in person many times. Point guard Yogi Ferrell is strong, clever and incredibly agile in the lane. Power forward Hanner Perea is an impressive physical specimen that will shock people who haven’t seen him up close with his strength, athleticism and aggressiveness near the rim. Wing Jeremy Hollowell’s combination of skill and size is good enough that if he can consistently work hard, he’s a next level guy. The future is bright, but they are all freshmen.

Indiana’s schedule lends itself to high expectations continuing for much of the year. After a weak non-conference portion, the season heads into conference play where Indiana’s four most difficult road games are all on the back half of the conference calendar.

Indiana will lose road games during the last month of the regular season, pushing them away from the top spot in the polls at year end. In the tournament, their defense makes it highly unlikely that they’ll be able to put together a championship run.

The difference in our projections for the top three Big Ten teams is small. Indiana will be entertaining to watch and they can certainly contend for the Big Ten title. However, concerns with defense, playing away from home and balancing of playing time are too much for us to consider them contenders for a national championship.

Glass Half Full

It’s Indiana

There’s been an amazing amount of praise heaped on the Hoosiers and most of it is fair. Cody Zeller is absolutely superb and the Indiana roster is filled with players who could start at many schools. Their fans are top notch in the support department and they’ll have a very good season.

The glass half full views of Indiana have been celebrated by followers of college basketball throughout the past few months. We’ll instead concentrate on some reasons why we differ with others in our view of Indiana.

Glass Half Empty

How good were they last year?

Indiana’s 27-9 record in 2011-12 looks good, but their non-conference schedule included a lot of awful competition. More than half of the Hoosiers’ 27 wins were 15+ point blowouts.  While the Kentucky game at Assembly Hall stands out, Indiana didn’t play many games that went down to the wire.  More than half of their losses were by double-digits.

Indiana finished conference play in 5th place last season and compiled a road record of 3-6, with none of those wins coming against foes that finished ahead of them.  The Hoosiers still must play on the road.

Matt Roth nailed 5 of 6 3-point field goals during a 22 point performance in a victory at Penn State, a win that broke Indiana’s 16-game Big Ten road losing streak.  Indiana was 2-6 in other conference road games, losing four by double digits and dropping a close one at lowly Nebraska.

Defense

Defense will hold Indiana back. Remember, Indiana’s 2011-12 was not nearly as bad as the few years prior.  Although there wasn’t anything particularly good about their team defense, it wasn’t awful and improved markedly last year.

The Hoosiers lowered their defensive free throw rate significantly last year, but won’t realize such a drop again this year.  A place they can improve significantly is forcing turnovers, but at what cost?

Are a talented group of freshmen the answer to a better defense? We don’t believe so. Perhaps having veteran wings Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey start games to set the defensive tone would be wise, but it appears likely that Coach Crean will have Yogi Ferrell and senior Jordan Hulls in the backcourt together a lot.

Ferrell is smart, strong and overall a great player. Nonetheless, he’s also a small freshman who played 2-3 zone in high school. Pairing him with Hulls will scare the opposition’s defense, but delight their offense.

Balancing talent

Indiana has tremendous talent and undeniable depth, but now it gets down to coaching. Tom Crean is a great PR man, but are there concerns with the X’s and O’s? Having tons of talent is better than having no talent, but optimally balancing this group of players throughout the year could prove to be quite a challenge.

Roth and Tom Pritchard were ultra-low usage guys that played with great offensive efficiency in their combined 24+ minutes per Big Ten game last year.  Now that Roth was effectively cut from the program and Pritchard is out of eligibility, how well will Tom Crean mix in guys with more regular usage tendencies?

Cody Zeller

Cody Zeller is absolutely legit, but he has a difficult comparable to deal with after a great freshman year.  As a sophomore he’ll showcase an expanded game and be even more fun to watch. However, we project his offensive rating will decline a bit. His total value to the team should improve some, but he won’t provide nearly the same incremental boost as last season.

Giving Indiana some hope, Cody Zeller still needs to prove he can dominate consistently away from home and he could help them to a better road showing this year. In Big Ten play, he was a far better performer at Assembly Hall:

Points FG% FT Rate
Home 19.8 71.1% 70%
Away 11.6 51.4% 54%

Three-point shooting

The 3-pointer wasn’t used a lot, but it did provide a big boost to the team’s overall shooting because of their incredible accuracy from deep. We do not project the Hoosiers shooting as well from distance in 2012-13.

  • The team shot 43.1% 3FG (41.4% conf; 44.9% nonconf).
  • Jordan Hulls won’t match his 49.3% 3FG (42.1% conf; 57.1% nonconf)
  • Considerable downside risk for Christian Watford’s 43.7% 3FG
  • Matt Roth’s 54.5% 3FG (59.2% in Big Ten) won’t come close to being duplicated by anyone. Ex-Roth, Indiana’s 41.4% 3FG in conference drops to 37.4%.

Trips to the charity stripe

Indiana’s free throw rate (“FTR”) in the Big Ten was the best seen in the conference over the past 5 years. Much like the Indiana defense focused on reducing their own fouling of the opposition last year, others teams will do the same this year when defending the Hoosiers’ attack. The Hoosiers were 0-5 in conference games when they had a FTR of less than 32.7%.

Schedule sets up for difficult end

Their schedule lends itself to high expectations continuing for much of the year. After a weak non-conference portion, the season heads into conference play where Indiana’s four most difficult road games are all on the back half of the conference calendar.

Indiana will lose road games during the last month of the regular season, pushing them away from the top spot in the polls at year end. In the tournament, their defense makes it highly unlikely that they’ll be able to put together a six-game run.

Other Comments

  • Issues around Hanner Perea’s eligibility continue to exist and it’s not certain what his status will be this season (updated 11/6/2012: NCAA: Perea and Peter Jurkin are suspended for the first 9 games of the season).
  • Ron Patterson, a freshman guard who left the program in August and enrolled at Brewster Academy (NH), has committed to Syrcause’s 2013 class.
  • 2013 Recruiting: 6’7” Troy Williams (#34 RSCI; VA), 6’10” Luke Fischer (WI), 6’4” Stanford Robinson (#55; VA), 6’5” Colin Hartman (IN) and 6’6” Devin Davis (IN) have all committed. 

A Look Back at 2011-12 Preseason Preview Quote(s)
“Team Trajectory: Undoubtedly up. The questions are how high and how fast. They have the talent to win some games right now, and in 2012 they expect to add a stellar group to the program…”

“(Re: Indiana not requesting a medical hardship waiver for Matt Roth in 2010) Based on the circumstances here, there would be exactly zero reasons to wait.”

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