It’s my favorite time of the sports year. College basketball season is here! The Road to the Final Four begins today. I’ve spent my entire life as an Indiana Hoosiers fan. It has brought me some great memories and some really bad memories along the way. Last season the Hoosiers had just that. Great memories like winning at Michigan to win the Big Ten Regular Season Championship and then losing to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. You had a whole week to prepare for that zone, Tom! This year’s Hoosiers team looks a lot different than last year’s Big Ten Champions. Let’s take a look at what has changed.
What Indiana lost
These 2013-2014 Hoosiers will be without four 1000 point scores. Indiana lost Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls to graduation, and they lost Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo to the NBA. In addition to that, IU lost Remy Abell and Maurice Creek to transfers. That’s quite a lot to replace. Hulls was an excellent shooter for the most part. He struggled at the end of last season, but he could always be relied upon to make shot when needed. Watford could shoot the three ball as well as bang it in down low. Watford might go down as one of the most underrated Hoosiers to ever play the game even with that game winning shot against Kentucky. Michael Jordan drafted Cody Zeller #4 to his Charlotte BobHornets in the 2013 Draft. Zeller was one of the most efficient players in the entire NCAA. Ken Pomeroy’s site constantly had Zeller ranked near the top in efficiency. Victor Oladipo went #2 in the NBA Draft to the Orlando Magic. Vic brought raw energy and athleticism to the Hoosiers that will be hard to replace. He could do crowd pleasing dunks to ignite the crowd as well as hitting game winning shots. Oladipo was the man. I wish all these men well in their pro careers. It’s not going to be easy for the Hoosiers to reload and replace these great players.
What the Hoosiers Kept
The returning Hoosiers this year have a lot to live up to from last year. Point Guard Yogi Ferrell is being counted upon to step up his game and lead these younger Hoosiers. His shot has improved since last year, and he’s going to be needed to anchor the offense now more than ever. Will Sheehey also returns for his senior season. Sheehey is a fan favorite for the Hoosiers and the guy everyone wants to punch if you are a fan of another team. He’s the energy guy. A big shot from Sheehey can swing the momentum in IU’s way at any moment. He’ll probably be starting this year so more will be expected of him. Underachieving freshmen seemed to be a big theme for last year’s Hoosiers. They need to take that leap this year. Jeremy Hollowell had some good moments last season. I especially liked him on defense. His offensive game should improve this year and I expect him to battle hard for minutes. The two biggest disappointments for me last season was Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin. I partially blame the NCAA for this since they suspended them for the first nine games for stupid reasons. Jurkin did pretty much nothing last season, so if he can’t improve on that then I’ll be concerned about his future. Perea looks more confident on the court this season, so I’m expecting a good year for him. It can’t be worse than last season. Also returning to the squad is Austin Etherington who suffered a bad knee injury last season. Indiana needs him to shoot the ball better coming off the bench. I think he might surprise some people.
What We Gained
Indiana has a pretty good draft class coming in this year. The highlight is McDonald’s All-American Noah Vonleh. He is going to be a forced to be reckoned with down under. Not sure if he will replace Zeller’s efficiency, but he will be good. I guarantee that. He needs to hit some free throws though. Troy Williams is another freshman I am excited about. He has shown great athleticism in the first two exhibition games. I think he can be a star for the Hoosiers in the next few years. I also liked what I have seen out of Stanford Robinson during the last exhibition game. He’s going to be fighting for some minutes during the non-conference schedule. It should be fun to watch. Luke Fischer is a player I can see as a good 4 year guy. He has Zeller like qualities, but I am waiting to see if he can live up to that potential. Devin Davis should see some action this year as well. He’s a hard working guy who can bring some energy off the bench. Finally, I see Collin Hartman in the Austin Etherington role. They need to make some big shots to get the Hoosiers rolling. One other player coming in is senior Evan Gordon. He’s the brother of former Hoosier Eric Gordon who plays for the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA. I’m hoping he can bring some leadership to these young Hoosiers.
Games to Look Forward to
Indiana doesn’t have the Kentucky game on their schedule anymore, but they still have some decent games to look forward to in the non-conference schedule. The Big Ten schedule is always brutal, so that’s a no brainer. Here’s the games I’m looking forward to watching and I’m dreading those games too since they will be tough.
November 21st: 2K Sports Classic- Indiana vs. Washington and Indiana vs. Boston College/UConn
I love a good early season tournament. Indiana has success in their tournament last year with that thrilling overtime game against Georgetown to win the Legend’s Classic. This year it’s the 2K Sports Classic. Two Huskies teams could give the Hoosiers some fits with Washington and UConn. I think the Hoosiers have a good shot to win the tournament, but it will not be easy. Someone tell 2K Sports to make a college basketball video game again. Stupid lawsuits.
December 3rd: ACC/Big Ten Challenge – Indiana @ Syracuse
The rematch us Indiana fans wanted after the Sweet Sixteen debacle last year. This time Tom Crean’s had all offseason to prepare for Syracuse’s zone. Will the extra time benefit Tom or will the Hoosiers look bad again? This Hoosiers team is more athletic than last year’s team, so that might help against the zone. I do not see the Hoosiers winning this one, but anything can happen.
December 14th: Crossroads Classic- Indiana vs. Notre Dame
I love the Crossroads Classic. It’s fun to see all the major Indiana teams brought together to have a couple games in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Hell, I think they should just do an eight team tournament with more Indiana schools. Go IPFW! This game should be fun. Notre Dame always seems to be a good basketball team, but I think Indiana will give them trouble. We’ll see.
January 4th: Michigan State @ Indiana
The Spartans are the favorite to win the Big Ten this year and some experts have even picked them to win the National Championship. One thing they can expect is a tough battle in Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers always play well at home, and I think they have a good shot at getting off to a good start in conference with a home win against the Spartans.
January 14th: Wisconsin @ Indiana
Bo Ryan and the Badgers have had the Hoosiers’ number the last few years. Bo knows how to stop everything Tom Crean does it seems. This year Bo has probably reloaded his team once again to give the Hoosiers more fits with their slow half court offense. Thankfully, they no longer have that red haired guy. The Hoosiers may have a chance now.
February 15th: Indiana @ Purdue
The Hoosiers and Boilermakers only play one time this year, but it should be a good one. Purdue’s star, A.J. Hammons, should be improved and the Boilers will try to make a run at an At-Large bid. This rivalry is always better when both teams are good. The last few years have alternated with the Hoosiers being good for a few seasons and the Boilers better other seasons. We need that season where both teams are good to get the rivalry interesting again.
March 2nd: Ohio State @ Indiana
Aaron Craft is in his twentieth season as a Buckeye and he will be looking to get one last win in Indiana before he turns forty years old. The Buckeyes came into Indiana last year and ruined Indiana’s chances of winning the Big Ten outright at home. Sheehey and the boys will be looking for revenge. It should be a good one since Thad Matta and Tom Crean always have good tension with each other.
March 8th: Indiana @ Michigan
Once again, Indiana is ending their Big Ten season in Ann Arbor. The two teams had a classic that went down to the end last season. Michigan almost won a share of the Big Ten Title last year if they would have made the final shot, but they were one rotation the wrong way off. The Wolverines will be looking for revenge. They will be without Trey Burke, but I would not count the Wolverines out. The Hoosiers should be worried about this one.
I think Indiana finishes fifth in the Big Ten. They should pick up ten wins in conference. I’m hoping for a run at the Big Ten Tournament for once, but the Hoosiers always fail in that tournament. I’d say the Hoosiers are looking at a five or six seed in the NCAA Tournament. I’m guessing they go out in the Round of 32 this year. I don’t see Tom Crean getting the Hoosiers to that third straight Sweet Sixteen.
It should be a fun season. I’m looking forward to seeing how these Hoosiers play. I got frustrated often with last season’s team, but this one will probably be even more frustrating. I think they can be more fun though.
- New-look Hoosiers after better results in 2013-14 (nbcsports.com)
- #25 Indiana Hoosiers: College Basketball 111 in 111 (thesportsbank.net)
- 2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 25 Indiana Hoosiers (collegebasketballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Biggest Challenges for Tom Crean (hoosiersportslive.com)