2016-2017 Overall Rank: #22
Conference Rank: #5 Big Ten
With a regular season Big Ten title and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen under its belt, Indiana is riding high heading into the 2016-2017 campaign. The return of James Blackmon, Jr. will help offset some of the losses for the Hoosiers. Blackmon missed most of last season with a knee injury suffered in early January. In his 13 games, Blackmon averaged 15.8 points and connected on 46.3 percent of his three-point attempts. He will be one of the best shooters in the Big Ten and likely one of the top scorers as well.
2015-16 Record: 27-8, 15-3
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Tom Crean
Coach Record: 148-119 at Indiana, 338-215 overall
Losing Yogi Ferrell is huge. The point guard led the team with 17.3 points and 5.6 assists. He was a superb shooter, a great overall scorer and a outstanding floor leader. Replacing him is not going to be simple. The backcourt also lost Nick Zeisloft, who mostly came in off of the bench and knocked down three-pointers. Walk-on Harrison Niego left the program after seeing limited minutes as a freshman. The losses in the frontcourt are just as significant. Troy Williams left after his junior year after averaging 13.3 points and 5.8 rebounds. Max Bielfeldt ran out of eligibility and was the Hoosiers top big man off of the bench. Little used Ryan Burton is also gone.
This is not the greatest class Coach Tom Crean has ever brought to Bloomington, but the eligibility of Josh Newkirk should help the Hoosiers replace Ferrell. Newkirk is not a great scorer, but he can handle the ball and set up his teammates. Curtis Jones and Devonte Green are both very good outside shooters, but they too could be needed to help handle the ball. Zach McRoberts, a transfer from Vermont, and incoming freshman Grant Gelon will at least add some more depth on the perimeter. The frontcourt adds De’Ron Davis and junior college transfer Freddie McSwain. Davis is a big time shot blocking threat, while McSwain is a versatile 6-6 forward that has a ton of athleticism.
Who to Watch:
The Indiana frontcourt will revolve around Thomas Bryant. The 6-10, 255 pound center had a superb freshman campaign averaging 11.9 points and 5.8 rebounds and could have left for the NBA. But he is back to work on his overall game and that is great news for the Hoosiers. Bryant shot a Big Ten best 68.3 percent from the floor, but that number could dip a little as he looks to extend his shooting range. The rest of the frontcourt is brimming with talent too. Collin Hartman started 24 games last season and averaged 5.0 points and 3.1 rebounds. However, OG Anunoby has NBA potential and many are projecting him as a first round draft pick in 2017. He averaged 4.9 points and added 26 blocks and 27 steals despite playing just 13.7 minutes per game. Juwan Morgan is another promising sophomore. He struggled with injuries last year, but can play a bigger role in 2016-2017.
With that much talent in the frontcourt, the backcourt should have time to develop and find a replacement for Ferrell. And the rest of the backcourt is certainly proven as Robert Johnson figures to join Blackmon in the starting lineup. Johnson is yet another very dangerous shooter. With a little more strength he can turn into a more dynamic scoring threat who can attack the basket. As long as Newkirk is effective and efficient running the point, this is an Indiana team that can win another Big Ten title. The Hoosiers do not need him to score since there are plenty of other options, but they do need Newkirk to put all of those other scorers in a good position to finish.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Josh Newkirk, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Robert Johnson, Junior, Guard, 8.1 points per game
James Blackmon, Junior, Guard, 15.8 points per game
Collin Hartman, Senior, Forward, 5.0 points per game
Thomas Bryant, Sophomore, Center, 11.9 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 82.6 (11th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 69.9 (122, 11)
Field-Goal Percentage: 50.2 (3, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.4 (230, 10)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 9.9 (12, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 41.6 (5, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 73.1 (50, 5)
Rebound Margin: 6.5 (28, 3)
Assists Per Game: 16.0 (32, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.5 (254, 13)
Madness 2017 NBA Draft Rankings:
#14 Thomas Bryant
#18 OG Anunoby
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#39 De'Ron Davis
#58 Curtis Jones