#59 Indiana Men's Basketball Preview

Indiana Hoosiers

Overall Rank: #59
Conference Rank: #7 Big Ten
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2010-11: 12-20, 3-15
2010-11 postseason: none
Coach: Tom Crean (28-66 at Indiana, 218-162 overall)

Indiana preached patience when Coach Tom Crean was hired three years ago to rebuild a crumpled program. That patience has been tested and will continue to be tested, but this is easily the most talented team Coach Crean has had at Indiana. Forward Christian Watford is a great power forward who led the Hoosiers with 16.0 points and 5.4 rebounds last season. He will again be the focal point of the frontcourt, but he now has some help. If Watford does not have to do a vast majority of the frontcourt scoring and rebounding, this will be a team that can win a lot of games.

Who’s Out:
Jeremiah Rivers was never really appreciated at IU. He was never a scorer, but he did a little bit of everything and provided some much needed leadership. His numbers will be pretty easily replaced, but replacing his leadership will have to fall on the shoulders of the next generation of upperclassmen. Being the only major loss on the team, the other is scrappy forward Bobby Capobianco, Indiana should have little trouble improving their woeful conference record they have endured over the last three seasons.

Who’s In:
What has Hoosier fans excited for the first time in a long time is the addition of Cody Zeller. The 6-11, 230 pound forward is a Hoosier through and through and the gem of this recruiting class. Zeller needs to add strength before he can dominate the paint in the Big Ten, but he can score inside and outside and get up and down the floor. With this group, Coach Crean can run a little more and bring in some better defensive big men off the bench. The Hoosiers do not really need it this season, but they also bring in some depth on the wings. Austin Etherington is a big 6-6 wing who will battle for significant playing time right away. His ability to shoot the long ball is what separates Etherington from the rest of the newcomers. Remy Abell is not a bad shooter, but he may need a little more time to develop his game before making a big impact. Raphael Smith redshirted last season and will be hard pressed to find many minutes.

Who to Watch:
The backcourt has never lacked in talent. Verdell Jones III is a superb all-around player who can score in bunches. He is a fine passer, a good rebounder for a guard and a decent defender. Maurice Creek is built much in the same mold. Creek is a little more of a pure scorer, but has been hampered by injuries. If Creek can stay healthy for an entire season, he could easily average 15 points per game. Those two are slashers who struggle from long range. It is Jordan Hulls who is the shooter on the team. However, Hulls is also the point guard. Hulls would be better suited to play off the ball, but he has proven to be a capable point guard. Hulls continues to be more aggressive getting to the basket and his experience running the point last year should lead to a big season. Because he is such a great outside shooter, opposing defenses will always have a tough time defending Hulls. Victor Oladipo had a great freshman campaign, averaging 7.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per contest. He stepped up when Creek was hurt and will be a great option for Coach Crean on the wing. Add Matt Roth, who can be the shooter off of the bench, Will Sheehey and Daniel Moore to the mix and the backcourt is in great shape.

Final Projection:
The backcourt has been pretty good for a while. It has been the frontcourt that struggled. With Watford and Zeller presumably getting the starting nods, Coach Crean suddenly has options for certain situations. Derek Elston is an experienced big man who can knock down the mid-range jumper and spell either Watford or Zeller with his 6-9, 225 pound frame. Tom Pritchard is another big body at 6-9 and 245 pounds. He has been forced into a starting role in the past, but the senior will likely now play a huge role off of the bench. He is not a scorer whatsoever, but he is a fine rebounder and quality defender. When IU needs somebody to bang around in the paint a little bit, Pritchard is their man. The new found frontcourt depth may not be enough to get Indiana back to their glory days, but it is a step in the right direction. This is a team that could win as many conference games this year as they have the past three seasons combined. If that happens, they will be firmly in the NIT and looking towards the NCAA Tournament in 2013.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT

Projected Starting Five:
Jordan Hulls, Junior, Guard, 11.0 points per game
Verdell Jones III, Senior, Guard, 12.5 points per game
Maurice Creek, Junior, Guard, 8.3 points per game
Christian Watford, Junior, Forward, 16.0 points per game
Cody Zeller, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#27 Cody Zeller
#83 Christian Watford

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#15 Cody Zeller

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