IU fans have had to suffer for the past three seasons as the basketball program went into rebuild mode. Now, it has all paid off as IU comes into the 2012-13 season as the #1 team in the nation.
Hoosiers have a lot to be excited for this year. IU is stacked at every position. They have a bench that could beat a lot of teams across the nation and a starting five that is deadly across the board. All of coach Tom Crean's hard work has finally paid off, and fans will finally stop grumbling about letting him go.
The Starting Five
We'll use the starting lineup from the Indiana Weslyan game, since that will probably be the starting five for most games.
Cody Zeller, C
What hasn't already been said about Zeller? He is the preseason favorite to win the Naismith award and a host of others. He is the man that the offense flows through. Last season, IU wouldn't have been able to be so productive from the 3-point line had it not been for Zeller's presence down low.
Zeller has continued to work on his game and his strength. He is listed now at 240 lbs. He averaged 15.6 points per game and 6.6 rebounds. With the added strength and technical skills, these numbers will go up this season. He nearly had two assists per game last year, this season he'll probably average even more as IU will be able to more effectively run a high-low play where he kicks the ball back to the arc after the opposing defense crashes on him in the low block.
Defensively he is athletic enough to run up and down the court and now has the improved strength to be a better defender in the low post. He forced nearly three turnovers per game, from blocks and steals, and should show improvement this season.
Zeller has been exceptional at living up to the hype and working hard. Don't expect him to give up at any point this season.
Jordan Hulls, SG
Hulls won't be bringing the ball up the court anymore, that responsibility will belong to Yogi Ferrell. Hulls will more to the shooting guard position, which is his more natural position in college ball. Hulls struggled to guard more athletic point guards and now will thankfully not be forced to do something he isn't adept at.
That's not to say Hulls isn't a good defender, he is, but he is limited by his own athletic ability. He is still the best three point shooter in the country and will be able to do more damage offensively from that position.
Opponents will struggle against this IU offense, especially with Hulls at a more natural position. Expect Hulls to remain at the top of the list in shooting percentage and for his average points per game to go up this season.
People seem to forget about Watford lately. The hero of the Kentucky game is still a deadly scoring option and has gotten better each year as a defender.
He shot 44% from the three point line last season and has the potential to guard almost any position on the floor. His best offensive games have always started on the defensive end of the floor. Watford has to be considered as this teams number two option after Zeller.
Expect Watford to have a big senior year. He'll be playing for the NBA draft, and we can debate about whether or not he should be picked up. It'll depend on how much improvement he shows this year. He certainly has the build (6-9 232lbs) to be in the NBA.
Oladipo is kind of in a weird position with this offense. He certainly should get the start based on his athleticism and defensive ability, but an argument could also be made for Will Sheehey. We assume that Oladipo will start.
The 6-5 junior will probably be defending the opposing team's best guard and in the past has shown that he is more than up to the challenge. Last year he made a big jump as a player and the same should be expected this season.
Crean stated that his jump shot had gotten much better and that he was better at finishing around the rim, both areas he desperately needed to work on. Oladipo is a high energy player who is known for his amazing feats of athleticism, which mainly come in the form of incredible dunks.
His offensive numbers improved last season and he was averaging nearly 15 points per game as the year came to a close. Crean thinks its only a matter of natural development before Oladipo is in the NBA.
Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell, PG
Ferrell highlights the freshman class, and because of this will be starting from day one. He is an incredible athlete who took his high school team to the state finals three times in a row, winning the last two. In those games, he averaged nearly a triple double.
Ferrell was rated as the #2 point guard in his class. He is near unstoppable offensively. He has excellent vision and ball handling skills. He has a very good jump shot and is solid from the three point line. He is exceptional on the fast break and always knows where his team mates are. He may struggle a bit early on as IU works out timing, but he should have an outstanding season. At Park Tudor, he facilitated a motion offense that featured a lot of ball movement.
He is a good defender, but sometimes isn't aggressive enough. He is good at identifying his opponents and knowing if and how to beat them. His high school team had a tendency to run a zone defense, while IU favors a man-to-man system, but he should be able to adapt as his AAU team favored the style of play that IU did. In high school he had a tendency to outwork his opponents on offense so they had nothing left to give when they had the ball, thus making them easier to defend. This method probably won't work as well in college. Ferrell has improved his strength and should be a tough defender just based on his athletic ability.
Yogi could make a push for Big Ten freshman of the year, but he'll be up against Gary Harris from Michigan State who stole his Indiana Mr. Basketball award this past year.
The Depth Chart
Just the starting lineup will be a handful for opposing teams, but this team has a ton of depth. Will Sheehey will push for minutes, as he did last year by being IU's sixth man. Peter Jurkin is another 7-0 center who will probably spell Zeller, he is athletic with a lot of potential. Jurkin may have to sit out nine games due to a dumb suspension by the NCAA.
Freshman Jeremy Hollowell is the next Watford and was nearly a one man show in high school. He has a ton of potential on both sides of the ball and jumped to being the #41st best player in the country his senior year of high school. We can't forget about Maurice Creek who was once this teams best player for a slew of unfortunate injuries.
Remy Abell gave the team good minutes last season, but is fairly low on the depth chart. He might struggle for minutes, but what he does give will be productive. Derek Elston, when he returns from injury, will be solid in the post for IU.
Hanner Mosquera-Perea is an unbelievable athlete. He has been struggling lately due to a potential stress fracture in his foot, but once healthy could be a huge roll player. Perea, like Jurkin, will have to sit for nine games due to the ineptitude of the NCAA. Perea is a natural defender, especially when it comes to blocks, and an outstanding finisher at the rim. He is scary in transition and will get fans on their feet with unbelievable dunks. He does need to work on more basketball moves, but once he gets there he will be looking at an NBA career.
To say this team is difficult to guard would be an understatement. This team is projected to be first in offensive efficiency this season. They have a starting five that are all skilled at scoring in a variety of ways.
Hulls will beat you with the three or a quick jumper. Ferrell can take you off the dribble and play pop-a-shot or just take it to the rim. If that's not there, he can kick it to someone who's open. Watford can score from anywhere on the court, off the dribble, from the corner, or at the rim. Oladipo will slash and dunk over you. Zeller will take anyone off the low block and hit them with a turnaround jumper, a baby hook, or just dunk it in their face.
Here is how most possessions will play out. Ferrell will be able to cut into the lane and defenders will either allow him to score, or double team him and leave Hulls open on the outside for a three, or leave Zeller open for an easy shot, or leave Watford open for an easy shot, or let Oladipo crash for a dunk. Or Ferrell could work off the pick-and-roll which will be a nightmare for defenders. Hulls and Zeller could work a high-low where Hulls gets the ball at the arc, passes to Zeller in the low block and either Zeller scores or Hulls is open for a three.
There are so many possibilities that the Hoosier will be a nightmare to game plan for.
That's just the starting five. The Hoosiers can reasonably substitute in almost anyone on the roster and not lose any production. This team has some serious depth.
In 2011-12, they were 64th in defense efficiency. This year they are projected to be in the top 20. In any case, this team will outscore anyone in the nation. They nearly did so last year, and now they have a better point guard and more depth. Crean doesn't have to dig deep into the bench to find quality minutes.
The teams that are best at defense generally aren't as talented offensively. They tend to hold the ball and run clock, waiting for a perfect shot and then stifling their opponents at the other end of the court. IU doesn't have to do that, they won't struggle to put up points.
IU fans can look forward to a wonderful season. We're going to stick with the Hoosiers as the favorites to win a national championship and there doesn't seem to be much reason to doubt it.
Tags: Christian Watford, Cody Zeller, Indiana, Indiana Hoosiers, Jordan Hulls, NCAA, Tom Crean, Victor Oladipo, Yogi Ferrell