Indiana, coming into this season, is widely regarded as the best team in the nation. Their star player, big-man Cody Zeller, is also regarded as the best player in the country. However, I believe the key to Indiana winning a national title will be there strong depth.
Indiana’s four starters–other than Zeller–are guard Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford. If you take Zeller off of this roster you still would have a top 25 team. All five of the starters are returning from last year’s fantastic team. Coach Tom Crean also adds highly touted freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell.
First off, we have Olapido, who is an extremely athletic guard. His athleticism and long arms allow him to be one of the best on ball defenders in the Big Ten. He is also very good in transition, though not a very polished offensive player. In tight games, he can be a game changer, whether it is shutting down the other team’s top scorer or making a big steal or defensive stop. Players like Oladipo are essential to putting teams over the top.
Next, the point guard position is very interesting for the Hoosiers. Jordan Hulls will return as a senior, having been a leader throughout his career. He is a strong three point shooter and a good defender, despite his lack of size. The interesting component in the equation will be freshman Yogi Ferrell’s role for the team. Ferrell was ranked 19th in the country by Rivals. There is no doubt that he is more talented than Hulls, so it should be interesting to see if and when Crean makes Ferrell the starter. Regardless, Indiana has two very good point guards, however they choose to play them.
Finally, we get to Watford, the senior. The 6-9 ft, forward is their go-to scorer. He can shoot form the outside as well as drive to the rim, using his long frame. He showed his ability to perform in big moments when he hit the buzzer beating three pointer to defeat Kentucky in Bloomington last season. Sheehey, who also is a wing/forward, brings fantastic shooting to the table for Indiana.
When you combine all of this talent with the best player in the country, Zeller, good things will happen. The depth on Indiana will be crucial to their success in the 2012-13 season.