Call me crazy but even if the Indiana Hoosiers lose both Junior Victor Oladipo and Sophomore Cody Zeller to the NBA Draft, I believe they will be better than they were this past season. The biggest difference is they’re going to get some playmakers in that know how to win and score.
Three players are guaranteed not to be back next season and that’s seniors Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls and Derek Elston. With the potential of losing four of their five starters, many would think Indiana will be back to the slumps again. That’s absolutely not true.
Yogi Ferrell will once again lead the offense as the point guard and should have improved between his freshmen and sophomore years. Will Sheehey likely will start alongside him in the backcourt and give Indiana a huge difference in size from the next season than last. This past year, Ferrell and Hulls were the two starting guards and neither were realistically over 5’10. Sheehey brings senior leadership, a high motor and size as he’s 6’7 and over 200-pounds.
I’d expect Indiana to start three freshmen or two freshmen and a sophomore in the front court that could help the Hoosiers be scary good and vastly improved. Yes, losing Oladipo will hurt. However, freshman Noah Vonleh isn’t a slouch. He’s going to be as good, if not a better defender, as Oladipo who was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Many may not know of Vonleh yet but he’s a very tall and lanky forward. He’s 6’9, 222-pounds with a 7’4 wingspan. He’s already on NBA Draft boards for 2014. As many say, he’d be a lottery pick if he were allowed to go Pro this year. He’s a very athletic kid that plays with the same motor as Oladipo.
Keep in mind, it took Oladipo three years to get to the level he’s at now. He can score at will, a pesky defender that uses his length and goes out of his way to get rebounds. He has range beyond the three-point line and will be the star next year. If you thought deflections were big for Oladipo just wait until you see Vonleh. His classmate Troy Williams will likely start at small forward with them. Williams is another big-time high-profile recruit coming in to help this team stay on top. He’s a big 6’7 very athletic kid that is also a natural scorer with endless range. He has no problem finding his own shot and is also a pesky defender. He likes to use his size to create his own shots and uses his size and athletic ability to get to the rim. He truly enjoys going after rebounds and creating fast break opportunities, like Vonleh, so the duo will be scary.
For those keeping track so far, that’s a 5’10, 6’7, 6’7 and a 6’9 lineup without factoring in a center. This is much bigger than last year with more high motors and better defenders. All four of those guys are explosive and finally fit the mold of Tom Crean’s offense. The center will likely be between two guys in sophomore: Hanner Perea and freshman Luke Fischer. I’ve been hard on Perea and coach Crean, saying he should have been improved by now. He was an NBA prospect in high school with tons of athletic ability. If that comes back that’s one dangerous athletic and fast offense with a tough defense to score on. Even then, Fisher is a big tall kid that can spread the defense and knows how to win. He’s 6’10 and can rebound, score and defend. Factor in Junior Remy Abell, sophomore Jeremy Hollowell and freshmen guards Stanford Robinson, Colin Hartman and Devin Davis and this team has just as much depth and skill as the past team. That’s with both Oladipo and Zeller gone. Imagine if those two come back?
For those salivating at the thought that IU will be worse than last year, you may want to watch your words. This team replaced unathletic guys (minus Oladipo) with, lets be honest, real talent. They will contend with Michigan State and Ohio State, who will be very good next year for the Big Ten title and compete for the NCAA title in March. There’s still hope in Bloomington as Indiana will be better with more height and playmakers. It will be amazing how far that could get them.