Indiana basketball is only 14 games into the season and they've already had a ton of ups and downs to begin the season. After a tough overtime loss at Illinois to close out the year the Hoosiers are looking to find some consistency going into 2014. As of right now Tom Crean and the Indiana fan base can seemingly only rely on Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh. Everyone else have their moments of greatness sprinkled with some troubling play. Can Indiana find another 2-3 guys who we know can bring it every single night?
What this is going to boil down to in order for Indiana to be a consistent known quantity night in and night out through the conference season is the emergence of Will Sheehey. He can't be a player that just disappears for whole halves at a time while the freshmen and sophomores try and fill that void. His game play certainly wasn't the full reason for the Hoosiers loss on Tuesday, but a lot of their struggles can be attributed to lacking a second scoring threat while Vonleh rode the bench with foul trouble.
Going back to Tuesday's game specifically, our should be senior leader pretty well disappeared. With 10 minutes to play in the second half and the Hoosiers up 59-54 Will Sheehey grabbed a defensive rebound and missed a three point shot at the other end of the floor. After that shot at the 10:16 mark, Sheehey did not affect the box score in any way until 3:15 left in the overtime period when he missed a well defended layup over Nnanna Egwu.
Think about that for a moment. What should be our senior and our leader for this squad, at a point when the team needed some level headed play and strong offense the most, pulled a disappearing act. In that same time span, freshman Stan Robinson, he of 10.6 minutes per game was the player attacking the basket to try and contribute anything to the cause. Now he wasn't very good at it, but he was the only player at least trying to do something when Illinois completely took away Yogi Ferrell.
Sheehey can't continue to put this young team in a position like that. He's got to step up and make plays down the stretch. We know he's capable of it. He's done it for 3 1/2 years now, but this is the first time he's being asked to do it every night. The same thing happened in both the Syracuse and Connecticut games as well.
Against Syracuse, Sheehey took two shots in the second half. Those two didn't come until 7 minutes in the game remained and the Hoosiers were down by 20. Again, when Indiana needed some leadership the most Will was nowhere to be found. Heck even against Notre Dame where he scored 22 points, in the final 7:52 seconds when Indiana started out down 1 point, Sheehey went turnover, free throws, rebound, turnover, turnover, rebound, foul to close out the game. Again not big plays when IU needed it most.
Obviously it would be completely unfair to lay all four losses at the feet of Will Sheehey. But the trend has been set this year for Indiana's struggles. Yogi Ferrell may be the best player on this team, but I would argue that Will Sheehey is the most important. When he's not in on the offense and not making plays Indiana struggles. He's the most needed and obvious option for Indiana to find better play on offense. As USA Coach Bob McKillop said this summer after coaching him in the World University Games, he's got to realize he isn't just a second fiddle. He has the skill set of a go to player. Now would be the perfect time for him to start playing like it.