Another thing. Nothing that I say in this post should be construed as any sort of insult to our players. I love our players. They all decided to enroll at IU when our program was in a bad spot with no guarantee of short-term success. Like most athletes who earn high Division I scholarships, they aren't used to losing, and unlike those of us who are fans, they can't escape it by going to work or taking a walk or by thinking about something else. Every single one of them is a legitimate Big Ten player. All that said, I don't think that our current roster, considering talent, experience, and composition, is anything approaching an average Big Ten roster.
Here's what I take from a look at the roster:
We are young. It's easy to forget, because so many of this year's contributors contributed last year, that this remains a really young team. Of IU's 11 scholarship players on the active roster, only four are juniors and seniors. According to Ken Pomeroy's experience rating, IU ranks #289 in Division I with an average of 1.33 years of experience. In the Big Ten, only Iowa and Michigan have worse ratings.
- We aren't overwhelmingly talented. Of course, recruiting rankings aren't the final word, but they certainly are a rough measurement of talent. Of IU's eleven scholarship players, only two, Christian Watford (#41) and Maurice Creek (#56), were ranked in the top 100 by Rivals. As anyone who has watched IU knows, Creek currently is a shadow of his pre-kneecap fracture self, and may not be back to 100 percent until next year (and there's no guarantee that he ever will be the same, frankly). The current composition of the roster is of two top 100 recruits; 5 players who were ranked between 100 and 150; and four who weren't ranked at all. Also, the talent IU does have skews young. As noted above, IU's young roster has only four upperclassmen. Of those four, only one, Verdell Jones III, who was ranked #123, was ranked even in the top 150. Much is made of IU's 2009 recruiting class, ranked in the top 10 by most services. Comparing one school's recruiting class to another is tough business, because it requires a balance of quantity and quality. IU's 2009 recruiting class was a six man class, with only two top 100 players but with three players (Hulls, Elston, and Bawa Muniru) ranked between 100 and 150. It was a nice class, but certainly not a class with a bunch of impact players.
- The roster is not well-constructed. We don't have a true point guard. Verdell Jones has some skills in that regard but does not take good care of the ball. Jordan Hulls is better in that regard, but isn't big or athletic enough to create his own shot very often. Our post men (Pritchard, Elston, and Capobianco) are a bit undersized for that role. Christian Watford is our best and most talented player, but he is forced to play out of position because of the team's frontcourt deficiencies. I couldgo on and on, and have before. I certainly don't blame Tom Crean for this. He has recruited reasonably well under the circumstances. Within a week or so after he took the job in 2008, Crean was left with two recruited scholarship players: Roth and Pritchard, guys who had signed with IU when Sampson was the coach (I don't count Kyle Taber because he was a walk-on, not a recruited scholarship player). Crean did what he had to do to field a team in 2008-09. The 2009 recruiting class, while not loaded, was a strong effort, particularly considering that Crean was able to land two top 100 prospects from other parts of the country. The 2010 recruiting class was panned, but both Oladipo and Sheehey appear to be outperforming their barely-top 150 ratings. Certainly, Crean was well aware of the deficiencies at the point and in the post. He went all out for elite point guard Kyrie Irving, who eventually landed at Duke. He brought in a seven footer, Guy Marc Michel, only to lose him because of an arcane and repealed NCAA rule that calls certain players professionals even if they haven't been paid to play basketball.