Indiana and Kentucky will always be paired together. Like spaghetti and meatballs, lamb and tuna fish, they will always be two programs that are compared to each other. Both have a great set of history and tradition, they're historic rivals and the schools are 180 miles apart. Whether you like it or not, we're going to get compared to Kentucky. Yet, sometimes that isn't a bad thing. In the following days this week we're going to be comparing what could be with Indiana basketball in 2013-14 with what was Kentucky basketball in 2012. You may be surprised to find that there are a lot of similarities.
Now Indiana certainly isn't getting the hype that Kentucky and its super recruiting class received in 2012. Rightfully so, though Indiana's class is probably their best in quite some time it does not include the 2 best perceived players in the nation on it. But it does, like Kentucky's, include highly rated national ranked recruits that are expected to be able to come in and contribute a high work load immediately. But that is for another day, first, let's get a look at what each team did in the year prior to this season and Kentucky's national championship run.
Kentucky's 2011 team was still relatively young. With the likes of freshmen Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb getting a huge chunk of the minutes they ranked 312th in the nation in youth. Average experience of 1.16 yrs per player. The Hoosiers on the other head were veteran laden. Receiving 1.69 years per player with only two freshman contributing anything of significance. However, that Kentucky team was still playing 4 juniors or older in their 7 man rotation. Indiana played 4 in their 8 man rotation. So the big difference in age of the squads was having a bigger contingency of sophomores.
Both squads performed admirably in what was expected to be national championship seasons. Indiana obviously fell much shorter in the Sweet Sixteen to Kentucky's Final Four, but both got deep enough for you to consider that the returning sophomres for the next year qualify as seasoned veterans with post-season experience.
Offensively the Hoosiers scored at a better clip than the Wildcats but the difference wasn't great. The Hoosiers finished second in the nation in offensive efficiency at 121 points per 100 possessions. Kentucky finished 3 points behind at 118.1. Good for seventh in the nation. Indiana was a much better shooting team at 54.8% eFG to Kentucky's 52.3, but Kentucky turned the ball over 3% less. Truly it appears the difference in the offenses of the 2013 Hoosiers and 2011 Wildcats was Indiana's ability to get to the line and Kentucky's inability.
On defense, Indiana and Kentucky again were close in numbers. The Hoosiers finished 13th in the nation with 88.6 points against per 100 possessions and Kentucky came in at 90.4 (15th overall). The difference there again was turnover %. Kentucky was pretty poor at forcing mistakes while Indiana was barely better than average. If you controlled for defensive possessions that ended in turnovers, the teams are about a wash.
So what were the differences in the teams? Well for one, Kentucky was led by mostly freshman. The NBA draft pick Brandon Knight was their exclusive player at the point guard position. He played 90% of the minutes possible and was used in 26.8% of those possessions he was on the floor. For reference he and Cody Zeller were about the same player. Zeller in the post played 73.3% of the minutes and was used in 26.6% of possessions. Sure they play different positions but both were their team's go to player and both teams have to figure out life beyond them as they went pro.
Indiana of course lost 4 of its top 6 minutes earners to graduation, transfer or professional basketball. Kentucky lost 3. Kentucky in 2012 returned their #2 in Terrence Jones, #4 in Darius Miller and #5 in Doron Lamb. Indiana returns #4 Will Sheehey and #5 Yogi Ferrell. Obviously, Kentucky is bringing back more minutes but the usage between Ferrell and Sheehey trumps Darius Miller's 17.3% usage on minutes in the game. So in order of minutes with consideration to usage the top 6 returners for a combined Indiana and Kentucky goes Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, Will Sheehey, Yogi Ferrell, Darius Miller and Jeremy Hollowell. Hollowell being the true wildcard in this situation.
Kentucky in 2012 didn't bring on any seasoned super-subs. The three returners were it. We know what they were in the previous year and had a good estimate of what they would give us in 2012. Jeremy Hollowell is that wild card. We don't know what he's capable of in a full time position. He certainly did a lot of little things right but was never outstanding. He has the skillset to do that. If he shows up in summer workouts he (and to a smaller extent Hanner Perea) bring something to a young squad that the 2012 Kentucky squad didn't have, "seasoned sophomores". Meaning IU's 2014 squad will have reinforcements in the name of high quality bench players that Kentucky didn't get in 2012. Much like Ohio State does annually, Indiana will have the opportunity to showcase sophomores that got little time as freshmen.
So there you have it, in Part 1 of this series we see that the lead up year to Indiana's 2014 season and Kentucky's 2012 showed a lot of similarities. Both were nationally elite offenses and defenses that were forced to replace a lot of key cogs in the wheel. Both replaced their biggest contributor, but both still had talent returning that had been there. The Hoosiers have one less high volume returnee but having two lesser individuals returning in Hollowell and Perea gives Indiana an unknown potential that we already knew of Kentucky going into the season. Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow when we break it down and take a look at each returning players and compare their numbers on an individual basis.