We've discussed the newcomers, now let's focus on who's already here and who may or may not be here when the 2016-17 season tips against some god-awful team ranked 300+ on KenPom in Bloomington this November.
After four tremendous years in Bloomington that saw the McDonald's All-American point guard go from the fifth option on a conference championship team in his freshman year to a B1G Player of the Year candidate and unquestioned floor leader on a conference championship team in his senior year, Yogi Ferrell departs Indiana University as the school's all-time King of Dimes and will be dearly missed. Hopefully an NBA team sees his talent and gives him a true opportunity. DraftExpress.com currently has him going to Memphis (which would be amazing) in the second round.
Nick Zeisloft, Max Bielfeldt
The graduate transfer market was good to the Hoosiers the past couple of seasons. Coming in under the radar as a graduate transfer from Illinois State, no one knew quite what to expect from Nick Zeisloft as a Hoosier. The 6'4" shooting guard came in and hit 43.2% of the three-pointers he took in a Hoosiers uniform which was mostly what he was asked to do within the offense. However, he filled in admirably down the stretch this season after injuries depleted the Indiana backcourt. Max Bielfeldt came to Bloomington from Michigan, taking on a larger role than he ever played previously and posting an offensive rating 10 points higher than his previous career-high, thanks mostly to becoming a reliable jumpshooter. His ability to come in for relief when Thomas Bryant needed a break or was in foul trouble was integral to many Indiana victories this season.
I almost labeled this section "Definitely Back" which would be one of the dumber things you could label a group of talented college kids headed into the offseason. There's a lot of reasons why a player may not return to Indiana next year, but this list is comprised of those that have yet to give any indication they're going anywhere, or have even affirmatively said they'll be back.
Robert Johnson, Collin Hartman, Josh Newkirk, Juwan Morgan
No surprises on this list. It's quite possible that the first three are in the starting lineup when the season begins. Newkirk transferred from Pittsburgh and sat out this season per NCAA rules, but it also allowed him plenty of time to recover from offseason knee surgery on his lateral meniscus and microfacture. If Newkirk can build on the promise of his freshman campaign and move past his disappointing sophomore year, he could make a strong bid for the point guard vacancy in Bloomington. Robert Johnson will be in the mix as well, and it's likely we'll see quite a bit of these two playing together. As this season proved, you can't have enough guard depth, and combined with newcomers Curtis Jones and Grant Gelon, along with James Blackmon Jr. coming off his season-ending injury, Indiana should have plenty of talented bodies to take on the post-Yogi Ferrell era of Indiana basketball.
OG Anunoby, James Blackmon, Jr.
I've lumped these two together away from the others because the assumption of their return was questioned in recent weeks, with a dodgy report that Blackmon was prepared to transfer from Indiana and increased buzz that OG Anunoby was suddenly a threat to head to the NBA after his sensational stretch of play to end the season. Both players, however, have gone on record saying they'll be back in Bloomington next season. Now, both kids are allowed to change their minds, and very well could, but as of writing the general expectation is for them both to be back. The new draft declaration process, which is a victory for the kids and for anyone in favor of informed decision-making, could end up hurting Indiana's chances at retaining its pro prospects. Anunoby, Bryant, and Williams could conceivably get combine invites, get some really good feedback and decide to jump when, in past years, the lack of concrete information may implore them to stay in school. For what it's worth: Anunoby is not listed in any 2016 mock drafts, but appears in the first round of DraftExpress.com's 2017 mock draft.
Tim Priller is on this list because he's a scholarship player. He has yet to make an impact in two years in Bloomington and is often thought of as a walk-on. We have no reason to believe he's going anywhere, so there he is. You keep doing you, Tim.
Troy Williams, Thomas Bryant
Unlike OG Anunoby, when asked about their future both Williams and Bryant declined to make a statement one way or the other, both (perhaps truthfully) saying they hadn't thought about it yet. I would be stunned if either didn't declare, at least initially, to test the waters and gather information. But whether either actually goes is a very difficult call to make. Neither appears on the 2016 Mock Drafts at NBADraft.net or DraftExpress, but both have Bryant as a first round pick (30th and 8th, respectively) and Williams as a second rounder (42nd and 47th) in 2017.
Both remain very high-ceiling players thanks to their athleticism and length, along with the well-known culture of player development at Indiana, either could potentially turn themselves into lottery picks (or at least first rounders with a guaranteed contract) if they have monster campaigns in 2016-17. If I had to make a guess right now, I would expect both to return to Indiana knowing they'll have a real opportunity to climb draft boards. While it's always difficult to sacrifice yet another year of earning power, you could (theoretically) make up all the money you missed out on if you get drafted high enough.
I would say that I see Troy Williams as the more likely of the two to depart for pro ball. He is certainly closer to a finished product compared to Thomas Bryant and we have heard multiple people (including Tom Crean) say he is seriously considering all his options. Indiana offering a JuCo wing a couple of days ago has done nothing to assuage concerns that Williams leaving is a definite possibility.
Possible Depth Chart:
|G||Robert Johnson||Josh Newkirk||Curtis Jones / Devonte Green|
|G||James Blackmon Jr.||Curtis Jones||
Devonte Green / Grant Gelon
|F||Troy Williams||OG Anunoby||Collin Hartman|
|F||De'Ron Davis||Collin Hartman||OG Anunoby|
|C||Thomas Bryant||Juwan Morgan||De'Ron Davis|
Obviously this is just a thought exercise and not to be taken as gospel. There isn't much Grant Gelon or Devonte Green in this rotation as I, currently, expect them to have Collin Hartman-esque first seasons, where they spends their freshman campaigns doing more in practice and the weight room than on game day; then be ready to be major contributors in year two. Perhaps one of them even takes a true redshirt year. Or maybe Green comes off the bench and hits three bombs a game, picking up right where Nick Zeisloft left off. Maybe Gelon is the second-coming of Dwyane Wade. Anything is possible.
What this depth chart does reveal, to me, is that Indiana has a lot of great depth and could withstand the departures of a couple of players either by transfer or going pro. While I don't have OG Anunoby or Hartman starting, there's no doubt they'll be major contributors as super-subs, able to take any spot on the floor in most situations, the kind of flexibility and versatility that every good Indiana team under Tom Crean has had. But when players of that magnitude aren't locked in to start, you have a lot of good depth.
Coach Crean could also elect to bring De'Ron Davis along slowly, starting one of his sophomores (Anunoby or Morgan) or his senior (Hartman) at the 4 and bringing Davis off the bench. We know that Tom has never been afraid to start freshman if he believes they're ready, and there's little to suggest Davis won't be ready for Big Ten ball as a freshman.
Make Some Assertions That We'll Laugh At In Eight Months:
- Say goodbye, somewhat, to the Three-Swish Mafia. Next season, Indiana will go as far as their frontcourt takes them, which is a huge departure from the past few seasons. While Robert Johnson, Collin Hartman and James Blackmon Jr. will still give Indiana plenty of firepower from the perimeter, letting Williams, Bryant, Anunoby, Davis, and Morgan put in work closer to the rim either on drives or post-ups will become the Hoosiers' bread and butter. Indiana has been just outside the top-50 in 3PA / FGA the past two seasons, but I expect them to head down to the top-175ish area next year, similar to what they were in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. It's not that Indiana will be any worse on a rate-basis from beyond the arc, but don't expect nearly the same volume of attempts.
- Minutes will have to be earned at every spot. With the kind of depth Indiana has up and down the roster, any time a player gets on the floor will have to be fought for. Guys like Thomas Bryant and Yogi Ferrell came in and started from day one, thanks, in part, to there not really being anyone like them on the roster. Fortunately, it turned out that both players were more than prepared to handle the big minutes load right away; but in this coming season, there is no single player coming in or returning that isn't in direct competition for minutes with someone else. You think a guy like OG Anunoby is going to roll over and let De'Ron Davis have his minutes? Juwan Morgan played the last five games of the season with his shoulder popping in and out regularly, you can pry his minutes from his cold, dead hands. Practices should be as competitive as games this coming season.
- While losing Yogi Ferrell will not be easy to overcome, Indiana should compete for a Big Ten title next season. After the 2012-13 conference championship, Indiana lost five major contributors in Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, and Remy Abell. The ensuing season was an abject disaster as the Hoosiers missed the tournament and dealt with off-court issues throughout the year. Indiana loses a great nucleus in Yogi Ferrell, Nick Zeisloft, and Max Bielfeldt, but the remaining talent, based on accomplishments and projections, should be enough for Indiana to make another run at a Big Ten title in 2016-17.