Indiana advanced to the NCAA Tournament last March for the third time since head coach Tom Crean took over the program in 2008.
The Hoosiers finished with a 20-14 regular season record and a 9-9 showing in Big Ten play. They fell to Wichita State in the second round of the tourney as a #10 seed.
Coach Crean’s team excelled on the offensive end, averaging 77.5 points per game which was good for No. 18 in the country last season. However, it was their failures on defense that ultimately did them in. Indiana ranked 296th overall, allowing 71.7 points per game and a total of 2,438 points for the season.
The hope is with a new batch of athletic recruits and one of the best backcourts in the country, the Hoosiers will be able to enjoy success on both sides of the ball as they search for a deep run this March.
Key Offseason Departures: Hanner Mosquera-Perea (center), Stanford Robinson (guard), Emmitt Holt (forward)
After making 22 starts, averaging 6.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, Mosquera-Perea transferred to East Tennessee State. Collin Hartman started the other 12 games at center despite being undersized at 6-foot-7. He’ll again be a key piece of the Hoosier frontcourt.
The backcourt is the biggest strength of this team with guards Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. running the show. Ferrell, a 6-foot senior ranked sixth in the Big Ten in scoring with 16.3 points per game. Blackmon, a sophomore who is recovering from off-season knee surgery, paced him 15.7 points per game as he finished second on the team with 5.3 rebounds per game.
Indiana also has versatile guards Robert Johnson and Nick Zeisloft. Johnson enters his sophomore campaign after ranking fourth in scoring (8.9 PPG) and second in assists (2.3) behind only Ferrell. Zeisloft is a fifth-year senior, who buried 47 percent of his shots from the field and 45 percent of his 3-point attempts.
The Hoosiers bring back, for the most, part the same group as a season ago. Junior forward Troy Williams had a stellar season finishing with 13 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
Sophomore forward Emmitt Holt is perhaps the biggest loss after he was dismissed from the team following multiple alcohol-related incidents. Coach Crean emphasized that Holt being gone is a loss and the freshmen will have to fill his void.
“Emmitt [Holt] was a guy that would have been at least a top 8 (lineup) situation and a potential starter, based on what he did last year,” Crean told the News-Sentinel.
Key Additions: Max Bielfeldt (forward), Thomas Bryant (center), Juwan Morgan (forward), O.G. Anunoby (forward), Harrison Niego (guard)
Bielfeldt is the lone player on this list that is a transfer. The 6-foot-8, 240-pounder arrives from Michigan after appearing in 69 games, making six starts and averaging averaged 9.1 minutes, 2.8 points and 2.3 rebounds per game for the Wolverines.
Bryant is the top recruit. ESPN ranked him as their No. 6 center and as a 4-star recruit. The McDonald’s All-American averaged 17.3 points, 11.6 rebounds and 4.5 rebounds in his senior year at Huntington Prep (Rochester, N.Y.).
He immediately gives the Hoosiers a bonafide center, which is something they lacked all last season. Bryant was named to the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year award watch list.
Morgan is a crafty player who could soak up the minutes that Holt was expected to take on this season off the bench. He ranked as the No. 31 power forward in his class by ESPN. Anunoby is a 3-star recruit and is a lengthy 6-foot-7 small forward.
“We have to make sure they continue to play versatile. We recruited them to play versatile, and now that becomes part of the deal. They have to be able to guard different people,” Crean told the News-Sentinel. “Athletically they are there. (Now that practice has started), they have to keep the same level of intensity, that same level of endurance, that same level of desire and determination to get better.”
After starting 5-1 in Big Ten play last year, the Hoosiers won only four of their last 12 conference matchups.
Indiana has early non-conference games highlighted by matchups against Duke, Wake Forest and Notre Dame. They open conference play on Dec. 30 against Rutgers team they went 2-0 against in 2014 and beat handily 84-54 in New Jersey.
The Hoosiers will face Wisconsin and Iowa twice each after playing both teams only once last year. They end the regular season with consecutive matchups against a tough Maryland team.
Playing in the Big Ten is never easy, but Indiana should be able to post a conference record above .500 this season.
Final Preview and Prediction
This team has all the tools on offense to be successful. If Coach Crean can acclimate his star freshman center quickly, it could be an even better season than anticipated for Indiana.
The Hoosiers are No. 15 in Today’s U Top 25 for a ton of reasons. Guards Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. can score at will. Ferrell specifically is one of the best players in the Big Ten and is well on his way to a solid NBA career.
Indiana is deep at the guard with Robert Johnson and Nick Zeisloft playing a huge part in the team’s success once again. Forward Troy Williams could be in line for an even better season with Bryant in the lineup.
Versatility and improved defense are the two things on the Hoosiers’ minds heading into the 2015-16 season. The backcourt will continue to excel and once the frontcourt settles in this could be a very dangerous team.
Coach Cread is loaded with talent. He should be able to put it all together much like he did from 2011-2012 when Indiana made back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances. Look out for these Hoosiers.