Indiana Basketball – Top 10 Reasons Why Indiana Will Be a Bubble Team for the 2014 NCAA Tournament

by Kent Sterling

A lot of moving in and out to be done in this room.  Both those leaving and those arriving will play huge roles in the success of the 2014 Hoosiers

A lot of moving in and out to be done in this room. Both those leaving and those arriving will play huge roles in the success of the 2014 Hoosiers

Yesterday, I did my best to find reasons for hope that Indiana would find a way to cut down the nets in Dallas a year from now.  Today, we look at the other end of the spectrum for the Hoosiers 2013-2014 prospects.

A lot of things would have to go exactly right for Indiana to be as highly regarded next season as they were throughout the 2012-2013 campaign.  They were the default #1 team this season.  No one expects that to happen next year, but the stakes are higher in Bloomington now that order has been firmly established and Indiana is back in the national college basketball conversation.

Here are the ten reasons that Indiana will have a challenging year that will make Hoosier Nation nervous on Selection Sunday:

10 – Assistant coach Tim Buckley is taking a look at other jobs, which can be extrapolated to mean that he believes his stock will not grow as a member of Indiana’s staff.  Buckley is an outstanding tactician, and his loss will mean a reduction in the brain trust to which Tom Crean has access.

9 – Recruits are flaky, and foreseeing with certainty whether Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, Luke Fischer, Devin Davis, and Collin Hartman will be able to contribute to a winning team straight out of the gate is difficult.  They all have the physical gifts needed, but knowing whether a hitter can drive a curve ball is tough until one is thrown to him.  Based on previous evidence, these guys can be projected to get better and embrace the Indiana culture, but whether that translates to 20+ wins – who knows.

8 – Hanner Perea and Peter Jurkin are total unknown quantities.  Are they capable of fulfilling their promise as significant parts of an outstanding recruiting class?  Sure.  Is it possible neither will ever play a meaningful role on a successful team?  Sure.  The body of work is too skinny to judge.  Perea seemed to lack a level of court awareness on the defensive end to be able to help stop teams from scoring.  He scored only 17 points, grabbed 29 boards, and had eight turnovers in 114 minutes.  Jurkin scored no points in seven minutes.  Both are impossible to project with any degree of confidence in either direction.

7 – The Big Ten is not likely to be the gauntlet it was in 2013.  Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan will be excellent again, but the rest might struggle a bit.  Northwestern and Minnesota will rebuild with new leadership.  Illinois and Wisconsin lose some of their best players.  Nebraska is a long way away from being a Big Ten challenger.  Iowa could lose junior Roy Marble Jr. to the NBA.  Purdue is going to be better as Ronnie Johnson and A.J. Hammons become sophomores, but shouldn’t leapfrog Indiana.  Penn State is, well, Penn State.  Indiana slots nicely in that fourth, fifth, or sixth slot, and that will put them in the field.

6 – Jeremy Hollowell is facing a huge year.  The sophomore year is the one when a non-exceptional kid and his coaches figure out whether he can play at the level required for him to be a success, and Hollowell is walking into an offseason where a switch needs to go on.  He has the measurables, but faded in and out of effectiveness during 9.7 minutes per game his freshman year.  Hollowell appeared more engaged toward the end of the season, so there is reason for optimism, but it’s impossible to predict which direction he might track.

5 – Three very solid leaders are graduating.  Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, and Derek Elston set the culture arriving at Indiana following a 6-25 season.  They struggled to win 22 games in their first two years, believed in what Tom Crean was selling, and won 53 in their final two years.  Their work ethic served as an excellent example for the youngsters.  Will Sheehey and Yogi Ferrell will have to step in a lead.

4 – Indiana ranked eighth among Division 1 teams in field goal percentage in 2012-2013.  The Hoosiers made 48.2% (951-of-1,971) of their shots.  The four starters leaving made 51.5% (623-of-1,210).  The remaining players hit only 43.1%.

3 – They went to the Sweet 16 with two lottery picks and two other 1,000 point scorers.  How could anyone in his right mind project the Hoosiers to exceed or reach the same level?  Those four scored 1,876 of the Hoosiers 2,831 points.  Throw in Derek Elston’s 21 points, and IU loses 67% of their scoring.  Not having any notion whether the incoming freshmen can pick up a significant portion of that offense, and projecting players like Remy Abell, Hollowell, and Perea to breech that gap makes any prediction total guesswork.  Sheehey and Ferrell scored 17.1 ppg between them.  They are the known quantities, and even if they both score 17 per contest next year, they still need to find another 35.7 points on offense.

2 – Not only do the Hoosiers lose 67% of their scoring, they watch 82.7% of their three-point field goals, 63.4% of the rebounding, 67.1% of steals, and 73% of blocks walk out the door.  On the plus side, they lose 57.8% of their turnovers and 54.5% of their fouls.  You get the idea.  There is a lot of statistical significance leaving Bloomington.

1 – Two first team All-Americans leaving for the NBA Draft will certainly not make the Hoosiers better – at least not initially.  Recruits seeing the IU is capable of turning top high school players into lottery picks will be a big deal in the long run, but for the 2013-2014 season, Indiana needs players who can put the ball in the bucket, and keep opponents from doing the same.

The top ten is really a top three – there are historically meaning players walking out the door, there are unknown quantities walking in, and there is no way to gauge the improvement by the players who remain.  Crean is a constant, so while he will be a obviously key figure in 2014, Crean’s contribution is not a variable.

There can be a good argument made that this top ten list should be a more positive look at the Hoosiers because making the tournament is wishful thinking.  I’ve chosen to assume in perpetuity that the most conservative expectation should always be that Indiana will make the field in the NCAA Tournament.  There was a time when less was acceptable to Indiana fans because of the chaos following Kelvin Sampson’s arrogant destruction of the program, but those days are over.

Fans like to say, “This is Indiana.”  Well, Indiana earns bids to the NCAA Tournament.

11 thoughts on “Indiana Basketball – Top 10 Reasons Why Indiana Will Be a Bubble Team for the 2014 NCAA Tournament

  1. Philboyd Studge

    Well, while still unduly optimistic, this is quantum physics compared to the ludicrous prediction of yesterday that the Hoosiers would win it all in 2014.

    1987 never seemed so long ago, did it Kent? Since then, Bobby Knight was fired for bullying students and players, Kelvin Sanctions was hired despite a history of sleaziness, and Indiana was promptly given a well-deserved probation for cheating, then there was the sordid little deal of Clappy Crean hiring the AAU coach’s son, after the coach gave his players improper benefits. And now, thanks to Zeller and Oladipo IU has become one of those “early-entry” factories — and STILL can’t reach the Elite Eight more than once in twenty years. By the way, Kentucky has done it 11 times in that span, with six Final Fours and three championships.

    Is that really “doing it the right way” Kent? If so, what does that phrase, one of Hoosierdom’s favorites, really mean? Is it simply failing to achieve despite NCAA sanctions and slippery deals and early out players?

    By the way, glad to be back. The last time I was here I predicted that every day after Kentucky’s 8th NCAA championship one year ago Monday would be sweeter, more vivid than before, and filled with little moments of random joy when I recalled the sight of that banner going up in Rupp.

    It turned out I underestimated how much I was going to enjoy it. And now the Cats are pre-season No. 1 for 2014 in every reckoning I’ve seen, even before Andrew Wiggins decides. Life is good, Kent.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Philboyd – You conveniently glossed over your reaction to Kentucky’s unlucky 2013. Losing to Robert Morris was just desserts for a team that never appeared to enjoy each other’s company.

      Doing the right thing at Indiana went on hiatus from roughly 1997 through February, 2008. Oddly, those periods coincide with Dan Dakich’s departure and re-emergence as the Hoosiers interim head coach.

      The right way is to recruit student-athletes who care about classes and basketball in equal measure. Kids deserve valuable degrees for their work, as well as the opportunity to succeed on the court. Play hard, play together, and enjoy the ride. That is what alums want from Indiana Basketball. Banners every once in a while would be great.

      It will be interesting to watch UK play next year. The Wildcats might have the best recruiting class in history. How they play together while doing their eight months in Lexington will be entertaining no matter how it works out.

  2. Philboyd Studge

    Since you asked, Kent, I enjoyed 2013, especially up until the sad injury to Nerlens Noel, who was as fine a player and as fine a young man as any in the legendary, unparalleled history of Kentucky basketball.

    Now, that might sound disingenuous, until you factor in Kentucky’s 2012 championship, and the tremendous recruiting haul that was unfolding. Even Kentucky fans are satisfied with Elite Eight, Final Four, Championship, Bridge Year, Preseason No. 1.

    I’m not one of those over-enthusiasts proclaiming a guaranteed championship in 2014. But it is exciting to be a Kentucky fan right now, that is for sure.

    By the way: A gentle jab at that “valuable degree” line. I note that Cody Zeller, after two years of matriculation during which he traveled with the basketball team probably 200 days, and was engaged in the never-ending work of a college basketball player (I played at the low D-1 level, I know what I’m talking about) is just a few credits short of one of those “valuable degrees.” Color me skeptical. No one should be able to get a full degree in two years. It cheapens the process. IU didn’t hire that UNC Af-AM guru, did they?

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Zeller is a business student, and was on track to get his degree this summer.

      The Indiana kids stick around through the summer and take classes. They can get a semester out of the way, and are enrolled the summer prior to their freshman year, so the guys are usually finished in less than three full years.

      In all seriousness the Excellence Academy at IU is a wonderful innovation that does great work in helping give the kids an academic leg up. The link gives a brief overview.

    2. HoosierDaddy


      You nailed it. IU basketball is a joke. I’m starting to understand how bad UK is going to own us for many, many years to come. Purdue will rise up and take us too. Although, it may achievable to get a full degree from IU in 2 years. Everyone knows we are basically a liberal arts school. Maybe Zeller wanted to be a poetry or music major?

        1. kentsterling Post author

          Not sure what statements avoid truth. A couple of the entries are entirely statistical – and accurate. This is a big year for Hollowell. Oladipo and Zeller leaving will not make Indiana better is a statement impossible to disagree with. I suggest you read it a fourth time.

    3. Allen

      On the other hand, unlike Cody Zeller attending two years and then going into the NBA, Kentucky’s freshmen are generally GREAT at basketball and don’t need to complete a degree!!!!!!!!!!!! I think that is a big gamble. If those previous Kentucky freshman don’t do well in the NBA, what next? Oppppppppppppppps!

      1. Marina

        Well then welcome to Indy! As sonoeme who has lived in Indiana and the Indianapolis area her entire 28 years of life .you’ll like it!Well, maybe. Moosh in Indy doesn’t care for it all that much but I love it.Yes you will have friends in Indy (hello my name is Julie and I’m Ms. Crafty Wanna-Be) and there is this thing here in Indy called a FURNACE. It’s probably located in your new home here in Indy and it’s quite handy when it’s cold outside.Talk to you soon!JulieMs. Crafty Wanna-Be’s last blog post..

  3. HoosierDaddy

    Hey Kent,

    3 days ago you did a blurb on why IU will win the 2014 title. Now you are doing one on IU being a bubble team. We are all having trouble understanding how our Hoosiers are back in the national college basketball conversation? We have nothing now? Victor Home Depot? Gone. Zeller? Gone. Remy Abell – gone! Clearly Crean will sideswipe another unsuspecting player like Creek who was always a zero or Jurkin (0 points, waste of a year) and Perea (1 point, waste of a year). What I don’t understand is if we are going to cheat and payoff players like Jurkin & Perea, why don’t we get actually good players like Kentucky does or even solid recruits like Purdue. Now Crean is begging a decommit from Northwestern to play for our famed Hoosiers? We went from the perennial #1 to a laughing stock of the Big Ten. At this rate, Penn State, Nebraska, and Northwestern will roll us and we will be back to the bottom soon enough. We already look like a fool of an institution for cutting Bobby Knight out forever. The guy sold all his IU memorabilia just so he can forget. Then we have Sampson come in to dig it deeper. It’s obvious the only sport we know is soccer at this point. IU basketball is officially a joke to all of the NCAA again. The fact that we thought we were going anywhere was pathetic. At least we got all those UK to cancel the series since we act completely uncivilized and disrespectful to their fans.

  4. HoosierDaddy

    IU should just be happy to ever be in field of 68. That’s all we need anyways. Play some small school in Tennessee and go home. I guess we can just keep blaming Sampson if we lose. That is our “go-to” excuse anyways.


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