By now you know the Indiana Hoosiers are not considered the preseason basketball big dogs of the Big Ten. That honor goes to Michigan State and Michigan.
IU lost four thousand-point scorers -- Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Victor Oladiopo and Cody Zeller -- plus valuable reserve forward Derek Elston. A couple of veterans -- Remy Abell and Maurice Creek -- transferred.
Much of the burden for this year will fall to veterans Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey. Both got a big jump on that by playing for Team USA in the recently concluded World University Games in Russia. Sheehey, last year’s Big Ten 6th man of the year, displayed an improved offense that included scoring 20 points in the tourney finale. Ferrell showed he does have three-point range, although it must be consistent for him to be a dominant offensive player in the manner of, say, Trey Burke.
But when it comes down to it, the Cream 'n Crimson key is the newcomer impact.
Veteran Evan Gordon has one year to show that transferring to his third college was a wise move. He’s a career double-figure scorer who will provide much needed backcourt stability, leadership and production.
Still, just how good Indiana is this season depends on the six freshmen, who comprise a top-10 recruiting class. Forward Noah Vonleh has instant impact potential, which is what you’d expect from a top-10 recruit. He can rebound, block shots and play defense. If he’s not yet Cody Zeller’s equal in offensive skill, he just might be in work ethic.
There’s a lot of promise in Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, Luke Fischer, Devin Davis and Collin Hartman.
But since these guys train in private, we don’t really know how they’re doing. That’s where associate head coach Tim Buckley comes in. He has provided insight into what this freshman class could deliver.
“I’d say this group is more highly credentialed than any of the previous groups,” he said. “That’s why it’s important that this group continues to keep that edge to be great, because that’s what the other groups had. They had that edge.
“They love confrontation at the rim. They love to go after it, to try to block shots or take charges. It’s a very competitive group."
Then Buckley offered an assessment on each freshman.
“Starting with Noah. Physically, he’s college ready. He’s very strong. He’s very powerful. He’s very polished around the basket and explosive. He’s going to continue to develop his perimeter game. In my humble opinion, it was a great decision on his part to come here because that’s what we’ve been able to do. That’s where Cody will excel in the NBA because he was put on the perimeter to drive the ball and shoot. Those are areas he’ll continue to develop and grow.
“His attitude is as good as anyone I’ve ever seen, especially for someone as highly credentialed as he is. He wants to learn. He wants to get better. He wants to know, what more can I do.
“Stan Robinson fits the motor part. He’ll given you everything he has on a consistent basis. Sometimes he goes too fast, but it’s a lot easier to slow guys down than hurry them up.
“His skill level will get better. Right now he’s pretty left-hand dominant, but we’re going to continue to work on that right hand. I think he’s going to be a very good shooter once the repetition of his shooting exceeds the pressure of the game and the pressure of the practices. He’ll be a quality defender once he learns the schemes.
“Troy Williams is a spectacular athlete, but he is as good a passer as he is an athlete. It’s neat to watch. When he’s playing in 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 situations, he finds the open man and he sees things maybe a play ahead. Once he gets his rhythm down with his shooting that will improve. When he gets to point where people don’t know whether to close on him hard or back off, that’s when he’s really going to have the defense at his mercy.
“Devin Davis is a better player than most people think. He’s a hybrid, a mismatch type of guy. He’s more athletic than he looks. He’ll go up and dunk it and surprise you with that at times. He’s also pretty good at putting the ball on the floor. He does a great job of reading the defense as a freshman. He knows where you’re playing him and how you’re playing him, to spin or counter with another move.
“Collin is a knock-down shooter. He’s going to continue to expand his game a little bit. One thing he can’t get away from is making those shots when he’s open and when he’s available to take those.
“Luke Fischer has gotten bigger and stronger. He’s already put on seven or eight pounds since he’s been here. He’s a winner. Having gone undefeated the past two seasons (in high school in Wisconsin). He’s going to stretch and grow. He’s more likely, than the other big guys we’ve had here recently, to step out and shoot. He’s got to get better at it, but he seems more comfortable at it than some of the other big guys.”