Friday, April 13, 2012
IU’s national title prospects; shooting and streaks
Are you making late March travel plans to Atlanta and the Final Four now that Cody Zeller and Christian Watford are fully committed for next season?
Do cream ‘n crimson dreams invigorate your nights?
Do you find yourself ready to buy DOZENS of copies of “Hoop Tales -– Indiana Hoosiers Men’s Basketball,” the GREATEST book about Indiana basketball EVER written and, as luck would have it, advertised on this blog so you can order RIGHT NOW, from the convenience of your own home, knowing that doing so will also boost the economy and help wean us off foreign oil?
Anyway, here’s what we know about IU’s prospects for a national title.
The Hoosiers return all five starters, and six of their top seven players, from a 27-9 Sweet 16 team. They have a future NBA lottery pick in Cody Zeller. They have a future pro in Christian Watford. They have one of America’s best shooters in Jordan Hulls. They have a pair of high-energy big-play guys in Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey. They have reserve Derek Elston, IU’s best quote since A.J. Moye, and yes that matters. They have a versatile backup guard in Remy Abell.
Plus, they’re bringing in one of America’s top recruiting classes, highlighted by point guard Yogi Ferrell and small forward Jeremy Hollowell. In a perfect IU basketball world, Ferrell will have the same impact next season as Michigan’s Trey Burke did this season.
REALITY CHECK –- IU’s class dropped from No. 2 to No. 5 in latest Rivals.com poll behind Kentucky, Arizona, UCLA and North Carolina State. Is that a big deal? No. It’s what they do at Indiana that matters now.
Finally, the Hoosiers expect to get back Maurice Creek, once one of the country’s top freshman scorers. If he gets and stays healthy, and regains close to his freshman form (yes, we know that will be a major challenge), look out.
That’s a lot of talent. Coach Tom Crean has said he wants to run a lot, so he’ll have plenty of guys to do it with. He’ll have to work to sort out the playing time, but better to have that problem than what he had his first year, when guys on press row were better than what was on the court.
OK, we’re exaggerating a LITTLE for effect.
Anyway, one thing to consider is that, more and more these days, your national title prospects are often predicted by the number of potential NBA players on your team.
This season Kentucky had six, and beat Kansas (which had three) in the title game.
Crean can’t throw loads of future NBA standouts at opponents, but good coaching often means getting guys to play to their abilities, and a little bit more.
If Crean does that, really look out.
As far as the competition, Kentucky will be a force again even if coach John Calipari didn’t sign everybody he wanted this time. He did add 6-11 center Nerlens Noel, the nation’s No. 2 ranked player, to go with No. 8 Alex Poythress, No. 14 Archie Goodwin and No. 40 Willie Cauley. That prompted Rivals.com to bump this class to No. 1 in the nation.
Yeah, it’s not fair.
Lousville returns most of its players from a Final Four team and UCLA has bounced back from negativity surrounding its program by landing the nation’s No. 1 player, Shabazz Muhammad (he actually said no to Calipari), as well as No. 3 Kyle Anderson and No. 62 Jordan Adams.
IU could play UCLA next November in a tournament in New York City that also includes Georgetown and Georgia. That event showcases an intriguing non-conference schedule that almost certainly will include Kentucky (surely the Wildcats won’t screw up this annual game) and, at least down the road, Kansas.
Louisville’s Rick Pitino has made it clear he’d love to play the Hoosiers on an annual basis, although Crean, unlike Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, isn’t into non-conference overkill.
ESPN.com’s VERY early preseason poll still features Indiana at No. 1, Louisville at No. 2, Kentucky at No. 3, Kansas at No. 4 and Michigan at No. 5. Ohio State was at No. 8 and Michigan State at No. 10.
Yes, there’s a lot to get excited about. There are no promises or guarantees (remember what happened to Duke and Missouri in the NCAA tourney), but there is potential and hope, and that’s big.
When you add it all up, it leads to one inescapable conclusion:
Buy a copy of, “Hoop Tales -– Indiana Hoosiers Men’s Basketball.”
Some have suggested that, for IU to beat its scholarship crunch (14 players, 13 scholarships), some players could just drop their athletic scholarship and get an academic full ride.
Oh, if it were only that easy.
Cody Zeller is an outstanding student. In high school he wracked up the kinds of grades and test scores that could have earned him a ton of academic scholarship money. However, NCAA rules wouldn’t allow it. Once you start recruiting an athlete, you can only give him athletic aid. So you either are on an athletic scholarship, or you’re paying your own way.
As far as an IU player giving up his scholarship to walk on, well, anything is possible, but why would you do that unless your father was Mitt Romney rich? Some have suggested that Jordan Hulls should bite the bullet, take one for the team and give up his scholarship.
Why would he do that?
Maybe -– a big maybe -- that’s smart if that scholarship went to a Michael Jordan clone who would guarantee a national title, but that ain’t happening. Maybe the Hulls family has $15,000 to $17,000 to give to IU for no reason other than to let somebody sit the bench for free, but that seems silly.
How silly? Consider this TOTALLY REALISTIC scenario:
Tom Crean calls his players together after a typically intense, maximize-every-second spring workout at Cook Hall.
CREAN: “Okay guys, as you know, I signed more players than I have scholarships for. Hey, it could have been worse. Gary Harris could have picked us instead of Michigan State. So who’s going to man up, give up his scholarship and walk on?”
JORDAN HULLS: “I’m sure my parents will say yes.”
CODY ZELLER: “Hey, I’m more man than Jordy. I’ll do it, and I’m not asking my parents.”
CHRISTIAN WATFORD: “I’m more man than Jordy and Cody. I’ll give up my scholarship AND shave off my goatee because at least I can grow one!”
And so on.
If nobody transfers or opts out of his scholarship, then the best remaining option is prep school for one of the incoming freshmen. That should go to the newcomer who would play the least. The most likely candidate remains center Peter Jurkin.
A reader questioned Hoosier Dude’s assertion in a previous blog that Ron Patterson is a shooting guard who can’t shoot. The reader said Patterson can shoot, but is streaky. The reader implied, in so many words, that Hoosier Dude was an idiot.
We brought this comment to Hoosier Dude, who responded by downing a WHOLE tray of homemade chocolate chip cookies, then adding this comment.
“Steve Alford was a shooter. Calbert Cheaney was a shooter. Jordan Hulls is a shooter. A shooter is consistent. You know what you’re getting. When the ball goes up, you have a high degree of confidence it will go in.
“Right now Ron Patterson is an OK scorer, but he isn’t consistent. And if he’s not consistent against high school and travel ball defenses, what’s going to happen in college?
“Having said that, if the work ethic Patterson has shown translates to off-season hours in Cook Hall, he can develop consistency. He might not ever match Hulls for accuracy, but who can?
“Will Patterson put in the time? All he has to do is look to Hulls, Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey to see how it’s done.”