Thursday, April 5, 2012
Top-ranked Indiana? Pick Cheaney and Derby Classic
So do the Indiana Hoosiers really deserve the No. 1 ranking bestowed on them by prognosticators for next season?
We will assume that Cody Zeller stays for at least one more year. Until it’s official, we’ll assume Christian Watford is back.
That means you’ve got every key player returning with the exception of guard Verdell Jones from a Sweet 16 team that went 27-9. Plus, you’ve got one of the nation’s top recruiting classes coming in. It has a point guard, Yogi Ferrell, who could have Trey Burke impact. Burke, of course, was Michigan’s one and now done who as a freshman helped direct the Wolverines to a tri-Big Ten title along with Michigan State and Ohio State.
Jeremy Hollowell is a still growing forward with enormous upside. Hanner Mosquera-Perea is one of the nation’s most athletic inside newcomers. Guard Ron Patterson has a non-stop motor. Peter Jurkin is 6-11, raw and often injured. Still, if he can play defense, rebound a little, alter a few shots and be in the right position at the right time, he can provide some valuable inside depth.
The Hoosiers already have begun workouts for next season. Tom Crean is not the kind of coach to relax and figure improvement will come just by maturity. He will push and prod and never, ever sit still. His Wednesday tweets included a vow to continue playing fast, which means IU will not be confused with Wisconsin when it comes to pace.
The Hoosiers thrived in the underdog role. Can they handle the heat of expectations? Figure they can, but we won’t know until the prove it.
National champ Kentucky will be again ridiculously loaded with freshman talent. Louisville will return guard Peyton Siva, the early favorite for Big East player of the year, and a whole lot more from its Final Four team. Kansas will be very good again.
And if you’re looking for a dark horse, consider VCU. It only loses one player from a team that pushed IU to the limit in the Round of 32, plus has a solid recruiting class coming in. With Shaka Smart coaching as fierce a pressing style as there is in the country, the Rams will be a challenge for anyone in the country. There’s a reason why Smart passed on bigger, better-paying jobs.
Yeah, there’s a lot to look forward to next season.
Assuming Calbert Cheaney still wants to be a college coach, IU shouldn’t waste any time now that assistant coach Bennie Seltzer is heading to Samford University.
Promote him from director of basketball operations to fill the now vacant assistant coaching position. Take full advantage of Cheaney’s basketball background that includes 13 years in the NBA, plus as good a college career as any Hoosier has ever had. He led IU to the 1992 Final Four and the 1993 No. 1 national ranking. Plus, after nearly 20 years he remains the Big Ten career scoring leader (2,613 points), a position he might never lose given the way good players bolt early for NBA riches these days.
Cheaney has a lot to learn about the coaching profession, and Crean and veteran coaches Tim Buckley and Steve McClain have plenty to share. He also has a lot he can pass on to players and recruits, stuff that he wasn’t allowed to do as the director of basketball operations.
It seems a win-win scenario.
As for Seltzer, all indications are he has enough talent at Samford to have some early success. He’s not going to win a national title at the Birmingham, Ala., school, but he should be able to win a bunch of games and get to the postseason.
In this era, that’s a very, very big deal.
Hollowell and Mosquera-Perea have been on the road a lot the last week. What this means for their school work is uncertain, but it certainly has boosted their national basketball profiles.
Both were in New Orleans last weekend for the All-American Championships. Both are now in Louisville, along with Patterson, for the Kentucky Derby Festival Classic.
They practiced on Wednesday, and will do it again today in preparation for Friday night’s game at Freedom Hall. They get to work out and compete against the nation’s best high school seniors. That provides extra preparation to help get them ready for the challenges they’ll face when they get to IU.
As for Ferrell, the word is he’s taking a much-needed spring break in a sunny, tropical locale.
Yes, we’re jealous.