Coach: Tom Crean (6-25 at Indiana, 196-121 overall)
Nobody can blame Indiana for winning just six games last year and Coach Tom Crean deserves some credit for getting anything out of his ragtag group of Hoosiers. Last year’s recruiting class was pretty good and they did a solid job and will continue to improve, but every one of the returning players will be pushed by this year’s recruiting class that is one of the best in the nation.
Key Losses: G Malik Story, F Kyle Taber
The odd thing is the fact that the Hoosiers return most of their players so it will be very interesting to see how it all shakes out when it comes down to who plays how many minutes. Devan Dumes turned into a quality shooter and scorer and led the team with 12.7 points per game. It is even possible that the senior will eventually lose his starting gig. But starting or not, Dumes has been around the block a few times and is one of the few seniors on this team and that will make him a valuable asset. Matt Roth could be a decent sharp shooter off the bench, much like he was last year, but again the newcomers could drastically cut into his playing time.
The incoming players will dominate the frontcourt, but Tom Pritchard will not give up his starting job without a fight. The 6-9 sophomore tallied 9.7 points and a team high 6.4 rebounds last season and got noticeably better as the season progressed. He was even the team’s best shot blocker, although that will almost certainly not be the case again in 2009-2010. Some players like senior Tijan Jobe might play a role this year as well. Jobe averaged less than five minutes per game last year, so it is unlikely he will see too much playing time this time around, but if the newcomers need more time than expected to adjust to life in the Big Ten, players like Jobe will play a role early in the campaign.
Who’s In for Indiana:
When there are so many starting jobs up for grabs, every newcomer is key. Jordan Hulls could immediately start running the point and Maurice Creek is one of the top shooting guards in this class. Those two alone would make any class look good, but it gets better. Forwards Christian Watford and Derek Elston could both be starting from day one, or will at least need to contribute some major minutes. Fellow big men Bobby Capobianco and Bawa Muniru are not quite as highly regarded as the other four players, but they would be the highlight of most other classes.
There will be interesting battles for playing time all over the floor for IU, but perhaps none are more intriguing than at the point. Jeremiah Rivers is eligible after transferring in from Georgetown and his experience is a huge plus for this young team. Verdell Jones III started last year and dished out 3.6 assists per game and added 11.0 points, so he is a viable candidate for minutes. And then arguably the team’s best recruit is a point guard.
Final 2009-2010 Indiana Projection:
Indiana will be better this year, much better, but expectations still need to be kept under control. The Hoosiers will not suddenly be the Hoosiers of old because of one good recruiting class. Coach Crean is doing all the right things, but it will take time before IU is back on the national radar and ready to compete for an NCAA berth. For now, any postseason berth should be considered a success.