Preview of the Indiana 09-10 Season

08-09 Overall Record: 6-25
08-09 Conference Record: 1-17 (11th)
08-09 Conference Efficiency Margin: -0.19 (11th)
Percent of Returning Minutes: 65.0
Percent of Returning Freshman Minutes: 50.2

In the aftermath of a season like Indiana's 2008-09, it's important to look at the positives. Despite taking over a program in turmoil, Tom Crean was able to cobble together a decent first recruiting class, which has produced four useful parts for this year's team - PG Verdell Jones, wings Devan Dumes and Matt Roth, and big man Tom Pritchard. Jones in particular showed tons of promise as the season progressed - in late January, the light seemingly came on for the skinny 6'4'' freshman, as he posted an ORtg above 100 in 9 of his final 13 games. That included 6 such performances against NCAA Tournament teams, plus 2 performances against NIT champs Penn State. Expect Verdell Jones to remain a big part of Indiana's offense, even with the heralded recruiting class of 2009 arriving on campus.

Dumes, as the only senior projected to see regular minutes, figures to play a sizable role, although I'd expect his shot diet to fall from the 27% it was at last year (which is a good thing for both Dumes and the team). Pritchard is Indiana's best returning interior scorer and rebounder, and he figures to be the starting center. Roth will likely remain in his role as a sharpshooter off the bench (one that he played with aplomb as a freshman).

That fills four rotation spots - so what about these new guys? Crean put together an excellent 6-man class of 2009, including 3 top-100 RSCI players - wing Maurice Creek, PG Jordan Hulls, and forward Christian Watford. Expect all three of these guys in the regular rotation, and it's possible that all three could be starters by the conference season. That gives IU a pretty decent top 7, with two PGs, three wings, and two forwards.

For depth (which is mostly needed on the interior), Crean can choose from:

  • three 3-star freshmen (6'10'' Bawa Muniru and 6'9'' forwards Derek Elston and Bobby Capobianco)
  • offensively-challenged transfer Jeremiah Rivers (who posted an awful ORtg of 67 on just 11% Shots in the 2007-08 Big East season)
  • walk-on (and walking turnover) Daniel Moore.

Overall, this is a decent collection of talent (especially coming from a bare cupboard just 17 months ago), but it's still young and inexperienced. For better or worse, these nine scholarship underclassmen figure to largely dictate the quality of Indiana basketball for the next 3 seasons.

Looking at the upcoming campaign:

  • The PG position figures to remain turnover-prone, as does the entire team, but improving the TO% from 3rd-worst nationally shouldn't be too difficult (again, simply benching Daniel Moore, he of the 50.0 TO%, will help).
  • The upgrade in athleticism should be readily apparent when this team takes the floor, and that in itself should help the defense.
  • Also encouraging (and not surprising) is Indiana's league-leading percentage of freshmen minutes returning (50%). These minutes are concentrated primarily in Jones, Pritchard, and Roth, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them make a collective jump forward as sophomores (although Roth was so efficient that it will be difficult for him to repeat the performance - call it the "Robbie Hummel Effect").

It's probably too early to expect Indiana to be a serious player in the Big Ten, but Tom Crean has done about as well as anyone could have hoped at rebuilding this proud program. The Hoosiers may be just a year away from competing for an NCAA Tournament bid - considering where IU basketball stood when Crean arrived, that's pretty remarkable.