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REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” came on the radio as I drove down to Bloomington for Cody Zeller’s press conference on Wednesday.
A coincidence? Well, of course it was. But I’d have to hand in my “hack sportswriter” license if I didn’t attempt to draw parallels between what I heard on the radio and what I was on my way to report.
So, when Indiana’s basketball team takes the floor again this fall, sophomore Yogi Ferrell will be the most experienced starter the Hoosiers have.
Ferrell started all 36 games as a freshman this past season. And while seniors Maurice Creek and Will Sheehey have seen plenty of playing time, neither has started as many games as Ferrell.
Creek has 25 starts as a Hoosier, none since Dec. 23, 2010. Sheehey has started 19 games in his three years at Indiana, including one in place of Christian Watford last season.
Of the seven players who saw the court in each of IU’s 36 games last season, only three will be back next season: Ferrell, Sheehey and Remy Abell. They are also the Hoosiers’ top three returning scorers, as IU loses 67 percent of its points from the 2012-13 campaign.
So who steps up to the fill the voids left by the graduation of Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls and the early departures of Zeller and Oladipo?
The Hoosiers are set at point guard, where Ferrell was one of the Big Ten’s top freshmen while compiling a nearly 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio (147 assists, 75 turnovers). He scored 7.6 ppg, but shouldn’t necessarily need to raise his game in that department assuming the rest of the lineup comes together.
Sheehey has spoken plenty in the past about enjoying his role as a spark off the bench, but his experience will almost certainly force him into the starting lineup next season. It will be critical for him to work on his free throws in the offseason; he made just 65.6 percent of his free throws last season. Only Jeremy Hollowell (63.2 percent) was worse among the rotation’s regulars, and he attempted fewer than half the free throws Sheehey did (Sheehey was 63-of-96 from the line, Hollowell 24-of-38).
Abell and Hollowell are the top candidates among the returning players to move into starting roles. Abell (4.0 ppg) had eight games last season in which he didn’t miss a shot, although they admittedly came in limited minutes and against lesser competition; only three of those games were Big Ten contests, with him going 2-for-2 from the field against Penn State and Michigan State and making his only shot at home against Purdue. Still, he could fill a role similar to Oladipo’s, running the offense at times and taking on the opponent’s best offensive player.
Hollowell should move into the lineup to replace Watford, although his offense needs some work. After scoring in double figures in his first two games, he didn’t score more than seven points in a game the rest of the year. He could be pushed by incoming freshman Noah Vonleh.
Vonleh’s arguably the gem of a standout recruiting class, but a class filled with forwards: the 6-9, 220-pound Vonleh; 6-6, 200-pound Devin Davis; 6-6, 190-pound Troy Williams; and 6-6, 185-pound Collin Hartman, all listed as forwards when IU signed them last fall.
The other incoming freshmen are 6-4, 185-pound guard Stanford Robinson and 6-11, 215-pound center Luke Fischer.
Fischer should compete instantly with Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin to take Zeller’s spot in the lineup. And the other freshmen should have a chance to make instant contributions.
But this will be a much different IU team, with a much different personality. And Tom Crean still has to contend with the oversign situation, as there are 14 scholarship players for 13 scholarship spots, even with the early departures.
Do you feel fine?