[Moderated by Matt Jones]
(This article is a rebuttal to Ally’s point on Tuesday that she’s not ready to anoint the Hoosiers #1)
Hoosier fans received great news on Tuesday when their two star players Christian Watford and Cody Zeller withdrew their names from the NBA draft. But, even before these two announced their return to college pollsters were already anointing the Hoosiers to be a top five team, with some people even placing them at the top of collegiate basketball. I’m here to tell you that the people creating these polls are correct in their assessments. As you may have figured by my writing style I am big into numbers and how they relate to sports (big is a pretty large understatement), so I wanted to examine the Hoosiers using advanced stats to know just where they should fall in the preseason.
First, as with any team going into a new season the players departing must be addressed. The Hoosiers will be without the services of Tom Pritchard, Matt Roth, and Verdell Jones. The losses of Pritchard and Roth will not be of much issue; even though Roth shot a stellar 54% (42-77) from three last season (Indiana has plenty of other deadly efficient three point shooters to offset this loss). Even though they lose Roth’s three point shooting he was a seldom used player in Indiana’s offense (using only 27.8% of his teams’ minutes last season) so it shouldn’t be that difficult to replace his production. Verdell Jones, to my surprise in researching, was not a very strong offensive player, with an Offensive Rating of 97.1 (D-1 average is about 100). He was a pretty average shooter, converting on 30% of his threes and 44% of his twos. In addition to average shooting Jones turned the ball over 2.4 times a game, that’s not exactly ideal. While Jones was a good player and a senior leader his presence won’t be missed as much as people think.
The main reason that I believe that Indiana is the team to beat next season is because of their devastatingly efficient offense. They finished the season rated 4th in the Ken Pomeroy Ratings for Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, mainly because of their perimeter shooting ability (finishing the season shooting at a 43.1% clip). Why is their offense the reason that they should be rated #1 in the preseason you ask? 7 of the past 8 National Champions have been rated either number 1 or 2 in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, that’s why. Since Indiana returns their most efficient offensive players and lost their most inefficient starter, they should be just as good if not better in the offensive category. I predict that they will be the best offensive team in the country by a wide margin next season, putting them firmly in the running for a championship next season.
While an elite offense is required to win it all you need a solid defense to be a contender, this is where their recruiting class comes in to play. Last season Indiana lived up to the stereotype of the trademark white team, shooters who can’t defend anyone with a hint of athleticism. Indiana should have the fix to this next season as they’ve recruited the 10th rated class according to ESPN; including Jeremy Hollowell, Hanner Perea, Peter Jurkin, Ron Patterson, and headlined by point guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell. All players have been deemed the athletic enough to defend at the next level by some major recruiting services; this is exactly what the Hoosiers needed. Indiana’s defense was its Achilles heel last season with an Adjusted Defensive Rating of 95.3 points allowed per 100 possessions (ranking them 64th nationally). If they can decrease this rating to something below 90 points per 100 possessions (something well within the realm of possibility), while maintaining their offensive efficiency, they will be capable of making a deep run in the tournament.
Some would say that the Hoosiers could only win at home, those people would be correct as Indiana finished only 5-6 away from Assembly Hall last year. But, there was another team that I can vividly remember with that same issue, the 2011 Kentucky Wildcats (things worked out pretty well for them). There’s no reason why a team can’t win NCAA Tournament games if they can’t win away from home, after all Tournament games are played at neutral sites. Others say that Indiana can’t win it all because they don’t have enough NBA talent. That’s also false; Watford and Zeller will certainly be taken in the 2013 draft. Vegas has Indiana as 10-1 favorites to win it all next season (great value if you ask me, but I don’t condone gambling), putting them behind Kentucky, Baylor, and Louisville. Given that they fit the Pomeroy offensive profile, return their most efficient offensive players, and that their recruiting class should take care of their defensive woes, I see no reason why the Hoosiers can’t be number one to start off the season. (Kentucky will have serious questions about perimeter shooting and Louisville lost their two most efficient offensive players on an already abysmal offense). Barring injury or academic issues the numbers and I see Indiana as the team to beat next season.
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