Expectations for the Indiana Men’s basketball team are as high as they have been since 2012. Lead by a strong returning cast, which includes four starters, and many key reserves, the Hoosiers also add McDonalds All-American Thomas Bryant. This Hoosier team looks strong on paper. The only problem? Right now it is only on paper and that is a concern for head coach Tom Crean.
The major story to come out of Big 10 Media day for the Hoosiers centered around front court injuries and lack of depth. This is an area that was boosted by the arrival of Bryant and graduate transfer Max Bielfeldt in the offseason but once again is front and center. Crean noted that Bryant’s foot is improving and he is “able to do a little bit more every day” but gave only brief mention of either of their statuses. “We would anticipate having them back (close to the start of the season) but you can’t really project their (Hartman & Bryant) timelines. Everyone heals differently. It’ll be a little bit longer for Collin.”
Crean mentioned Bielfeldt as a key addition especially with the current injuries up front. As the newest (and oldest) member of the team, Bielfeldt is trying his best to balance his roll as the veteran but also the rookie of the group. “I’m trying to tell the young guys what to do but at the same time I still have to listen because there are things where I have to learn what to do.” But even with his addition, it’s been tough to get in a rhythm early with the lack of depth. “We really haven’t had a day where we’ve had our top 10 out there together.” However, Crean didn’t sound concerned as he acknowledges that it’s the long game that counts. “We don’t have that depth (up front) right now. If we get it back, we could be a pretty good team. It sets us back, but it’s a long haul and it gives some other guys opportunities.”
What is happening on the court right now is still driven by the senior captain, Yogi Ferrell. This isn’t the first time Ferrell has had lofty expectations put on him. Coming out of Park Tudor High School in Indianapolis, where he had won state titles and had been awarded countless individual accolades, the expectation was National Championships as soon as he set foot in Bloomington. As a senior, this is his last chance to fulfill that ambition.
While there is no doubt Ferrell dreams of the possibilities, he understands that there is still something fundamental that comes first: “It starts with practice, we have to practice at that high level in order for us to win.” With a team that is already behind the ball because of injuries and off-the-court distractions, it’ll be crucial that this team takes advantage of every practice opportunity they get. Yogi made it clear what the expectations are, whether the venue of competition is a game or practice. “Some practices we start competing right off the bat. I think what coach is instilling is that we have to throw that first punch when we play guys. We can’t back down against anyone.”
But before the Hoosiers can throw a punch, they’ll need all hands on deck for a season long fight.
Notes and Quotes
• It’s not often an 18-year-old center gets compared to a super hero, but that is exactly what Bielfeldt compared the freshman phenom to. “There is a reason he is a McDonald’s All- American. He has a better shot than I thought he would. He’s got a 7’6” wingspan for a 6’10” guy and you think you can get around him, but all the sudden it’s like Mr. fantastic where the arm just keeps going and you have to find a way to get around it.”
• In talking about Emit Holt’s dismissal from the team, Ferrell said it brought him to tears. “That was a very sad day. I cried. Losing another teammate, another brother, just seeing him walk out the door like that, not knowing when you’ll see him again, that was just a sad day.”
• Ferrell made a pretty bold statement as to how good Indiana’s backcourt could be. “I feel like we could have the best backcourt in the country. Me, James (Blackmon Jr.), Rob (Johnson), Troy (Williams), different guys like that with Nick (Zeisloft) too. I feel like we could definitely cause some trouble against teams.”
• Crean went out of his way to gush over the potential of their rival to the north with some bold statements. “With what they (Purdue) have experience-wise and what they have on the front line, I think they are a contender for the national championship. If you look at their experience and their front court, it is as good as any in the country.”