Unlike the Hoosier frontcourt, the backcourt brings back a deep and experienced lineup. Losing Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls will not be easy to overcome, but there is still a lot of talent on the roster. Not only does Indiana return a starting point guard with a season of experience and the Big Ten's Sixth Man of The Year, but the Hoosiers also add some very talented players through transfer and recruitment. Can Indiana's deep and talented backcourt provide the consistency to put Indiana into the discussion for another Big Ten title?
Indiana's frontcourt may be pretty fluid heading into this season, but the backcourt's lineup looks to be pretty secure. Arguably nowhere on Indiana's lineup is more secure than at the point. Sophomore Yogi Ferrell is the team's returning starter at point guard and played in all 36 games last season. He is the leader for the Hoosiers in minutes returning and averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists per game last year. His numbers never really jumped off the stat-sheet, but he was masked by a starting lineup loaded with talent and still did enough to be named to the All-Big Ten Freshmen team.
The big challenge for Ferrell will be becoming a better scoring threat inside. Last year, Ferrell took just 4% more shots at the rim than he did from outside the arch and was assisted on only 69% of his shots from outside the arch. In comparison, Oladipo took 61% of his shots at the rim, took 22% of his shots from long range, and was assisted on 89% of his shots from outside the arch. This is important because it demonstrates that Ferrell's shot selection could use some improvement if he's going to take the next step offensively. Comparing anybody to Oladipo is tough, but losing him as a scoring threat is huge if Ferrell is taking unassisted long jumpers and not taking good looks inside. Plus, Ferrell only attempted 6.3 shots per game, a good hunk behind any other starter last year. This doesn't mean Ferrell was bad or will be bad this year, but it does imply that Ferrell will have to adjust his game now that he will likely need to be more of a consistent scoring threat.
Alongside Ferrell, the 2 spot will likely be a tough competition between Evan Gordon, Stanford Robinson, and Troy Williams. Gordon is a senior transfer from Arizona State. He can shoot the ball pretty well, averaged 10.1 points per game last year, and has the ability to be a pretty solid defender despite being just 6'0". Robinson is a 4* recruit according to 247Sports and looks to make an impact early. Williams is a 4* recruit as well and brings a lot of size with his 6'6" stature. One would think that Gordon would get the edge here, but don't be surprised to see multiple guys get heavy minutes at this position. Either way, these are good options to put next to Ferrell.
Finally, the 3 spot looks to be almost guaranteed to be filled by Will Sheehey. The senior returnee played most of his minutes off the bench last season, but was named the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year and actually had more points that Yogi Ferrell, despite coming off the bench. Sheehey was a great defender for the Hoosiers and will need to be a difference-maker on that side of the court considering the losses of three experienced starters including Oladipo, who was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year last season.
The point guard depth is largely an unknown at this point. Ferrell is going to average 30+ minutes per game, which is going to make this discussion largely mute. However, transfer Jonny Marlin will probably get a big hunk of the backup minutes. He made 28 starts at IPFW during his freshman season and sat out last year. How much Crean will use him is unknown, but expect it to be slight unless Ferrell is forced to sit out. Look for him to come in around the 10 minute mark or so just to get Ferrell on the bench for a few minutes. Marlin should be solid enough to manage this role, so moving over a shooting guard to point for the bench probably isn't extremely likely.
For the 2 spot, expect the see a lot of the guys that "lose" the battle for starter taking minutes here. The good thing here is that there are plenty of quality options. Any of Gordon, Robinson, and Williams could play solid minutes effectively. Even if a starter does establish themselves, they're probably going to be sharing heavy minutes, which likely makes this one of those positions "by committee". The good news is that this isn't a negative considering the talent of each of the Hoosiers' options at shooting guard.
Behind Sheehey, Indiana will look to players like Austin Etherington and Collin Hartman. Etherington is a redshirt sophomore and only played in 7 games last year, but could have more of a role this year. Harman was only rated as a 3* by 247Sports, but has the potential to be a good matchup tool with his size. However, similar to the point guard position, Sheehey is going to absorb major minutes here. The bench will be used, but it probably won't see much serious time considering the experience of Sheehey in a lineup lacking experienced players.
Biggest Question: Can Indiana Get Enough Scoring Out of Its Backcourt?
The Hoosiers have plenty of talented players either returning or coming into Bloomington this year in the backcourt, but there are some serious questions about whether the backcourt can replace the production from Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls offensively. Both were dynamic scorers. Oladipo could do a ton of damage inside and Hulls was a nightmare for opponents on the outside. Ferrell and Sheehey could take that next step to make up for this production, but neither were on the level of Oladipo or Hulls last year. Even though Sheehey's raw points numbers were close to Hulls, one can't underestimate the impact of a shooter like Hulls has on a defense and their ability to collapse and move into different looks.
As mentioned earlier, the big part of this will be the growth of Ferrell. He can score when needed, but this was not the strongest part of his game. Perhaps a Gordon or Robinson can come in and do some damage, but if they end up doing roughly what Gordon did last year with 10.1 points per game, the Hoosiers are going to need a lot of production from Ferrell and Sheehey. The options and potential are there, but actually achieving the results on the court is another thing.
Indiana's backcourt will be good. It may even be one of the better ones in the Big Ten. However, if it's really going to carry this team like many assume it will need to this year, it's going to have to get one of the newcomers to step up. Ferrell was good last year, but carrying the load without an Oladipo and Hulls will be a completely new challenge. He has the skills to get the offense going, but when other guys can't get it going, it can be a struggle as one can see in the NCAA Tournament game against Syracuse last year. The experience and talent are there to give Ferrell the help he needs this year, which should get Indiana fans excited. The frontcourt will decide how far this team will go in the long run, but the backcourt could really be a positive surprise many are overlooking.