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Just How Special Can Noah Vonleh Be For Indiana?

Without a doubt, the best freshman so far in the Big Ten has been Indiana's Noah Vonleh. Considering his early season performances, just how special can he be this year?

Vonleh could be special for IU
Vonleh could be special for IU
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
Five.  That's the number of double-doubles Cody Zeller had as a freshman.  These performances were a major factor in allowing Zeller to win the Big Ten Freshman of the Year (splitting with Trey Burke) in his first season.  Zeller went on not only to be named 1st team All-Big Ten before leaving Bloomington, but leading the Hoosiers to their first Big Ten title in years and eventually being drafted in the 1st round of the NBA Draft.

Twelve.  The number of games in which Yogi Ferrell scored double digits as a freshman.  Ferrell was the lone freshman starting on a loaded lineup that went on to win a Big Ten title.  Ferrell fell short of Big Ten Freshman of the Year, but he did make the All-Big Ten Freshmen team and frankly, would have had a great shot at the award if Gary Harris did not happen to be in the conference at the same time.

Zeller and Ferrell were great as freshmen.  Sure, maybe they were not on the level of some notable freshmen like Anthony Davis or Carmelo Anthony, but they both made major contributions to Sweet Sixteen teams in their first season.  What is so notable about these performances is that Noah Vonleh has already made major strides toward achieving these numbers.  And after just four games, Vonleh already has four double-doubles.

This leaves Vonleh with 27 guaranteed games this season to get one double-double to match Zeller's total as a freshman and to get 8 more games scoring double digits to match Ferrell's number.  Even if you aren't a gambler, those odds are pretty good, especially with some weak teams still remaining on the docket.

Now, we all know that stats are not everything.  Ultimately, players are measured at least to an extent by their team's performance, especially in Bloomington.  Tim Frazier is a perfect example of this.  He has put up tremendous numbers during his career, but there are probably very few who would have taken him over players like Burke, Zeller, or Oladipo.  One can debate the reasons for this, but at least part of it has to be linked to the success of Indiana and Michigan recently.  However, this is good news for Vonleh and Indiana.

The Hoosiers will have their issues this year, but Vonleh has already been making a tremendous impact.  He is not just putting up raw stats.  On a team with major questions in the frontcourt, Vonleh has already asserted himself.  He is currently averaging 12.5 rebounds per game and has a rebounding percentage of 24.3% according to Basketball Reference.  That's over 6% higher than anyone on the roster who averages at least 10 minutes.  Indiana needed a rebounding threat entering a year without Zeller and Watford and they appear to have one.

Along with this, Vonleh has been doing other things to help the team.  Clearly, he has been scoring (averaging 14.8 ppg), but it's the little things that go a long way in centering a young and inexperienced Hoosier squad.  He moves without the ball, provides a post threat, and can get the ball out of the post when a teammate gets open.  As players develop, this is going to be a very dangerous weapon for Crean.  It might not look that way now, but by the end of the year, there are going to be so many scoring options that Vonleh's ability to pass out of the post and drive (impressive skill for a big man) will be deadly.  Vonleh will demand defensive attention inside and have teammates open outside.  This is one of the reasons Vonleh is already leading the team in win shares this year among players with at least 10 minutes per game.

Noah Vonleh's freshman campaign is not finished yet.  He has more ahead of him than behind him, but his early showings have been more than impressive.  The Hoosiers have been blessed with many great freshmen in recent years, but Vonleh has the chance to be the best of them all.

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