We took a look at how the Hoosier guards stack up yesterday, and it is clear that is the strength of this team. In a way, the depth of the guards will help the wing / forward position as the Hoosiers are likely to go with three guards in most lineups which means not much depth is needed from the forward spot. Indiana will have a lot of raw talent at forward and the question will now be - can that raw talent materialize into enough of a presence to limit the downfall of not having a true big man?
Let's take a look at how the Indiana forwards will shake out this season.
Yes, that does say "Starter," and that is because the Hoosiers will likely be going with mostly three guard lineups which will leave one forward spot available. In reality, you could consider the final two starting spots to both be forwards, however, for the sake of this preview series, I am going to do a separate preview of the "Center" options for Indiana.
Troy Williams (6'7") - As I stated previously, I believe Williams is the X-Factor this season for Indiana. Much has been made of his apparent improvement this offseason and the comparisons to former legend Victor Oladipo have been rampant in that regard. Hoosier nation needs to keep in mind that Oladipo made his major improvements between his sophomore and junior seasons though which would give Williams another year still. If Williams gets off to a poor start this season, you have to wonder if the pressure of these immense expectations are going to wear on him at all. He certainly didn't do anything to quiet them in Canada as he was third in points per minute played at .66 and second in rebounds per minute at .23. He also appeared to have no interest in shooting three pointers which was a welcome sign to many who cursed his name every time he threw one up last season as he shot 21%. Like Stanford Robinson, in my guard preview - Williams is going to be key to taking pressure off the shooters. He will be able to do that by doing what he does best - slash to the basket and use his incredible athleticism to finish. He averaged 7.3 points per game a year ago, and I believe that will need to double this season for Indiana to be successful. It is probable you will also see Williams playing the "center" position at times this season, and his athleticism might just allow that to work against bigger players.
I actually don't think the bench is as important to this part of the lineup as the guards, and that is simply because any of the guards, outside of Yogi Ferrell, could play the forward position as well. At the same time, given the lack of depth at the center spot - any of these guys on the bench could find themselves in the starting lineup if they show the ability to defend bigger bodies and rebound on a consistent basis.
Devin Davis (6'7") - There are many people out there that believe Davis could actually get the starting nod over the few options Indiana has at center, and that might very well be true. However, to start the season, I think Davis will be one of the first members of the bench to see action each game. He has always been a bit undersized for a power forward, but has made up for that with extreme hustle while on the court. He showed this off in Canada as well as he led the team with .36 rebounds per minute. Granted, the Hoosiers were missing Hanner Mosquera-Perea, but you don't rebound at that rate by accident. If he can carry that over to the regular season - he'll see a ton of playing time this year.
Emmitt Holt (6'7") - Holt is a complete unknown right now and might be the player people are interested in watching the most at Hoosier Hysteria this weekend. He was a late signing - in August - and no one has really had the opportunity to see him play at this point. Word has leaked a bit though that the Indiana coaches are very pleased with what they got that late in the summer. He will need some time to catch up with the rest of the team who got to play together in Canada and all summer, but if he learns quickly - he might actually have a role to play on this team.
In addition to the two above, Max Hoetzel (6'8") and Collin Hartman (6'6") also could see some minutes this season. Hoetzel is a newcomer that is known for his three point shooting skills and Hartman, who appeared in 16 games last season, is coming off of an ACL tear right after the season ended. If either of these players contribute much this season, it will likely be in the second half.
Overall Grade: B
While there is a lot of raw talent here, it is still very unclear how much of that talent will materialize this season. Indiana needs a strong year from Troy Williams and likely also needs a strong year from one person off the bench here to go with the great Hoosier backcourt. If that can be accomplished, it will be a very successful year in Bloomington even with the lack of a big man.