We are about a month and a half away from the 2014-15 season tipping off in The Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers are coming off a year in which they were one of the youngest teams in the country and will return this season as one of the youngest teams again due to some major roster turnover in the offseason via the NBA Draft and transfers.
So what we should we expect this season? Here are five bold predictions for the upcoming season.
Prediction 1 - James Blackmon Jr. will run away with the Freshman of the Year award within the B1G Conference
There will be a bevy of freshman in the league this year as outside of Madison, Wisconsin - the B1G has gotten really young really quickly. Blackmon was a huge get for the Hoosiers as he will immediately address the shooting issues Indiana had last season. He is viewed as the best pure shooter in the class and will get plenty of opportunities to prove that in his freshman year. While D'Angelo Russell will get plenty of minutes at Ohio State - I don't believe he will see the kind of minutes that Blackmon is going to see this season. In addition, voters are going to see the difference in Indiana with Blackmon as compared to last season and I believe that will ultimately be what swings the award in his favor.
Prediction 2 - The Hoosiers will lead the B1G Conference in three point shooting percentage
Indiana shot an abysmal 34% from three point land last season, so what is going to make them lead the conference in three point shooting? Well, the arrival of James Blackmon Jr, Robert Johnson, and Nick Zeisloft is going to help. All three of these new arrivals are known specifically for their three point shooting. Blackmon and Johnson are viewed as the top two three point shooters in the 2014 class and Zeisloft has already shown off his skills in Canada where he shot 55% from a further back three point line than is played in college. If Indiana can come up with a presence down low, it will only further benefit the ability to shoot the three. When you add in that Kevin Yogi Ferrell should be improved from long range as well - this all the sudden looks like an incredibly potent team from deep.
Prediction 3 - Indiana will have a winning record in the B1G Conference
I have made this prediction before and laid out the path here to a 10-8 record. Many pundits are down on Indiana given the lack of a consistent big man down low and have them finishing 9th or 10th in the conference. Call me a homer - but I just don't see it being that down of a year in Bloomington. I do think the Hoosiers will have a rough start to the B1G as they play at Nebraska, at MSU, and home against Ohio State to start conference play. They could easily go 0-3 in that stretch and really have a lot of doubters at that point. However, the back end to the schedule is much kinder and Indiana could realistically end the season on a 6-0 run which would build major momentum heading into the conference tournament and possibly the NCAA tournament.
Prediction 4 - Indiana will return to the Sweet 16
Given where most people see Indiana finishing this year - this is by far my boldest prediction. If Indiana can go 11-2 in the non-conference and follow it up with a 10-8 conference record and a hot streak down the stretch - I don't see how you can keep them out of the tournament. I don't think they will be given a great seed - but I have to believe this is the type of team that no one else wants to draw in the NCAA Tournament. It will take great play at exactly the right time, but Indiana will be fully capable of knocking off teams with the deadly long range shooting they are likely to possess this season. Blackmon Jr. is the go to type of player when the shot clock is winding down and you can't forget about Kevin Yogi Ferrell in that regard either. If there is any development of a player down low for the Hoosiers - this prediction won't look that bold anymore.
Prediction 5 - The Hoosiers will send two players to the NBA next offseason
From my perspective, there are three possible candidates for leaving school early - Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr, and Troy Williams. I believe two of these three will make the jump after this season. Everyone says Yogi is too short to ever play in the NBA - and that might be true - but if he has another great season and leads the Hoosiers to the NCAA Tournament, you have to ask yourself - is his stock going to be any higher? James Blackmon Jr. has all the tools necessary to make the jump after one season and we'll just have to wait and see whether he is able to fully develop them all in year one. I believe he is capable of leading Indiana in scoring and being a superstar in the conference his freshman year, but only time will tell. Troy Williams showed great improvement during the Canadian trip and he already has NBA talent when it comes to athleticism. If he is able to slow down from time to time and make smarter plays - he could be in for a huge year. To be honest, I wouldn't be shocked to see Troy Williams be the first B1G player off the draft board next summer (we'll call that bold prediction #6).
So what do you think? Does any of this have a remote possibility of coming true in your view? The great thing about the preseason is no one really has a clue, and if someone thinks they do know everything at this point - well, they are still going to play the games anyway to find out...