As has been discussed often in our previews leading up to the start of the college basketball season, the Indiana Hoosiers enter the 2015-2016 campaign with a high expectations and a lot of promise. Look no further than the four returning backcourt players for the optimism in Bloomington and why guarding the perimeter will have to be the focal point for the Hoosiers' opposition this season.
Kevin Yogi Ferrell
A First Team All-Big Ten member a season ago, Yogi Ferrell has one last opportunity to impress NBA scouts, showing that his 6-foot frame is not a detriment to his potential to play at the next level. More importantly in the eyes of Hoosier Nation, the upcoming season leaves Ferrell one more chance to salvage what little is left of the all but dead "Movement" that began four years ago.
Ferrell carries into the new season an on-going streak of 65 games with at least one made 3-pointer, an IU record and the longest active streak in the country. While being a true point guard, Ferrell, for the past two seasons, has provided a lethal pull-up jumper from the top of the key, giving the Hoosiers a free 3 points any time the opposing defense has been lazy or complacent in transition.
We at BTPowerhouse expect big things from Ferrell this season, as he landed in the No. 2 spot on our Top-25 player countdown.
James Blackmon Jr.
James Blackmon Jr. set an IU freshman record with 77 made 3's last season, surpassing the mark of 70 set by Eric Gordon back in 2007-2008. Blackmon reached this and his 15.7 points per game, which was sixth among all freshman last season, despite inconsistent play at times, especially away from the friendly confines of Assembly Hall.
Blackmon Jr. held a press conference following the season to announce that he would return to Indiana for his sophomore year, though certainly at the time (and likely still does) felt redundant. Few people expected the 6-foot-4-inch guard to leave for the NBA, especially with the dud of a two month stretch the Hoosiers collectively had in February and March. Though one could certainly pull out the underlying message that will be JBJ's final season in candy-striped pants. Of course his defensive play will have to improve over the coming months for both Indiana's chances this year and if Blackmon wants to see his draft stock rise.
Blackmon is another player with high expectations and was ranked as the #11 best player in the conference by the BTPowerhouse staff earlier this month.
The final piece in Indiana's three-headed backcourt is fellow sophomore Robert Johnson. Johnson was quietly second on the team in both assists and steals with 79 and 29 in those categories respectively. Johnson was also the fourth leading scorer for the Hoosiers with 8.9 points per contest in his freshman season. In fact, Johnson was actually better, percentage wise, shooting from outside than Blackmon, (I'll let you folks debate the significance between Johnson's 38.8-percent from deep compared to Blackmon's 38.7-percent).
The Illinois State transfer will spend his final year of eligibility with a second go-around with the Hoosiers. Zeisloft shot 45-percent from outside last season, ranking him first in that category among the player in this article. Averaging 6.6 points in over 19 minutes per game last season, Zeisloft provides a sharpshooter element to a Hoosier offense that already boasts heavy firepower.
Two other players that should additionally be noted are Josh Newkirk and Harrison Niego. Newkirk is an incoming transfer from Pittsburgh and Newkirk is a walk-on. Unfortunately, neither should be expected to see any real playing time as Newkirk has to sitout due to NCAA transfer rules and Niego will be buried on the depth chart.
Expect to see a combination of at least three of these four players on the floor at almost all times for the Hoosiers this season. The backcourt is the catalyst for this team and their consistency from the outside will be a large determining factor of how deep Indiana will play into March. Collectively the group needs to improve on the defensive end of the floor, especially when one considers the talent at the guard positions that the Big Ten boasts this upcoming season.
The backcourt for Indiana should alleviate the pressure that freshmen Juwan Morgan and Thomas Bryant will face in the post. Due to this and the expectations that these four players should finish in the top-6 in scoring for the Hoosiers it's easy to point to the backcourt as the most vital for the Hoosiers. Be sure to check out all of the other backcourt previews on the site to see what IU's will be going up against, and check back next week for the preview on Indiana's wing play.