In what is quickly becoming a yearly tradition, the Indiana Hoosiers have already lost in November despite having no business losing. This is worrisome for Hoosiers fans, because if this talented bunch can't live up to the hype, it might be a few years before the Hoosiers can contend for a Big Ten crown. With a lot of players either exhausting their eligibility or likely turning pro at the end of this season, Tom Crean has a lot of work to do on the recruiting trail.
So far it has been frustrating at times, with the Hoosiers losing out at the last second on high-impact players like Miles Bridges (Michigan State), Mario Kegler (Mississippi State), and Bruce Brown (Miami). Let's take a look at how he's done thus far, and what else he needs to do before next year.
Yogi Ferrell and Nick Zeisloft are in their final year of eligibility, and all signs are pointing to James Blackmon Jr. turning pro. Should that be the case, Indiana would be losing its three best shooters. So far, Crean has done his best to address future holes in the backcourt.
Pitt transfer Josh Newkirk will be eligible next year, and signees Curtis Jones and Grant Gelon can help fill the outside shooting void. It's easy to forget about Robert Johnson because of all the talent ahead of him, but he should be one of the top guards in the Big Ten next season. Even so, Crean is pushing to secure another highly-touted guard. The biggest remaining target in that category is Rawle Alkins, a 5-star shooting guard from Word of God Academy in New York. Indiana is one of eight schools in the running for Alkins.
Max Bielfeldt will be gone, and Troy Williams seems as likely as Blackmon to turn pro. The real question is what Thomas Bryant will do. The talented freshman big man has publicly stated that he wants to stay in Bloomington for at least two years, but whether or not he'll feel the same way in March remains to be seen. Crean has already secured one huge signing in 4-star power forward De'Ron Davis, and if Bryant were to stay the Hoosiers would have a very strong starting frontcourt. If Bryant were to turn pro (and truthfully, even if he stays), the rest of Indiana's frontcourt lacks impact players. Collin Hartman is a very good role player, and although OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan could be contributors in the future, neither has looked good so far this year.
Indiana's frontcourt worries could essentially be put to bed with the signing of Thon Maker, the 7-foot can't-miss prospect from Canada. The Hoosiers will have some tough competition, most notably from Kentucky and Arizona State. Indiana also remains a fringe contender for Jarrett Allen, a 5-star center from Texas, and Nick Rakocevic, a 6-9 forward from St. Joe's in Westchester, IL (The same school Isiah Thomas attended). It is pretty much imperative that Crean inks at least one of these three.
In a perfect world, Bryant comes back to school, both Alkins and Maker sign with IU, and Crean is able to carry on the yearly tradition of somehow being able to fit everyone within his scholarship allotment. However, the top priority that needs to be addressed is Indiana's frontcourt. If Crean whiffs on Maker, Allen, and Rakocevic, while also losing Bryant to the NBA, it could be a long 2016-17 season in Bloomington.