It's Indiana versus Syracuse again with a side of Kentucky. That is the last thing Hoosier fans want to hear right now, but unlike the last time Indiana met both of these schools on the court - the Hoosiers might be able to win this battle. The battle I am speaking of is of course for one of the top big men left on the board for 2015 in 4-Star Thomas Bryant who visited Bloomington this past weekend for the Michigan State game. The aftermath of that visit appears to be Indiana vaulting into the lead for Bryant.
At 6'10", the McDonald's All American would solve a lot of issues in Bloomington (and represent the 5th consecutive year a Hoosier has played in the game). For one - he would provide a defensive presence which Indiana sorely needs. The Hoosiers are currently not even in the Top 200 in defensive efficiency according to the KenPom ratings. At times, Indiana has allowed less resistance at the basket than the opposing team receives in their own layup lines in pre-game warmups. At this point in Bryant's young career, he is more known for his ability on the defensive side of the court and that would be just fine for most in Hoosier Nation I believe. Indiana has more shooters / scorers than they know what to do with this season and many of those options should return next year. One defensive stopper in the middle won't solve all the issues on that end of the court - but you have to start somewhere.
While touting his defensive ability above, I shouldn't overlook his offensive ability either. While he may be more polished on the defensive end, he would immediately become Indiana's best option in the offensive paint as well. He also runs the floor well which is key to being successful in a Tom Crean offense as a big man. Finally, he has shown the ability to rebound the basketball well in games against other highly touted big men such as 5-Star Caleb Swanigan. There is no question he would immediately start for Indiana next season and would likely log the majority of the minutes at the center position with Hanner Mosquera-Perea moving back to a reserve role.
One other issue that shouldn't be overlooked is that of star point guard Kevin Yogi Ferrell's return to Indiana next season. Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star caught up with Kevin Ferrell Sr. after the Hoosiers lost to Michigan State this past weekend, and Ferrell Sr. was quoted as saying: "Look, he ultimately wants to do great things for his school. He may be leaning toward coming back. There are a few factors. Getting a big man to play with may be one of those." If Indiana wants any chance of being a good team next year - they desperately need Ferrell to return. By landing Bryant - it would give Indiana a big man to recruit their star point guard back with. Yogi knows he can't win a championship without a big man and Bryant is his best bet right now.
So can the Hoosiers land Bryant? Let's take a look at the other main suitors - Syracuse, Kentucky, and Missouri. It has long been known that Bryant's mom has favored the Orangeman. They are closer to home for the Rochester, NY native which means she would be able to attend all of his home games. However, Syracuse was dealt a large setback last week when the NCAA finally handed down its punishment for a decade long academic scandal. The Orangeman are being docked 3 scholarships each for the next four seasons and they didn't have any open scholarships to begin with for next season. So at this point - they appear out of it. Kentucky has more recently entered the Bryant sweepstakes and given the mass exodus they are likely to see to the NBA after this season - they are certainly going to have playing time available. That playing time won't be as guaranteed as Indiana though given a couple post players might return to go along with current signee 5-Star Skal Labissiere. Kentucky also continues to recruit 5-Star Thon Maker and is considered the leader in that race. Missouri seems like the least likely option given it's distance from home as well as the current state of the program coming off of a dismal 9-22 season.
Indiana has its own scholarship situation to overcome in order to make this happen. The Hoosiers have no seniors and already have two players committed in 6'8" forwards Juwan Morgan and O.G. Anunoby. Adding Bryant means a third player on the current roster would need to find a new home next season. While there are certainly enough probable options to make that happen - namely Stanford Robinson, Jeremiah April, and Tim Priller - it still isn't a guarantee. There is also the possibility of guys like Kevin Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, and James Blackmon Jr. deciding to go to the next level, but that seems fairly unlikely at this point and would just cause another hole in the roster.
If the Hoosiers are able to add Morgan, Anunoby, and Bryant while maintaining the core of this basketball team - Indiana would be an incredibly dangerous team next season and with Tom Crean's coaching seat growing white hot, a commitment by Thomas Bryant could change the course of history for this Indiana program and Tom Crean himself.