After a disappointing 2014-2015 season that led to a first round NCAA Tournament exit, Tom Crean's Hoosiers will look to have a bounce back season. Indiana will return a full squad and add some much needed front court depth with the addition of 4-star recruit Thomas Bryant. Here's the five reasons the 2015-2016 Hoosiers can return to the Final Four next season after a thirteen year absence.
The Hoosiers return all five starters from their first round NCAA Tournament exit against Wichita State last year. This includes Yogi Ferrell, who will come back for his fourth and final season at Indiana. The Hoosiers also return Junior forwards Colin Hartman and Troy Williams and sophomore guards James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson. Rarely do you see five returning starters in college basketball these days with the increase in players leaving early and transferring from schools. Ferrell has started all 102 games of his career and provides a calming presence at the point guard position as a senior despite an up and down career under Crean. If Ferrell can improve on his impressive 2.59 assist to turnover ratio he posted last season, Indiana will be in good hands with an experienced point guard.
2. 3 Point Shooting
Last season, Indiana relied heavily on the 3 point shot, and were very successful when doing so. The Hoosiers finished first out of all Power 5 conference teams in three point shots made and second to only Utah in three point percentage. This included Farrell and Blackmon shooting 42% and 39% respectively along with sharpshooter Nick Zeisloft shooting 45% on 140 three point attempts off the bench. Indiana will return all these sharpshooters and should have even more success from deep in 2015-2016.
3. A True Center
Top 20 recruit Thomas Bryant might be the perfect fit for an Indiana team that lacked a true center last season. The Hoosiers struggled to protect the paint last season, finishing 207th in blocks per game with just 3.18. Bryant is 6'10'' with a 7'4'' wingspan. He will provide energy for Tom Crean's squad rebounding and blocking shots. Even if Bryant does not start immediately for the Hoosiers, look for him to play increased minutes throughout the season. He will also give the Hoosiers the ability to work an inside outside game, taking some of the pressure off Yogi Ferrell who creates most of the offense for Indiana.
4. Scoring Depth
Indiana will thrive scoring the basketball next season and will be able to do so consistently with so many dangerous scorers. Of the returning players in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers have three of the top eight players in points per game last season including Ferrell (16.3 PPG), Blackmon (15.7 PPG), and Williams (13.0 PPG). Robert Johnson (8.9 PPG)) and Ziesloft (6.6 PPG) also have the ability to score from the perimeter and Bryant will bring an ability to score in the low post. The Hoosiers have every type of scorer from sharp shooters to low post threats to forwards who can stretch the floor and shoot from distance. Tom Crean will have the firepower to score with any team in the country.
5. Tom Crean Is Hungry
No one wants or needs this team to succeed more than Tom Crean. With his future at Indiana in jeopardy, Crean has what is probably his second most talented team he has ever had at Indiana (Zeller, Oladipo, and Watford in 2012-2013). Crean has never been past the Sweet 16 in his seven years at Indiana and will need to get over the hump with his talented group this season. While the Big Ten will be talented and deep next season, Crean will be as motivated as ever to prove Indiana fans wrong about his inability to win in the tournament. This needs to be the year Crean's team realizes their maximum potential and puts together a run in the tournament. He has the pieces to do it at every position and will be out of excuses if he fails to produce a winner at Assembly Hall this season.