The calendar has officially turned to August and while most power-five schools are gearing up for football, a new school year in Bloomington, IN means that the Hoosier faithful are that much closer to it being the official basketball preseason.
Indiana will enter 2015-2016 comfortably within the top-25, meaning expectations will be sky high. So with the regular season just over three months away, let's take a look at three questions facing the Hoosiers this season.
#1. Can James Blackmon Jr. find more consistent offense in his sophomore campaign?
Okay, let me preface this by saying that I understand how questioning a guy who averaged 15.7 points per game in his freshman year can be seen as nitpicking. Blackmon scored in double-figures in his first ten collegiate games, scoring a total of 192 points in those contests. Heck, Blackmon shot .496 from the floor.
However, once he was introduced to road environments at the start of conference play, the 6'4" guard had a tendency of suffering from "off" shooting nights. It started with the game against Nebraska, as Blackmon went 2-9. He followed that up in the absolute clunker of a game for IU against Michigan State, shooting 1-14 from the floor, 0-5 from beyond the arc. Add in a 2-14 shooting performance at Maryland and a 1-10 game in the baffling loss at Northwestern late in the year.
In short, look at Blackmon's numbers based on the type of venue:
- Home (19 games): 17.95 points per game, .494 field goal percentage (118-239), .439 3PT% (50-114)
- Road (8 games): 9.75 ppg, .291 fgp (28-96), .279 3FG (12-43)
- Neutral (6 games): 15 ppg, .360 fgp (31-86), .357 3FG (15-42)
Look at this way Hoosier fans; imagine the kind of numbers Blackmon could produce and how scary this team would be offensively if he could replicate his productivity in Assembly Hall in other facilities on a consistent basis.
Will the Hoosiers see improvement on the defensive side of the floor?
There is no question that Indiana will put points up on the board this season. Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell returns for his senior season with the active streak of a 3-pointer made in 65 consecutive games, best in the nation. Ferrell dropped 16.3 points per game last season and just under 5 assists per game to boot. Add in the aforementioned Blackmon, Troy Williams (13.0 points per in 14-15), and Robert Johnson (8.9 per last season), and the Hoosiers will be a nightmare for any team to defend this season.
The other side of the court is a different story. Ken Pomeroy's advanced numbers placed Indiana as the 214th ranked team on defense last year, giving up 104.8 points per 100 possessions. The adjustment defense statistic is typically a good indicator of nationally contending teams, which is where Hoosier Nation expects this program to be. Duke was ranked 12th in the category last season, UConn was 10th in 2014, Louisville 3rd in 2013, and the list goes on.
If the improvement is minimal on defense for the Hoosiers, expect this team to be in a lot of shootouts.
Who on this roster will solidify himself as the presence down low?
Hanner Mosquera-Perea is officially gone, and it is probably for the best. His off-the-court issues weren't worth the 6.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game he was providing. Last year's team was so thin down low that 6'6" Collin Hartman played the 5-spot in certain rotations. Emmitt Holt showed flashes of productivity in the psot, but he stands at just 6'7".
However, the cavalry is coming to Bloomington via incoming-freshmen Thomas Bryant and Juwan Morgan. Bryant will enter with high expectations being a McDonald's All-American. Noah Vonleh had similar expectations two seasons ago, and while his personal production was solid, that team failed to reach the postseason completely. Fortunately for Bryant, he won't have to do it all himself down low, the firepower on the outside should alleviate some of the pressure in the post, and the improvement may come by committee.