If any team in the Big Ten is primed for a bounce back season, it’s Indiana. Despite a disappointing 2014-’15 campaign in resulted in a seventh place finish in the Big Ten and a first-round exit in the NCAA Tournament, the Hoosiers return an experienced core of players that make them one of the most dangerous teams in the conference. With five returning starters including all-conference players Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams and James Blackmon Jr., Indiana will have very high expectations this season.
So much experience won’t make it easy for Indiana’s five new players to all contribute. But that doesn’t mean a few won’t make their presences felt. Let’s take a look at each guy and see which one will make the biggest impact during the upcoming season.
- Thomas Bryant
Bryant’s career at Indiana hasn’t gotten off to a great start, with the news last week that he and teammate Emmitt Holt were cited for possession of alcohol. But let’s put that aside for a moment and just look at him as a player.
On the court, Bryant is just what Tom Crean’s squad needs. Much of the Hoosiers' struggles last season can be attributed to their lack of a post presence, which is exactly what Bryant brings them. At 6’10" and 245 pounds, the New York native has size but also terrific athleticism and shot-blocking ability. He still needs to work on his post moves, but with Indiana already stocked with capable scorers Bryant’s biggest role will be rebounding and defense, which he is already capable at.
Although the Hoosiers have all five of last season’s starters coming back, forward Colin Hartman will likely shift to the bench to make room for Bryant, who should start at the five and form a terrific combo with Williams at the four. Even if he doesn’t start right away, expect Bryant to play major minutes as the Hoosiers will need him to play a big role regardless. For a team with big expectations, Bryant could be the difference between Indiana being a legitimate title contender or just another tournament team.
- Max Bielfeldt
Another player who will help shore up the Hoosiers need for quality big men, Bielfedlt is a graduate transfer who spent his first three seasons of eligibility at Michigan. At 6’8" and 245 pounds, he’s more of a power forward than center, but with an emphasis on power.
While his stats last season (14.5 minutes, 5.1 points, 3.6 rebounds) don’t jump off the page, Bielfedt is a quality banger with a knack for grabbing key rebounds. With the Hoosiers, he should be an excellent change of pace from both Williams and Hartman, who are both athletic but lack his size. Although he won’t be a starter, Bielfedt will probably play around 15 minutes a game for Indiana and provide experience and toughness like he did for the Wolverines.
- Juwan Morgan
There’s going to be plenty of quality power forwards on Indiana’s roster this season, with Morgan, a freshman from Missouri, joining Williams, Hartman and Bieldfedt on the depth chart. At 6’7 and 205 pounds, Morgan isn’t huge but makes up for it with his motor and athleticism. He rebounds bigger than his size, can play above the rim and runs the floor well.
That kind of skill set would get him serious minutes with many Division I teams, but on Indiana, Morgan may spend most of next season on the bench. Don’t be surprised if he does see the court at times though. Indiana certainly needs rebounding, and with it’s front court still largely unproven, Morgan could easily get a chance to prove himself early in the season.
- O.G. Anunoby
A 6’"8, 215-pound recruit, Anunoby is a jack-of-all-trades wing who can play in transition, defend and shoot the three a little. While he wasn’t as highly touted in high school as Bryant or even Morgan, Anunoby has plenty of upside and should be a big contributor for the Hoosiers down the road. As for next season, he probably won’t play much on a team that already has Blackmon, Robert Johnson and Nick Zeisloft. Expect him to spend the season learning.
- Harrison Niego
A preferred walk-on point guard, Niego may not have a scholarship but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have Division I skills. He’s a skilled ball handler and shooter, but on a team that already has Yogi Ferrell, he won’t be expected to play next season.
If Bryant doesn’t end up making the biggest contribution out of this bunch, Indiana will be in big trouble, but Bryant certainly has the skills to be a major contributor. Along with him, players like Bielfeldt and Morgan could also help the frontcourt and take what is already a good team and make them great.