The Indiana Hoosiers enter the 2016-’17 season as a team just outside of the top ten and despite losing Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers still return a lot of firepower at the guard spots.
- 2015-’16 All-Big Ten Qualifiers: Yogi Ferrell
- Key Departures: Yogi Ferrell
- Additions: Josh Newkirk, Devonte Green, Zach McRoberts, Curtis Jones
- Top Player: James Blackmon Jr.
James Blackmon Jr. suffered a season ending knee injury just before New Years 2016 and missed the remainder of last season. The pressure is now on the junior guard to return to form and return to being one of the top two contributor’s on this roster. The question is can he be not only the player he was prior to the injury, but can he continue to improve as a college player as well.
The other major question for this group is how the point will be handled. Yogi Ferrell leaves a huge gap both statistically and in a leadership role and the backcourt must find a way to smooth out this transition and compliment the Hoosiers frontcourt.
The two exhibition games may have already shown how Tom Crean and staff will handle the point guard position. It appears Pitt Panthers transfer Josh Newkirk will be expected to play a heavy amount of minutes this season as the main point, with a host of players filling in when Newkirk is on the bench.
This is Newkirk’s second season in the program, but he had to sit out last season due to the NCAA’s “we don’t want to have to explain having essentially a free agent system in college” rule.
James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson will both, of course, see around 30 minutes a night. So we will still see three guard sets in Bloomington this season. Blackmon averaged just under 16 points per game in the 13 he played last season and should post similar, if not better, numbers this season.
Johnson played 25 minutes per game in a season in which he missed a handful of games due to a nagging ankle injury. He scored 8 points per game and averaged 3 assists, making him a possible option to run the point if need be. With Yogi Ferrell now out of the picture, expect a bigger role for Johnson heading forward.
In the exhibition we’ve even seen forward Juwan Morgan handle the ball on a few possessions, so that may be an option when guys like Newkirk, Johnson, and Blackmon need a rest.
The more conventional options off of the bench are the trio of freshmen guards Devonte Green, Curtis Jones and Zach McRoberts. All three saw solid minutes in the preseason and expect all three to fluctuate from handful of minutes to seeing double figures (and likely a DNP here and there as well). Ideally at least one of these guys will solidify themselves in the main rotation by the time conference play rolls around.
Fellow freshman Grant Gelon could see a few minutes here and there as well, but don’t be surprised if he is resigned to bench mob duties with fellow guards Quentin Taylor and Johnny Jager.
The large majority of the new faces for Indiana this year are found at the guard spots, and couple that with the departure on Ferrell and Blackmon returning from a serious injury, the backcourt is likely the biggest question mark when compared to Indiana’s wings and big men. Certainly there is strength at this position, but if the Hoosiers want to finally break through their current Sweet Sixteen ceiling, the backcourt must find consistency this season.