Before the Indiana basketball season started just a few short weeks ago, most of us had the Hoosiers right around 17 or 18 wins on the season, and probably finish toward the middle of the Big Ten. Before I get scrutinized; yes, I realize the season is very young. However, here are a few things to ponder as you take a look at your projections for Indiana once again.
Let’s start with Cody Zeller. Before the fall semester, a lot of people thought Cody would not be strong enough, and his impact on the Hoosiers would be a good one, but he would make more of a difference in the seasons to come.
However, Cody is the man that makes the offense click, not to misconstrue that with him being the go-to scorer. Zeller has been far more impactful for this team’s offensive success than I thought. He opens so many things up. His presence gets Hulls open looks, opens up the middle for Verdell, Oladipo, and Sheehey gives Elston the opportunity for wide-open 15-footers, and lets Watford face more one-on-one looks. All of the above are nice, but when Cody catches the ball in a one-on-one situation, he makes the defense pay by putting the ball in the basket at an astounding 81 percent.
Cody’s presence is not only known on the offensive end, but his defense has been very solid. He has been staying straight up, he has not been getting pushed around, and his deflections and altered shots have given opposing offenses problems. With that said, Zeller is averaging eight rebounds per game, while also averaging just under two blocks and three steals per contest.
Before the season, the go-to scorers looked to be Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, and Verdell Jones. While all three can score the ball, the role Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo are playing on this team was not expected. Oladipo is averaging fifteen points per game, while also pulling down five rebounds per contest. Sheehey, who has been nursing a sickness the entire season, is still contributing just under ten points a game, while only getting sixteen minutes per game. The duo, nicknamed Sheeladipoa, could be the two dark horses that propel this Indiana team beyond expectations.
While on the topic of individual efforts, the play of Verdell Jones early on has to be turning heads. Jones is shooting 57 percent from the floor while averaging thirteen points per game. Not only has Jones’s shot looked better, but his decision-making thus far has been far better than past seasons. Verdell has tallied seven assists in two different contests while keeping his turnovers down in those contests as well.
The play of Tom Pritchard has been disappointing, as he’s not even averaging a point or rebound per game. However, Derek Elston has been able to take over the role of a big man producing off of the bench. Elston looks fleet of foot on defense, and his offensive game looks to be leaps and bounds better than it has been in his first two seasons. Elston is scoring almost eight points per game and has been able to grab over three rebounds a contest as well. Scoring production from the post has been something Indiana has lacked over the years, but Elston and Zeller have been able to be very productive in scoring the ball this season.
There have been many individual efforts that have exceeded expectations early in the season, but some overall team efforts have really stood out as well.
For starters, Indiana was a team that went through multiple scoring lapses last year as a team. The scoring lapses happened no matter who the Hoosiers were playing, and they helped inferior teams hang around, and more talented teams bury Indiana. This year that has been far from the case, as Indiana’s offense has looked next to flawless.
Indiana’s ball movement has been less than stellar in the Tom Crean era. It is as if the Hoosiers have finally flipped a switch, as they are swinging the ball quickly and finding open guys that are in a position to score. Anybody who says they expected the Hoosiers ball movement to look as good as it has this season is probably not telling the truth.
Indiana’s stellar ball movement has given themselves easy opportunities to score the ball. The easy opportunities the Hoosiers have capitalized on have led to outstanding shooting percentages in each of their last three contests. On the season, Indiana is shooting 57 percent, and 47 percent beyond the arc. As it was mentioned, Indiana was a team that struggled shooting the ball at times last season, and that has not held this year.
Yes, the season is very young. Everything could possibly turn south for the Hoosiers, but I do not see that happening. This is a new-look team that has confidence we have not seen in the Tom Crean era.
As you look at this team, look back through these thoughts of mine. Did you see these pieces performing as well as they have in these first three games? I certainly did not. I have learned not to get too high or too low on the Indiana Hoosiers, but as ChronicHoosier said, â€œI am drunk with optimism.