The Indiana basketball season opener is now just a few days away.
The two exhibition games against Southern Indiana and Hillsdale are in the books and Indiana came out of those games unscathed.
The Hoosiers learned a lot about their young team. Tom Crean and his staff played a ton of different rotations. Monday night, in particular, the six true freshmen all had a chance to show off their potential.
On Friday, I'll post my annual predictions column for the 2013-14 season and invite you via the message boards to weigh in and give your opinions, too.
But before we get to that, here's a simpler question: So what do you think about the 2013-14 edition of Indiana basketball? What are your thoughts, your insights and opinions of how this team will fare both in the non-conference portion of the schedule and in the Big Ten?
Cody Zeller, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Victor Oladipo, Derek Elston, Maurice Creek and Remy Abell are all gone. With them, a major chunk of not only the scoring but the personality of this Indiana basketball team departed.
I'll admit watching the Hoosiers Monday night against Hillsdale was a very different experience. It was a lot like the first few years of Tom Crean's tenure at IU in terms of a lot of new faces. The difference is that the talent level here at this point is multiple times better than it was in 2008. That athleticism is in a different realm. You can't make that comparison. There is a tremendous amount of talent on the floor this season for the Hoosiers.
But success at the college basketball level is more than just assembling talented players. It is getting them to play together, and to buy in to the team concept. It is getting them to understand how hard each of them is going to have to work in order for the TEAM to be successful.
I'll admit, though, I saw a lot of things Monday night that I liked.
I've always liked Luke Fischer since the first time I saw him play on the AAU circuit at the Fishers Fieldhouse the summer before his senior year in high school. He has a big old Wisconsin body, the kind of player that Bo Ryan always seems to bring to Assembly Hall year after year after year. And he has skills. He doesn't look that awkward. When he gets the ball he knows what to do with it. He has post moves and appears to have a pretty high basketball IQ. To have those things going for you at his size without having actually played his first regular season game of his career make for a good starting point for the big man.
You have to like the potential of Noah Vonleh. That's my Mr. Obvious comment of the week. Crean talked in his postgame remarks Monday night about how Vonleh doesn't really know yet just how good he can be. I agree with that. It's a natural process for a young man who is just two months beyond his 18th birthday. But when that light bulb goes on and Vonleh realizes the potential he has to dominate opponents inside, Indiana basketball will take a significant leap forward. You saw glimpses of that Monday night. He made a strong inside move on the game's first possession and had another one down low later on where he really went hard to the basket. That's going to be a big key when Big Ten play rolls around. By that time I'm guessing Vonleh may have figured some of that out, too.
Stanford Robinson is going to be a playmaker here. No question about it in my mind. He has that quick first step which can allow him to get to the basket. And with the new rules that make it more difficult to guard players one-on-one without making any contact at all, I would think Robinson is the kind of player who could use the new rule to his offensive advantage. He also had an offensive rebound Monday night where he skied to get the ball. He's listed at 6-4 but he plays bigger than that.
You have to like Troy Williams, too, and the things he brings to the table. I think when he slows down and lets the game come to him a little bit he'll be fine. And again, that's just part of the maturation process for young players. My guess is by the time Williams leaves Bloomington he will have quite the highlight reel filled up. He is one of those players who is a SportsCenter moment waiting to happen.
But it's more than just the freshmen with this team.
Yogi Ferrell just has that look of a player who is in charge of the offense. He looks much more confident and willing to do a little more this year. Will Sheehey is another one who will make things happen. He can create offense not just when he is taking the ball to the basket but when he is driving and getting the ball to others. Hanner Mosquera-Perea doesn't look like the same player that played at Indiana a year ago. The best way I can say it is he just looks more comfortable with the ball and much less robotic. That's the big difference. Jeremy Hollowell also looks more in the flow. He is being asked to do more things. As his confidence grows he'll contribute, too.
The good news is that there's promise. There's potential. When it does come time to make my preseason predictions on Friday, it's going to be a little bit difficult because it will be hard to project just how good this team could potentially be by the time March rolls around.
But that's what makes it fun, too, right?
At first glance, I think this is going to be an enjoyable Indiana basketball team to watch this season.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch