Mailbag: Post Non-Conference Schedule

The Hoosiers open Big Ten play on Dec. 31 at Illinois. Here's answers to the questions you asked in the premium basketball forum.

danfromva writes:What do you see as the ideal starting lineup for this team? If that is the starting lineup, who do you see coming off the bench first? I would like to see a lineup of Fischer, Vonleh, Sheehey, Ferrell, and Robinson. Gordon, Williams and Hollowell would be the top reserves, IMO.

JUSTIN ALBERS writes: Let me start off by saying, today's questions are especially strong. So great work on that. I like your idea of moving Luke Fischer and Stan Robinson into the starting lineup … eventually. I don't think either guy is quite ready yet, but before the season is over, and I've said this from the beginning of practice, I think a lineup of Fischer, Robinson, Yogi Ferrell, Will Sheehey and Noah Vonleh is best. Now, based on Troy Williams' play of late, the case can certainly be made that a change needs to be made in the starting lineup, and made now. If Williams comes off the bench, I think Evan Gordon is the best guy to replace him in the starting five at this point simply because I don't think Robinson is quite ready for that role yet.

Long term, though, I think you have it right, danfromva. Gordon, Williams and Hollowell can all bring you good things off the bench, but none have been consistent enough to warrant spots in the starting lineup, in my opinion. I do think Hollowell and Williams will eventually find that consistency and earn a starting spot -- or they at least have the talent to do so -- just not right now. That's my opinion.

Seeking6 writes: Last year (after the season) it seemed that burnout was an issue with team. Whether it was expectations of themselves/fans or perhaps the hard practices that Crean is known for.

I'd like to know if either Terry or Justin can answer...has there been any change this year in regards to practice? I see what Crean is doing with rotations during meaningless preseason games but was curious about practices. Any input from that issue is something I'd like to know about.

ALBERS writes: That's a really hard one to answer, Seeking6, because we have zero access to practices. Tom Crean has always had a closed practice policy at Indiana, so it's hard to say if practices have changed at all. I can tell you last year Crean tried to shorten the practices earlier in the season than he ever had before to keep his team fresh for later in the season, so it's hard to believe burnout was the ultimate determining factor in their season ending early. But I do see what you're getting at as far as the expectations and pressure are concerned.

The other thing to consider with your question is this is a completely different team. So changes in practices are necessary, given that Crean now has a very young team and last year he had a veteran one. I highly doubt the practices look the same now as they did a year ago simply because there are so many younger guys that have never been through a full college season before.

becky62 writes: Curious what you and Terry observe with this team. Seems that this year's team lacks a degree of spark, emotion, and passion than the past teams since Crean arrived. Even the first two years of Crean's coaching, those team played their hearts out, as if they were #1 in the country, and with what seemed like "fire in the belly"...  I don't see these dynamics in this team. also, does Hollowell ever smile?

ALBERS writes: Thanks for writing, becky62. I hope we continue to see you as an active participant in the forums. Let's start with the second question first. I don't know if I've ever seen Hollowell smile, but that's just his temperament. There are a lot of athletes around the country that don't smile during games and interviews. I don't think that's necessarily a negative thing. Just the way it is.

Your first question raises some good an interesting points. I remember the early Crean teams for their fight, too, and how they won games they really had no business winning based on talent alone. So I get it. I don't think this team lacks the passion necessary to be successful, but it might sometimes look like that because you have so many young guys out there trying to learn and find there way on the go. The learning curve is steep, and it is often overwhelming for freshmen. That doesn't mean they don't play hard, that they don't play with passion and emotion like some of the past Indiana teams. But you do raise valid points and I think it's a really good and fair question.

faithguy19 writes: Do you see the Hoosiers being ranked again at any point during this season?

At some point, I'll say yes. Like I said before the season, this team will win some games it shouldn't and lose games it shouldn't. So I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Hoosiers beat Illinois and Michigan State to start the Big Ten season, jump into the rankings, and then lose to Penn State on the road. It's certainly possible. But given that 18 games still remain in the season, I'll go ahead and say the Hoosiers get hot at least one time, string off a few wins in a row, and jump into the rankings. Top Stories