Analysis: Bryant a huge piece in the puzzle

Thomas Bryant's decision to commit to Indiana Saturday may make IU a contender for the 2016 Big Ten title and a team that should be ranked in the preseason top 25. His commitment gave the Hoosiers exactly what they were missing a year ago: size in the post.

Thomas Bryant was clearly the missing piece in the Indiana University basketball puzzle.

On a team without a senior this past season that was dogged from the beginning of the year because it had no legitimate inside presence, Bryant provides an instant upgrade.

The 6-10, 220-pound McDonald’s All-American from Huntington (West Virginia) Prep announced Saturday that he will attend IU in the fall. He’s the No. 33 ranked player in the country by Scout.com and a 4-star recruit.

Bryant can officially sign beginning with the Spring signing period which runs from April 15-May 25.

He chose the Hoosiers over offers from Syracuse, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri among others. He was initially considered a Syracuse lean until that program found NCAA troubles recently.

The weekend after that Syracuse/NCAA announcement, Bryant made an unofficial visit to Indiana for the Michigan State game which was the final regular season game. Since then, many signs had begun to point toward Bryant becoming a Hoosier.

So just how big is Bryant’s commitment?

In a word, it’s monumental.

Provided players like Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams in particular opt to return to Indiana in the fall, the Hoosiers just became a contender for the 2016 Big Ten championship.

Instantly, this program should begin the 2015-16 season ranked in the preseason top 25.

A potential IU starting lineup could now contain three McDonald’s All-Americans. There would be Ferrell at the point, James Blackmon Jr. at the shooting guard spot and Bryant in the post. Sprinkle in Troy Williams and Robert Johnson if you go small, or a player like Collin Hartman or Hanner Mosquera-Perea if you go big, and Indiana would have a formidable lineup.

It’s a huge get for Indiana coach Tom Crean and his staff. After a few months of uncertainty surrounding Crean’s immediate future with IU, Bryant’s commitment would appear to silence some of the fan base for now.

But is this putting too much pressure on a college freshman to think that one player could quickly turn a program around?

It’s not like Indiana was that far away to begin with. The Hoosiers just made the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four years and posted 20 wins a year ago.

And more and more, freshmen are coming in and making a quick impact in college basketball. Last season Blackmon averaged 15.7 points for the Hoosiers, scored more than 500 points as a freshman, and knocked down 77 3-pointers.

Another freshman, Robert Johnson, started 33 games and averaged 8.9 points. He made 52 3-point shots.

One of the big knocks on Indiana a year ago was its inability to play defense. Having a big man in the middle like Bryant could instantly ease some of that pain.

The addition of Bryant does affect IU’s scholarship situation. A few weeks ago, Stanford Robinson and Max Hoetzel announced they were transferring from Indiana which had made IU no longer oversigned for the current class. Indiana is now oversigned by one again and that will have to be figured out in the next few months.

But the Hoosiers have some options there, too. So that shouldn’t be a major dilemma.

So a huge piece of the puzzle has been placed. Now we wait to get official confirmation that Ferrell and Williams will return next season. Beyond that, IU fans will continue to hope that there may be one more highly touted big man who could come and make the class that much stronger.


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