USA Today

Indiana basketball top-10 offseason storylines: No. 8 Depth and lineup options

This is the third in a series looking at the top-10 offseason storylines for Indiana basketball heading into the 2016-17 season. This story looks at Indiana's depth and lineup options.

Indiana enters the 2016-17 basketball season with significant depth on the frontcourt as well as lineup options.

In fact, the Hoosiers have the possibility of one of their best duos 6-foot-10 or taller in more than 15 years.

Six-foot-10 sophomore center Thomas Bryant will be one of the top players in college basketball, and 6-foot-10 freshman power forward/center De’Ron Davis is a national top-50 recruit.

That’s one of the factors that is part of Indiana’s depth and lineup options.

The Hoosiers have their most depth on the frontcourt.

Bryant, who was projected by some as a late first-round NBA draft pick after his freshmen year, basically made the Cody Zeller decision: Spend a second year in college to be more prepared upon NBA arrival rather than turn pro at the first possible opportunity.

Bryant gives Indiana a legitimate center who can score on the block and is working on being able to play facing the basket, which should only add to his versatility. As a freshmen, Bryant shot 68.3 percent from the floor, the best mark in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country.

Davis is more college ready as a defender and rebounder, but he does have offensive ability. Mainly a low-post scorer early in high school, Davis added to his shooting range around the elbows and baseline in leading Overland High School to consecutive Colorado state titles.

IU also returns 6-foot-8 sophomore OG Anunoby, 6-foot-7 senior Collin Hartman and 6-foot-7 sophomore Juwan Morgan, among frontcourt players who have played notable minutes.

IU also has 6-foot-9 junior Tim Priller, but he didn’t crack the rotation his first two years of college.

Anunoby’s physical tools — notably his strength and quickness combination that allows him to defend multiple positions — and 3-point shooting — 45 percent on 13-for-29 — got the NBA’s attention by the NCAA Tournament.

The Jefferson City (Mo.) product who’s older brother is an NFL defensive lineman will be looked upon to make a jump in production from his 4.9 points and 2.6 rebounds as a freshman.

Hartman, who has started 36 of the 83 games he’s played at Indiana, has done everything from starting at center to making 3s. He’s hit 58 3s the past two years combine.

Morgan played 9.1 minutes per game as a freshman, averaging 2.4 points and 2.1 rebounds. He showed incredible toughness, playing out the season despite his shoulder popping out on a number of occasions, including, he said, during the same game.

IU also adds 6-foot-5 junior college forward Freddie McSwain, who is a big-time athlete. McSwain played center initially in high school and his game has been gradually growing outward, including a lot of work on his perimeter shooting.

In the backcourt, IU will have its biggest question as it replaces All-American, two-time All-Big Ten point guard Yogi Ferrell, a McDonald’s All-American coming out of Indianapolis Park Tudor.

Josh Newkirk will get every chance to win the point guard spot, and if he does, it likely will be his for the season.

Newkirk transferred from Pitt and hasn’t played since having microfracture knee surgery, but players and coaches both praised him during the second half of last year’s Big Ten season for his work in practice.

Newkirk has been at full-go since that time.

The biggest return from injury most likely will be junior shooting guard James Blackmon Jr., who was averaging 15.8 points per game when he suffered an ACL tear.

If he’s healthy, IU will be able to pair Blackmon and junior Robert Johnson (45 percent, 51-for-114 on 3s as a sophomore) on the wings.

Freshmen Curtis Jones, a 6-foot-4 combo guard who can shoot 3s off the dribble and drive, and Devonte Geen, a 6-foot-1 combo guard who is best attacking the rim and a solid on-ball defender, will most likely be in backup roles. Six-foot-5 freshman Grant Gelon has good size for an incoming shooting guard.

The depth, obviously, is stronger on the front line, but if Newkirk is solid at the point and either Jones or Green provide backup minutes, the backcourt should be solid.

As for the lineup, IU certainly has options.

It could go with three guards and two players up front with Newkirk, Blackmon, Johnson, Bryant and Anunoby.

It could go two guards and three up front: Newkirk, Blackmon, Bryant, Anunoby and, say, Hartman.

Of course there would be options in that setting. Morgan could be the third frontcourt player. Or it could be Davis, once he’s full up to speed on things. (He’s scheduled to arrive around Aug. 21 after finishing some academic things over the summer.)

The lineups could be adjusted to force opponents to matchup with IU, or for IU to matchup with certain opponents.

Beyond starting lineups, which get the most attention, IU has a lot of options inside a game to go with more shooting, more size, more rebounding or almost more of whatever it may need in a given stretch.

Here is a look at Indiana’s frontcourt duos 6-foot-10 or taller since the 1999-2000 season:

2013-14 (6-10 Noah Vonleh and 7-foot Peter Jurkin).

2012-13 (7-foot Cody Zeller and 7-foot Peter Jurkin).

2009-10 (7-foot Tijan Jobe and 6-foot-11 Bawa Muniru).

2005-06 (6-foot-10 Lucas Steijn and 6-foot-10 Ben Allen).

2003-04 (6-foot-11 George Leach and 6-foot-10 Jessan Gray-Ashley).

2001-02 (6-foot-10 Jared Jeffries and 6-foot-11 George Leach).

2000-01 (6-foot-11 George Leach 6-foot-10 Kirk Haston)*

1999-00 (6-foot-11 George League and 6-foot-10 Kirk Haston).

* — Jared Jeffries was listed at 6-foot-9 as a freshman. Top Stories