Wednesday, April 04, 2007

More one-sided optimism (next season - part 2 of many)

5. Eli Holman is the quintessential "surprise impact" player. Although he isn't incredibly highly-ranked (he's ranked #79 by Rivals), his ranking is clearly hurt because of his suspension, plus he's arguably the perfect fit for Indiana next season - a long, athletic shotblocker to partner with DJ White inside on a team that doesn't need him to be a great scorer, so he'll have the luxury of developing his offensive game on a team with plenty of other offensive options. In other words, the things he does well are just what the team needs, and the things he doesn't do well are things the team doesn't really needs. Perfect fit.

6. Kelvin Sampson has had these guys for a full season and now he gets them for a full off-season. After the Mike Davis era, it's easy to forget that basketball players tend to improve from year to year, and that at Oklahoma this was considered a strength of Sampson's -- player development. Now that the players understand what Sampson wants and Sampson understands what the players' strengths and weaknesses are, I'm really looking forward to seeing the improvement from guys like AJ Ratliff, Armon Bassett, and Lance Stemler. IMO it's clear that those 3 guys are capable at playing at a different level than they played at last season. Having a real coach should pay dividends -- here's one area where I expect it.

7. Gordon is as close to a sure thing as we see in college basketball, so I'm going to include him as a "known quantity". Thinking ONLY about returning players + Gordon, our starting lineup looks like this: Armon Bassett, Eric Gordon, AJ Ratliff, Lance Stemler, DJ White. Based on how all those guys were playing at the end of last season and assuming even MILD improvement, that looks like a very good team... without even factoring in the new guys. By "very good team" I mean "no brainer NCAA tournament team" and "threat to make the Sweet Sixteen". It's a nice feeling to head into a season knowing that Indiana is playing for NCAA seeding, not for an NCAA invite.

8. The B10 looks as strong next season as it has in a long time, due in no small part to coaching changes. Michigan State and Ohio State both look like Top 10 teams, and the bottom of the B10 looks less bad with everyone returning at Minnesota and Northwestern (plus Tubby), so it looks like a strong conference from top to bottom. On the other hand, assuming Oden goes pro, there are no "scary good" teams in the B10. Last season was obviously OSU and Wisconsin then everyone else. I think next season OSU and MSU will not head into games against Indiana (home or away) assuming a win. Or, to make a long story short, Indiana does not need to improve by leaps and bounds to win the B10.

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