Andy Bottoms Bracketology: Preseason Projections for the Field of 68


The college basketball offseason is painfully long, but the start of season is finally upon us.

And what better way to celebrate this joyous occasion than to prognosticate the seeding of teams we’ve yet to see play a real game?! 😉

Preseason projections are a completely different animal than the in-season version. There are no RPIs, strengths of schedule, quality wins, or bad losses to use as measuring sticks when comparing teams.

Instead, I spent the last month and a half consuming an unhealthy amount of preseason content and analysis.

In the end, I also tried to consider roughly how many bids each league is likely to get. While the committee doesn’t take conference affiliation into account, there are only so many wins to go around, which will ultimately have an impact on the number of bids in each league.

At this point of the year, I don’t spend as much time on the actual bracketing, but this format also gives me the chance to give some brief thoughts on my projected field as well as the teams that just missed the cut.

Andy’s Preseason Projected Field of 68

#1 Seeds

  • North Carolina – A preseason injury to All-American guard Marcus Paige may get the Heels off to a slow start, but Roy Williams has plenty of firepower at his disposal with Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, and Justin Jackson all back in the UNC frontcourt.
  • Kentucky – The Kentucky cupboard has been restocked with another tremendous recruiting class, led by Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray. The offense should flourish with sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis at the helm.
  • Kansas – The eligibility of freshman Cheick Diallo is still up in the air, but the Jayhawks are the pick in the Big 12 until proven otherwise. Perry Ellis and Frank Mason will provide veteran leadership and should mesh well with talented newcomers like Diallo and Carlton Bragg.
  • Maryland – Melo Trimble and Jake Layman are the returning headliners, while transfer Robert Carter and freshman Diamond Stone will provide muscle on the inside. The Terps won’t sneak up on anyone this year, but then again, they won’t need to.

#2 Seeds

  • Duke – The reigning champs lost four starters, but Championship Game hero Grayson Allen is back along with a slew of top-notch recruits, led by forward Brandon Ingram and point guard Derryck Thornton.
  • Virginia – Even without Justin Anderson, the Cavaliers have a strong nucleus with Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, London Perrantes, and Mike Tobey back. You can also count on another elite defensive performance from Tony Bennett’s pack-line scheme.
  • Villanova – ‘Nova should once again be the class of the Big East thanks to the inside-outside duo of Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono, while freshman Jalen Brunson gives the team yet another talented scoring option.
  • Iowa State – Fred Hoiberg is gone, but fortunately for Cyclones fans, All-Conference performers Georges Niang and Monte Morris aren’t. Throw in Jameel McKay inside and Naz Long in the backcourt, and new coach Steve Prohm has the luxury of a solid – and offensively explosive – nucleus in his first season in Ames.

#3 Seeds

  • Oklahoma – The Big 12 is loaded with returning talent, and OU guard Buddy Hield, last season’s conference POY, is the best of the bunch. The Sooners return other key contributors as well, led by Isaiah Cousins who sounds poised for a big senior year.
  • Wichita State – Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker form one of the nation’s top backcourts, and Cleveland St. transfer Anton Grady will give the Shockers a strong presence inside as well. They will be the class of MVC once again and should approach 30 wins.
  • Gonzaga – The frontcourt is loaded for the Zags, led by All-American Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis, but it may take some time to adjust to the loss of three senior guards.
  • Michigan State – Obviously the losses of Travis Trice and Branden Dawson hurt, but the addition of transfer Eron Harris and talented freshman Deyonta Davis should help ease the blow. The overall talent level is high, and I can’t bet against Izzo getting the pieces to fit.

#4 Seeds

  • Arizona – The Wildcats lost a ton of talent but have a number of intriguing pieces poised to fill those roles even after losing freshman Ray Smith for the season. Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson will be the workhorse for Sean Miller’s club.
  • Indiana – Led by Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers should once again boast one of the nation’s top offenses. The Big Ten schedule sets up well for IU, but this team needs to make huge strides defensively if they want to make a deep NCAA run.
  • California – Don’t be surprised if Cuonzo Martin’s club knocks Arizona off its perch atop the Pac-12. Freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb will contribute immediately, while junior guard Tyrone Wallace will push for Pac-12 Player of the Year honors.
  • Purdue – Freshman Caleb Swanigan joins an already talented Purdue frontline, while Rapheal Davis and Vince Edwards are back on the wing. The only question is at the point, where UT-Arlington transfer Johnny Hill will be handed the keys.

#5 Seeds

  • Vanderbilt – Big man Damian Jones is one of the nation’s best frontcourt players, and the Commodores can surround him with multiple talented shooters. Don’t expect them to challenge Kentucky, but Vandy should finish second in the SEC.
  • Connecticut – With SMU ineligible, the Huskies appear to be the favorite for the AAC auto-bid. Daniel Hamilton will look to build on a productive freshman year, Amida Brimah provides UConn with a presence in the lane, and transfer Sterling Gibbs will be a settling influence in the backcourt.
  • Utah – Replacing Delon Wright won’t be easy, but the Utes have four starters back, led by big man Jakob Poeltl and guard Brandon Taylor. Larry Krystkowiak’s squad should continue to be one of the nation’s best defenses as well.
  • Baylor – The Bears are loaded up front with Rico Gathers, Taurean Prince, and Johnathan Motley, but a lot will depend on the backcourt play following the loss of Kenny Chery.

#6 Seeds

  • Notre Dame – The likes of Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton won’t be easily replaced, but the Irish still have an elite guard in Demetrius Jackson to go with double-digit scorers Zach Auguste and Steve Vasturia.
  • Michigan – Injuries derailed the Wolverines last season, but now Caris LeVert is back to team up with Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton. There are questions up front, but John Beilein should have plenty of pieces to work with.
  • Butler – Veterans Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham give the Bulldogs a strong 1-2 punch, and NC State transfer Tyler Lewis should slide in nicely at the point. The frontcourt is less clear, but Butler’s defense should be solid once again.
  • Cincinnati – Mick Cronin will be back on the bench for the Bearcats, and virtually everyone is back from last season’s team. Octavius Ellis and Gary Clark are a solid frontcourt duo, and Troy Caupain provides experience at the point. You know the defense will be tough, and the offense should be improved as well.

#7 Seeds

  • Oregon – The Ducks must replace Joseph Young, and foot injuries to Dylan Ennis and Jordan Bell will test Oregon’s improved depth. Look for them to lean more on Dillon Brooks and Elgin Cook while freshman guard Tyler Dorsey gets his feet wet.
  • Wisconsin – Outside of Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, there aren’t a lot of known commodities on the Wisconsin roster. Bo Ryan has earned the benefit of the doubt though, and Ethan Happ sounds like other breakout players we’ve seen during Ryan’s tenure in Madison.
  • LSU – Ben Simmons might wind up as the National Player of the Year, and the Tigers brought in a number of other impressive newcomers. LSU definitely has the talent to outperform this seed, but I’m in “show me” mode with coach Johnny Jones, who has struggled to get the most out of his roster before.
  • Texas A&M – The Aggies brought in a number of highly touted recruits, but they also have the luxury of a strong returning nucleus, led by Danuel House, Jalen Jones, and Alex Caruso.

#8 Seeds

  • Georgetown – The Hoyas have an incredibly young team, but senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera will be a stabilizing influence in the backcourt. Isaac Copeland looks like the sophomore most likely to take the next step.
  • Miami (FL) – The strength of the ‘Canes lies in the backcourt with Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez leading the way, but the interior play of Tonye Jekiri will be key.
  • Florida State – Three double-digit scorers return for the ‘Noles, led by Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Montay Brandon. Leonard Hamilton also added a number of talented newcomers, highlighted by Dwayne Bacon, to an experienced roster.
  • West Virginia – “Press Virginia” will be back again wreaking havoc on the hardwood, and generating points off of turnovers will be key with Juwan Staten gone. Devin Williams is the lone returning double-digit scorer, but there are a number of guys in the 7-8 ppg range.

#9 Seeds

  • Xavier – The Musketeers need to sort out who will replace Dee Davis at the point, but they have experienced pieces in the backcourt with Remy Abell and Myles Davis to pair with breakout candidates Jalen Reynolds and Trevon Blueitt.
  • Texas – Shaka Smart inherits an experienced roster in Austin, including a solid point guard in Isaiah Taylor. It will be interesting to see how Smart tailors his “havoc” system to the personnel he has as well as how it works against better competition.
  • San Diego State – The Aztecs will still have stingy defense as their calling card, but the offense could be improved if freshman Jeremy Hemsley can make an instant impact at the point. Forward Winston Shepard should lead the way from a scoring standpoint.
  • North Carolina State – Junior point guard Cat Barber will lead the way for the Wolfpack, but they need Abdul-Malik Abu to take on a much larger role on the interior as a sophomore.

#10 Seeds

  • Rhode Island – Dan Hurley has a loaded roster led by E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin, and the Rams look poised to challenge for the A-10 title in what looks like a three-horse race with Davidson and Dayton.
  • Louisville – Given the roster turnover and controversy hanging over the program, the Cardinals are a tough team to peg. Transfers Damion Lee and Trey Lewis will be expected to shoulder a heavy load since none of the returnees scored over 4.1 ppg.
  • Boise State – The return of fifth-year senior Anthony Drmic was critical for the Broncos, and he’ll lead a strong nucleus of experienced players like James Webb III and Nick Duncan.
  • UCLA – Bryce Alford is the top returnee for the Bruins, who need some combination of Tony Parker, Thomas Welsh, and Jonah Bolden to step forward and provide frontcourt production and stability.

#11 Seeds

  • Dayton – Dyshawn Pierre is suspended for the first semester, but Dayton managed to play well while being short-handed last season. Kendall Pollard and Scoochie Smith will shoulder the load while Pierre is out.
  • Davidson – The Wildcats return three double-digit scorers, led by Jack Gibbs who scored 16.2 points and dished out nearly five assists per game. They should boast one of the nation’s most efficient offenses once again.
  • BYU – The Cougars are faced with the challenge of replacing Tyler Haws, but do-it-all senior Kyle Collinsworth and sharpshooter Chase Fischer give Dave Rose’s team a solid foundation.
  • Valparaiso – Coach Bryce Drew has essentially everyone back from a team that nearly sent Maryland packing in the Big Dance last year. Big man Alec Peters is arguably the Horizon League’s top player, but there is a lot of depth on the Valpo roster.

#12 Seeds

  • Tulsa (Last Four In) – Shaq Harrison and James Woodard form arguably the best backcourt in the AAC, and Tulsa has tons of experience with seven scholarship seniors on the roster.
  • Ohio State (Last Four In) – Since I don’t see the Big Ten getting eight teams in, it came down to OSU and Iowa for the seventh bid. The Buckeyes are incredibly young but brought in a number of talented pieces, which I think Thad Matta can mesh together over the course of the season.
  • Georgia (Last Four In) – Veteran guards Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines lead the way for UGA, but they need Yante Maten to make a big jump inside in order to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
  • Marquette (Last Four In) – I think the Big East can get five teams in this season, and if that’s the case it should be Marquette and Providence fighting for that fifth bid. I like what Wojo was able to do in his first season, and this year he adds a big-time recruit in Henry Ellenson to go with the likes of Duane Wilson and Luke Fischer.
  • Stephen F. Austin – The Lumberjacks won 29 games last season, and they are once again the favorite to win the Southland. Conference Player of the Year Thomas Walkup leads the way for SFA, who looks to have solid depth throughout the roster.
  • UAB – Nearly everyone is back from the squad that knocked out three seed Iowa St. on the first day of last year’s NCAA Tournament. Look for Robert Brown to lead the way for the Blazers, who will be locked in a close race with Old Dominion throughout the season.

#13 Seeds

  • Belmont – The Bruins always seem to be in the NCAA mix, and this year should be no exception. Guard Craig Bradshaw and forward Evan Bradds give Rick Byrd the OVC’s best inside-outside combination.
  • Central Michigan – Coach Keno Davis brings back all five starters and his top seven scorers, most notably guard Chris Fowler who scored over 16 points per game and led the MAC in assists.
  • Iona – Guard A.J. English averaged 20.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.1 assists last season and should win MAAC Player of the Year as a senior. Replacing David Laury won’t be easy, but there is a ton of offensive firepower on this team.
  • UC Irvine – Seven-foot-six center Mamadou Ndiaye is sight to behold, while Luke Nelson and Alex Young form an experienced backcourt tandem. The Anteaters gave Louisville all they could handle in the NCAA Tournament last season, and they seem likely to make a return trip.

#14 Seeds

  • Columbia – The Ivy League should be one of the more compelling conference races with Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale all in the mix. Stud guard Maodo Lo and the return of Alex Rosenberg led to my selection of the Lions, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of those four teams win it.
  • Louisiana-Lafayette – Senior forward Shawn Long flirted with entering the NBA Draft but returned to school, making the Ragin’ Cajuns the favorites in the Sun Belt. There’s solid depth in the backcourt as well, and seven of their top eight scorers are back in all.
  • James Madison – The Dukes just announced that big man Yohanny Dalembert will miss time with a knee injury, but he should be back in time for conference play, where he’ll form a formidable one-two punch with guard Ron Curry. If everyone stays healthy, it should be a great race between JMU and Hofstra in the Colonial.
  • South Dakota State – Led by senior guards Deondre Parks and George Marshall, the Jackrabbits boast the Summit League’s top backcourt. There are some question marks up front, but I’m giving them the nod over rival North Dakota St.

#15 Seeds

  • Stony Brook – Big man Jameel Warney is the favorite to win America East Player of the Year for a third straight season, but the Seawolves are no slouch in the backcourt with Carson Puriefoy and Longwood transfer Lucas Woodhouse.
  • New Mexico State – The Aggies lost a number of key pieces from last year’s squad, but they’re still the heavy favorite in the WAC thanks in part to sophomore forward Pascal Siakam and junior guard Ian Baker.
  • Coastal Carolina – The Big South should be a three-way battle between Coastal Carolina, High Point, and Winthrop. The Chanticleers are my pick thanks to a solid backcourt and the interior presence of Badou Diagne.
  • Weber State – The Big Sky race should be an interesting one with Weber St. and Montana pegged as the favorites. I gave the Wildcats the edge based on the inside-outside combination of double-double machine Joel Bolomboy and junior guard Jeremy Senglin.

#16 Seeds

  • Bucknell – Senior Chris Hass should challenge for Patriot League Player of the Year, and the Bison have no shortage of options in the frontcourt. Guard depth might be an issue, but for now I’m giving them the edge over Lehigh.
  • Chattanooga – Despite losing Coach Will Wade to VCU, the Mocs should be the class of the SoCon thanks in part to the one-two punch of Casey Jones and Justin Tuoyo.
  • North Florida (First Four) – The Ospreys are looking for a return trip to the Big Dance, and they have a solid group of returnees on the roster, led by talented guard Dallas Moore. Look out for NJIT in the Atlantic Sun, though.
  • Texas Southern (First Four) – Southern should battle the Tigers for the SWAC crown. I gave Mike Davis’ squad the nod thanks to a solid nucleus and the return of forward Jose Rodriguez.
  • Robert Morris (First Four) – The Colonials lost some key pieces from last season’s NCAA Tournament squad, but leading scorer Rodney Pryor is back to pace the offense. Mount St. Mary’s should be in the NEC hunt as well.
  • Hampton (First Four) – Dwight Meikle returns after leading the Pirates in scoring and rebounding last year, and he’ll be joined by a trio of senior guards who all scored nearly 10 points per game.

First Four Out

  • Iowa – As I mentioned with Ohio St., the Hawkeyes were right in the mix for one of the final spots. I have questions about the depth and think the losses of Aaron White and Gabe Olaseni will prove to be bigger than expected.
  • Providence – Kris Dunn is arguably the nation’s top player, and that may ultimately be enough to get Ed Cooley’s squad back to the Big Dance. The Friars will need to play uptempo based on their lack of size, but for me, there are just too many question marks right now.
  • Florida – I loved the hire of Mike White, and the cupboard isn’t bare in Gainesville. While improved, I don’t think the SEC gets six teams in, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Gators knock Georgia out of the picture.
  • Pittsburgh – Outside of Jamel Artis and Michael Young, there are a lot of questions for the Panthers. Jamie Dixon is hoping a number of transfers can provide the answers.

Next Four Out

  • UNLV – The talent on the UNLV roster is undeniable, but Dave Rice’s teams have underachieved with talented rosters in the past. I won’t be the least bit shocked to see them in the field of 68, but I need to see things come together on the floor first.
  • Oregon State – The Beavers surprised people last season, but with Gary Payton II and a number of key players back as well as a strong recruiting class, expectations have been raised. Wayne Tinkle’s team has had some preseason injury woes, but they still have the look of a dangerous team in the long run.
  • Syracuse – While I wouldn’t be stunned to see the Orange go dancing, missing Jim Boeheim for the first half of the ACC season and a myriad of question marks pushed them outside of my field.
  • Old Dominion – As mentioned above, the Monarchs will battle it out with UAB for the C-USA crown. Guard Trey Freeman does it all, and the backcourt will assuredly be the strength of this team.


Follow Andy on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops as the season gets underway.

How Will the Powerhouse 2016 Big Ten Season Play Out? Here’s What the Analytics Suggest …


[Editor’s note: This post was written by Ed Feng of The Power Rank, who joined us on a recent special edition episode of The Assembly Call a few weeks ago. Ed discussed in detail how he sees the Big Ten race playing out in 2015-16. He outlines those thoughts below.

Oh, and he’s a Michigan fan. But try not to hold that against him … 😉 ]

So … will your Indiana Hoosiers win the Big Ten this season?

If not, which team will top the conference in 2015-16?

To shed light on this question, I combined my college basketball analytics at The Power Rank with subjective factors.

First, I looked at two of my rankings.  The first was my Big Ten team rankings from last season based on points per possession adjusted for strength of schedule. Ken Pomeroy does the same type of calculation but with a different algorithm.

In 2014-15, Indiana finished with the 7th-best offensive efficiency in the country … but the 192nd-worst defensive efficiency.  These numbers placed them 6th in the Big Ten as a team.

Second, I used a regression model that takes the previous four seasons of team rankings to predict next season.  College basketball teams’ performance tends to persist from season to season — it’s unlikely Rutgers will jump from last to first, for example.

Last, I consider subjective factors such as departed and returning players. For example, Wisconsin lost Big Ten player of the year Frank Kaminsky, which makes it difficult rank them first despite what the numbers say.

This combination of objective and subjective factors gives the following rankings.

1. Michigan State

Tom Izzo has a lot of pieces coming back (Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes). In addition, it’s hard to argue against a consistent program that has reached the Sweet 16 seven of the last ten years, best in the nation.

2. Maryland

I’m not buying all of the hype around this team. They have talent in Melo Trimble, Jake Layman, and a host of new transfers and freshmen, but they couldn’t crack the top-20 in my efficiency rankings from last season.

3. Wisconsin 

Bo Ryan has never finished worse than 4th in the Big Ten at Wisconsin. Despite the departure of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, he still has two of the league’s best players in Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes.

4. Indiana

Will the Hoosiers play defense? Tom Crean had the 15th-best team by defensive efficiency two seasons ago (Zeller, Oladipo, Watford), so history suggests he can lead a good defensive team.

5. Ohio State

The Buckeyes haven’t finished worse that 5th since Thad Matta’s first year as coach. They can’t replace the offensive wizardry of D’Angelo Russell, but they have the top recruiting class in the conference.

6. Michigan

The biggest question in Ann Arbor is how John Beilein will distribute minutes among the returning players that contributed last year. Getting Caris LaVert for another season helps, as does the healthy return of Derrick Walton.

7. Purdue

The addition of highly touted recruit Caleb Swanigan gives the Boilermakers another inside force with A.J. Hammonds and Issac Haas. They should improve upon their 55th-ranked defense from last season.

8. Iowa

The Hawkeyes lose Aaron Smith but return the other four starters, so 8th might be a bit low. Fran McCaffery has placed his team in the top 30 of my team rankings, which takes margin of victory in games and adjusts for strength of schedule, each of the past three seasons.

9. Minnesota

Richard Pitino lost a host of contributors from last season, which means 9th could be too high for the Golden Gophers.

10. Illinois

The Fighting Illini play hard for John Groce, but they haven’t made the tourney the last two seasons. The numbers suggest they won’t make it again this season.

11. Penn State

The Nittany Lions had the 136th-ranked offense last year. Could this improve without D.J. Newbill around taking difficult shots?

12. Northwestern

It’s been two seasons for Chris Collins, and the Wildcats have yet to crack the top 10 in the conference. Unless someone like Tre Demps or Alex Olah makes a significant jump in the off season, they looked destined for the bottom again.

13. Nebraska

Remember when the Cornhuskers got hot in 2014, went on a late run, and made the tournament? Must seem like ancient history for Tim Miles after the Huskers dropped to 12th in the Big Ten last season.

14. Rutgers

Did the Big Ten really invite these guys into the conference?  Did they really beat Wisconsin even without Frank Kaminsky last season?


What do you think?

Comment below with your own predictions for the standings will shake out once all is said and done next season in the Big Ten.

Indiana’s NCAA Tournament Reality … As It Stands Right Now

Tom Crean and all of Hoosier Nation will be sweating out a stressful Selection Sunday today. (Image credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports)
Tom Crean and all of Hoosier Nation will be sweating out a stressful Selection Sunday today. It didn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way. (Image credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports)

And here we are …

Sweating out Selection Sunday.

It’s a better place than we were in last year, but it’s a place that Indiana should rarely, if ever, find itself in — not with our recruiting base, resources, and tradition.

Sure, there will be that rare season that just goes awry, but such a season should be the most anomalous of seasons (once every 10 or 15 years or so, or less), not the fifth in seven.

I mean, what are we? Some middling major conference program that has to bow down at the altar of the Selection Committee after an up-and-down season with little more than a humble hope that they bless us with the grace of a reputation-salvaging at-large bid?

Well yes, based on the last two year’s of results, that’s exactly what we are right now.

Which we never would have expected on this day two years ago.

My disappointment with this reality, and your disappointment with this reality, is absolutely warranted. We do a disservice to the great tradition of Indiana basketball if we are NOT disappointed to be in this position.

Which is why the coming postmortems will be serious and in-depth once this season has finally breathed its last breath.

But for now …

Blood still circulates through the veins of the 2014-15 Hoosiers.

And based on how Indiana played for most of their 80 minutes in Chicago, that circulation may be powered by a collective heart that beats with more strength and resolve than we thought after the three-game abomination that ended the season.

Which is why I continue to ward off all thoughts of what we should do this offseason, and what next season may hold. Instead, I’m focusing all of my fan energy on the right here and the right now.

I’m hoping that the Selection Committee blesses this team with at least one more game on the big stage so these Hoosiers have another chance to show us what they’re made of.

Because, despite it all, I still think that if we get one game then we’re going to get at least one more.

I can’t shake the feeling that there remains real life left in these Hoosiers. I can’t shake the feeling I’ve had all year that this team would create a positive memory or two come March.

I just wish we hadn’t left our season’s death certificate in someone else’s hands.

But when you schedule six sub-200 teams in the non-conference, and when you lose four home games, and when you drop eight of 12 to end the regular season … you relinquish control of your Tournament future.

Which is why IF we do not hear our name called today, I’ll be upset — but not at the Selection Committee.

The Hoosiers put themselves in this position and will have no one else to blame if a second straight March is spent on the outside looking in.

Hopefully that proves to not be the case.

I remain confident …

I still think we will make the field. Bracket Matrix had us in as of 10:00 a.m. this morning. Crashing the Dance had us in. Galen Clavio has us in.

As for Andy Bottoms? As of 12:15 p.m. Eastern Time, he still has IU in the field — playing Ole Miss in the play-in game.

(Andy’s complete bracket is coming soon and will be available here when ready.)

I know that Joe Lunardi’s voice booms louder than all others this time of year — the ESPN megaphone will do that. But his voice is just one, and he isn’t as historically trustworthy on these matters as the others I’ve just mentioned.

And as Lunardi said this morning on SportsCenter: “Am I going to miss on Indiana? Probably.”

My point: choose your bracketology sources carefully. It will make today a little easier. :-)

One thing that is undeniable: a UCONN victory over SMU today would be bad. It would remove one of the at-large spots that Indiana is currently competing for.

So … go Mustangs, I guess. In Larry Brown we trust, I suppose.

Such are the thoughts we must cling to during a Sunday spent bouncing on the bubble.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go change shirts. I just sweated through this one.

It’s gonna be that kind of day.


Editor’s note: this blog post was originally written as an email to be sent only to our subscribers. But I thought it was a good opportunity to see the kind of content that we send to our email list but don’t always post here on the blog. If you want to make sure you never miss anything from us, join our free email list.

So About This Notion That Indiana is Somehow “Better” Without Hanner Mosquera-Perea …


It’s wrong.

I feel like I should be able to just end this article right here, because the notion now seems so absurd to me. And yet I’ve read articles that say it. I’ve seen tweets that say it.

And, frankly, for a short time earlier this season I wondered it myself.

But it’s just flat-out wrong, and it does a complete disservice to the improved (albeit imperfect) player that Hanner has become this year and what his presence means for Indiana.

The “IU is better without Hanner” argument

The basis of the “IU is better without Hanner” argument goes like this:

Indiana’s record without him was better this year because his absence from the lineup allowed the Hoosiers to completely abandon any hopes of a presence inside and play more to its strengths: guards who can penetrate and shoot, and a whirling dervish of a forward who has more space to attack the rim.

It’s a compelling argument when you first read it. And back when Hanner first went down, people like me were posing this very question, wondering if Indiana was indeed better without the inconsistent Mosquera-Perea. (Fortunately, I have co-hosts much smarter than me who set me straight.)

And to be fair, the argument is not without evidence:

  • Hanner went down in the first Ohio State game, playing only eight minutes. Indiana won 69-66.
  • The Hoosiers then won three straight games, including two of their most impressive wins of the season: at Illinois, and at home against Maryland.

Admittedly, that was Indiana’s best stretch of the season, and it came without Mosquera-Perea in the lineup. We were flying high at 5-1 in the conference.

But let’s not mistake a peak performance in January (which Tom Crean teams seem to have every year, regardless of who is playing and who is not) for proof that Indiana is better without its tallest and one its most athletic players.

Hanner came back in the Michigan game, but he played just four minutes. Thus, his contributions didn’t really contribute to that win.

So between the Maryland game and including that Michigan game, Indiana went 2-3 — which included three doors-blown-off performances at Ohio State, at Purdue, and at Wisconsin.

Upon returning, Hanner played 11 minutes in Indiana’s terrific road performance at Maryland (which resulted in a last-second loss), and then the Hoosiers proceeded to close out the regular season on a disappointing 2-4 stretch during which Hanner had the ups and downs that have come to characterize his career. As did his teammates.

So yeah, when you look just at the won-loss records, I can see how a simplistic argument could be made that Indiana is “better” with Hanner Mosquera-Perea.

And yet, that simplistic view overlooks several key elements:

Collin Hartman was a huge key during Indiana’s initial winning streak without Hanner.

Collin Hartman is averaging 4.7 points per game overall this year. He averaged 9.6 points per game during the three-game winning streak without Hanner, and then scored 12 more points in the loss to Ohio State.

He was also grabbing rebounds, making hustle plays, and doing a fantastic job of moving the basketball via the pass on offense … you know: #CollinHartmanThings.

But here is what people seem to forget: Hartman had to play 24, 23, 25, 29, and 34 minutes in those first five games without Mosquera-Perea. He had played 16, 17, 16, and 12 minutes in the previous four games.

And remember: Hartman has spent the majority of the season, maybe all of the season, not being able to practice at 100% because of the knee he injured in the off-season.

Look at what Hartman has done since the second Ohio State game:

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He just hasn’t been the same guy. He hasn’t looked like the same guy.

He’s still out there battling, but he seems a quarter- or maybe even a half-step slower. Plus, he had to miss a few games with a new injury. And though he was proclaimed “closer to 100%” before yesterday’s game, it still wasn’t the same Collin Hartman who was so instrumental in Indiana’s unexpectedly fantastic start to Big Ten play.

Zero points, 0 rebounds, and 1 assist in 13 minutes of play is not the Collin Hartman from January.

Now look: I would love to see Collin Hartman step up and play tonight like he did in that first Maryland game. I hope he does. Frankly, we need him to.

But we just haven’t seen it from him lately — and what my eyes have told me watching every second of basketball this team has played (Andy and Ryan agree) is that the stretch of increased minutes Collin was forced to play after Hanner got hurt wore him down a bit, and it may take until the offseason for him to fully recover.

So anyone simply saying, “Oh, Indiana can just do what it did the last time Mosquera-Perea got hurt” is simply not in tune with this team.

Emmitt Holt cannot be counted on (yet)

If you’ve watched or listened to The Assembly Call this year, you know that I love Emmitt Holt. He was a diamond in the rough that I am glad Tom Crean uncovered. He’ll be a very good four-year player at Indiana.

And he played really well last night: 8 points, 4 rebounds, and he showed the basketball instincts and intelligence we’ve all come to admire.

But …

Emmitt is still a freshman. And Emmitt is still wildly inconsistent. And Emmitt has rarely put together two good, productive games back-to-back.

At this stage in his career, the role he had last night was perfect: come in off the bench, play 15 relatively pressure-free minutes, and gain experience and confidence.

Here is what Emmitt did while Hanner was out of the lineup earlier this year:

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About what you’d expect: not bad for a freshman at this stage of his career, but inconsistent.

(You might argue that Tom Crean should have played Holt more during that stretch … and perhaps he should have. But we don’t know whether Holt was earning more minutes in practice, so it makes little sense to speculate on what we can’t see.)

While Emmitt’s potential has us all excited, the reality of him playing 20-25 minutes in a Big Ten Tournament game and then on into the NCAA Tournament is a dicey proposition.

Now, you may say, “Well, Hanner is isn’t exactly Mr. Consistent” either. And no, he’s not. Not by a long shot. But don’t you think it’s better for tonight’s game, and all future IU games, for Crean to have Hanner, Hartman, and Holt all available and ready to be deployed based on matchups, hot hands, and game situation?

Yes, of course. That would make Indiana better.

Don’t forget the lesson of Verdell

Back in the 2012 Big Ten Tournament, Indiana dominated Penn State in its first game, only to lose senior guard Verdell Jones to a knee injury late.

Verdell, as you surely remember, had a much-maligned career trying to carry severely limited rosters in Tom Crean’s early days. But as a senior, he was a productive part of one of the most memorable Indiana teams ever.

While we were all horrified to see him go down with his injury, I distinctly remember some folks wondering if Indiana would be better off without him. Verdell was the only play on that year’s team with an ORtg below 100.0 and his TO% was higher than his Assist%.

And yet …

Just hours after announcing point guard Verdell Jones was lost for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee, the Hoosiers turned in their worst performance in weeks. Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Cody Zeller each scored 17 points. Only two other players had more than five.

That’s from the recap of Indiana’s ensuing game against Wisconsin.

Indiana played really well last night, and Hanner made some positive contributions during his minutes. We don’t know how severe the injury is, and we don’t know how his teammates will respond to it. And after seeing the fight and fire Indiana came out with last night — Hanner included — anything that might shake them from that emotional urgency is an unwanted distraction.

The whole notion of “play for Hanner” or “win it for Hanner” is cute.

Playing with Hanner would be better. Winning with Hanner would be easier.

Playing without him certainly doesn’t make Indiana “better.”

Bottom Line

What Hanner has brought to this team this year has not always shown up in the box score, and frankly it hasn’t always been reflected in Indiana’s won/loss record. Those games don’t happen in a vacuum. Context is important, and long-term impacts can accrue. And have.

I would love for this article to be completely moot because Hanner is actually okay and can play.

If he’s not (which I assume), then I would love for Collin Hartman to go off for 20 points tonight, or for Emmitt Holt to play 25 minutes and notch a double-double.

Anything that leads to an Indiana victory will be cheered and celebrated by me.

And make no mistake: Indiana can win without Hanner. Just don’t mistake that for meaning Indiana is better without Hanner.

This team is better when everyone is healthy and committed to playing defense like they did last night.

Hanner was a big part of that. And we’re going to miss the big guy if he’s out.

Get well soon Hanner.

This team is better with you in uniform.