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Indiana University

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Associated Press
Indiana forward Noah Vonleh’s decision to take his talents to the NBA leaves the Hoosiers’ frontcourt in dire straits for next season.
Analysis

IU to struggle to fill roster after exodus

Only 8 return; frontcourt a liability

After the Hoosiers pounded a nonconference foe in November, one of their young guards crowed that it felt like the team had 10 starters.

After a an exodus, it feels as if Indiana lacks 10 players of any variety.

The departure of Noah Vonleh to the NBA, if not at all surprising, is still a crushing blow to the program on multiple levels.

Not only does it deprive Indiana of one of the Big Ten’s best centers, but Vonleh also was the only person standing between a 17-15 season and a 12-20 eyesore.

Less than 24 hours after Vonleh revealed his intentions, Jeremy Hollowell, Austin Etherington and Jonny Marlin packed their bags, too.

Those three transfers – plus Joe Fagan quitting to focus on academics – will leave the Hoosiers scrambling to fill out their roster.

Indiana has only eight players due to return at the moment, and three of them (injured Collin Hartman and unplayable Peter Jurkin and Andrew Calomeris) barely count.

Even if incoming freshmen Robert Johnson, Max Hoetzel and James Blackmon Jr. pan out immediately, Indiana is still paper-thin.

The Hoosiers have three available scholarships to use this offseason.

But the frontcourt situation? Yeesh. That calls for quite a remedy.

They have no viable starting center, unless Hanner Mosquera-Perea can suddenly play offense. Their overall interior depth consists of three players – Mosquera-Perea, Hoetzel and Devin Davis – to man both frontcourt positions. None of the three is a proven rotation player.

It’s that dire.

Starting wing Troy Williams, a favorite of the coaching staff, could see spot minutes at power forward, though even Tom Crean might not want to give up that much muscle.

Look for the Hoosiers to scour the transfer scene as a means of returning some help inside.

Unquestionably, the biggest fish in that market is Temple’s Anthony Lee, especially now that he has Indiana on a list of five finalists to consider.

Surely, Crean will stay in touch and make sure Lee knows he’s wanted.

Lee can rebound the ball and would serve as a decent replacement for Vonleh, though he’s not as efficient and not as good a defender.

As far as Hollowell and Etherington, neither was any good last season.

In two years at Indiana, Hollowell never took advantage of his talents and had focus problems.

It’s not difficult to read between the lines of the statement Crean issued.

“We have put a lot of time and effort into Jeremy, both on and off the court,” Crean said. “It is our expectation that he finish strong in school and adhere to team rules.”

Etherington, who shot 25 percent on 3s in his two seasons, is set to graduate in May and wants to find a school that will give him more playing time.

The biggest question now: After some busts in recruiting and the loss of Vonleh, how do the Hoosiers look for next season?

Assuming no one else leaves, they can be decent … and that’s about it. I’m not sure they’re an NIT team unless they land Lee.

And until the Hoosiers can remake their roster, that is the upside they are stuck with.

cgoff@jg.net

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