This article originally appeared in the the Nov. 9, 2015, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here.
Senior guard Kevin (Yogi) Ferrell arrived at Big Ten media day in October with a battle wound. Three thin strips of tape covered a cut near his right eye, the result of butting heads with forward Troy Williams during a drill. Ferrell needed medical attention, but he didn’t need an apology. “I don’t want him to be soft,” he says of his 6'7" teammate. “It’s the game.”
The 6-foot Ferrell has come to appreciate hard knocks. As a freshman he started on a 29-win team that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament; since then the Hoosiers have just 16 conference victories. This winter, though, they could approach that two-year total, led by three double-digit scorers—Ferrell, Williams and guard James Blackmon Jr.—and 6'10" freshman Thomas Bryant, a four-star recruit.
Adept at dribbling out of trouble, Ferrell can work the baseline to draw defenses and find shooters. He can also score: Last season he averaged 16.3 points and shot a career-best 41.6% from three-point range. And he showed his improved athleticism last month by dunking on his 6'3" strength coach during a practice. Now Ferrell needs to take all that he’s learned from good times and bad and apply it. “He can run a team,” coach Tom Crean says. “Will he run it consistently the way it needs to be run? And will he help inspire his teammates to have great confidence? That’s the key.”
Thomas Bryant, 6'10" freshman forward
Indiana finished last in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense, allowing 45.3% shooting. The Hoosiers will count on Bryant, a top 30 recruit, to protect the rim and prevent easy buckets.
“No question we should have a lot more versatility with this team. We should be able to play through the post more. The ball has to get into the paint, somehow, if you’re going to have a drive-and-kick three-point shooting game. Every (player) will have to be guarded to the three-point line. We’ll have better basket coverage defense, where we can put more pressure on the ball and create more havoc around the rim, where we weren’t very good last year. The moment we start thinking we’re going to win on offense, like we thought at times last year, then we won’t be very good.” — Tom Crean
Projected depth chart
|James Blackmon, Jr.||SG||15.7||4.8||1.7||117.9||25%||72%|
Projected conference race
|conference rank||team||projected Conf. record||last year's Conf. record|