Posted: 1:04 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Alright, let's all be honest with ourselves here. The biggest gap in 2013-14 Indiana basketball and 2012 Kentucky is the recruiting classes. That is no knock on the Hoosiers very impressive 2013 class but Kentucky's 2011 class was out of this world good. Truly that was Kentucky's shining beacon of accomplishment in the John Calipari era. He crafted a class that will be hard to repeat. Even his incoming class which by all scouting measurements is better than 2011 will be facing an uphill battle to achieve even half the success of 2011. But enough praising them, let's take a look player by player to see where 2013 falls short and if it is truly that big of a gap that could keep IU from competing at the top of the national scale.
The first guys to take a look at are the shining jewels of each class. This could be a toss up between Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for Kentucky, but for Indiana it is definitely Noah Vonleh. We're go with Davis for Kentucky. Davis was a lengthy 6'10" forward ranked #2 overall coming into his freshman season. The beneficiary of a very late, very big growth spurt he had the ability to play more like a perimeter player than a post. Noah Vonleh is of a similar mold. He's a rebounding machine that can handle the ball pretty well for a kid that stands nearly 6'10". He and Davis have quite a bit of similar skills sets and measurements with Vonleh having a 7'3" wingspan. I'm not saying they'll be the same player our of the gate, but Vonleh has that same potential to be something special quickly for Indiana.
Adding to that post presence in Vonelh is Luke Fischer. Fischer is a tall fundamentally solid big who no one seems to be able to agree on where his standing is on his ability. ESPN rated him #34 in their most recent rankings. Rivals has him in the 90s. Everyone agrees he's good, but no one is certain how good. If he's what ESPN thinks he is, then there are two contributing post players to Kentucky's 1 in 2012.
After the crowned jewels Indiana has to make their comparisons to Kentucky's class via quantity and not quality. Kentucky had the #3, #5 and #22 players coming in that class. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was a forward that had the ability to enforce his will on the opposition. Indiana doesn't have a second player in their 2013 class that stands out as someone who can do that. Instead Indiana will bring in a combination of unpolished wing prospects in raw but physically outstanding Troy Williams and developing perimeter forward Devin Davis. Williams is physically quite gifted but doesn't possess near the scoring abilities of MKG. Davis is of a similar mode, but he's converting from high school post player to collegiate wing and is going to need some time.
Stan Robinson is IU's counter to Marquis Teague. Both more of combo guards that can play the point but you'd rather them play the two guard. Teague had himself a high volume year in 2012 but not a high efficiency one. This will be the easiest spot for IU to replicate Kentucky's performance. Indiana already has a point guard in Yogi Ferrell and so will not have to ask a ton of Stan at the point. He can play off the ball.
Finally we have Indiana trying to replicate Kyle Wiltjer. Wiltjer played on 30% of his possible freshmen minutes and Collin Hartman along with RS Junior Austin Etherington can replicate what he brought to the table. Both Etherington and Hartman are good shooters and role players. Wiltjer didn't bring a whole lot to the table outside of shooting in his 12 minutes a game. Hartman and Etherington are more than capable of doing that if they crack the rotation.
Truly the biggest gap between Kentucky 2011 and IU 2013 is whether the Hoosiers can replicate what Anthony Davis and MKG did for UK. I don't think there is any one player that can do that Indiana, but if Vonleh/Fischer and Williams along with a sophomore Hollowell come out and do work during the summer they can close the gap quite a bit. I wouldn't expect because if that were to happen IU should be national champion favorites, but the Hoosiers aren't that far away. Indiana is in a position where the incoming class is going to get their minutes. They're going to need to thrive to have Final Four aspirations.