|Watford is a great option/threat on O, and if he continues to perform, IU has a great shot at the Final Four. (US Presswire)|
The 6-foot-9 senior forward is averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, which is a minimal increase scoring-wise from his junior campaign (12.6 ppg) and a full rebound more per contest. As a freshman, Watford averaged 12 points and six boards per game (his most productive season offensively was as a sophomore, when he put up 16 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest).
But there's one major difference. Watford, 22, has finally developed consistency. It's been the knock on the Alabama native since his AAU days. Tons of upside and talent, but difficult to ascertain when he'd show up and when Watford would just go through the motions. Well, here's a stat for you: Watford has been in double figures in 16 consecutive games.
Tom Crean raved about the job that Watford did this past weekend on the defensive end in a decisive victory over Purdue -- and spoke about the fact that Watford wasn't healthy in the offseason and even early in his senior season. Watford has steadily improved his efficiency on the offensive end as well, going from a 32-percent shooter from beyond the arc as a freshman to an almost 50-percent shooter (45-of-91) from long distance this season. He's also shooting a career-high 46 percent from the field.
Indiana needs Watford. That was clear when he was basically a no-show on Dec. 15, when the Hoosiers lost to Butler in Indianapolis. He was just 1-of-5 from the field, had just three rebounds and finished with just nine points. That was the last time that Watford has been in single digits.
The numbers haven't been staggering over the current 16-game stretch. In fact, he's averaging a somewhat-modest 13.9 points and 6.8 rebounds in that span and shooting nearly identical from the field and beyond the arc to what he was before Dec. 15. But it's been the fact that Crean & Co., have been able to count on their once-enigmatic veteran for reliable production. He has come out and given the Hoosiers much-needed consistency.
"That's been important for us," Crean said.
This is a team that has no shortage of weapons at its disposal. Victor Oladipo has received most of the attention for IU this season, but Cody Zeller and Jordan Hulls also get plenty of their own. Even freshman guard Yogi Ferrell has earned no shortage of praise for the job that he has done running the team -- and defending -- in his first season. Sixth-man Will Sheehey is also in double figures despite accepting his role coming off the bench. Watford just needs to do his job, each and every night, and this Hoosiers team has a chance to beat anyone in the entire country.
People seem to have stopped talking about Watford because he hasn't erupted for 25, 26 or 27 points -- as he did last season against Michigan, Michigan State and Kentucky -- or pulled one of his disappearing acts.
Watford has been steady -- which is exactly what the Hoosiers need.