Indiana's season just got worse: Star forward OG Anunoby is done for the year
Now everything changes for the Hoosiers, who lose their best pro prospect
Indiana star sophomore forward OG Anunoby will miss the rest of the season due to requiring surgery on his right knee.
Yahoo! Sports first reported the news. Indiana posted this on Twitter shortly thereafter:
Coach Crean on OG Anunoby: pic.twitter.com/oEZOMdzMD9— Indiana Basketball (@IndianaMBB) January 20, 2017
Anunoby was injured in Wednesday night's win at Penn State.
Indiana started 10-2 this season but is now 13-6, sitting outside of the rankings, and faces a home test against Michigan State on Saturday.
Three things to know about the injury
1. The Hoosiers had a major injury last season too
The Hoosiers dealt with a season-ending injury last year to James Blackmon Jr. Ultimately, it turned a Hoosiers team that at one point was 17-3 into a No. 5 seed. But IU did have a big-time point guard in Yogi Ferrell, who is someone the Hoosiers are dearly missing this season. Also, Anunoby came on and showed a lot of promise last season, and Troy Williams was essential. Crean got his team to the Sweet 16, and on the whole, it was a successful season.
Now the Hoosiers are twisting a bit here. After a nice start, Indiana's going to be evaluated in part by the team it is without Anunoby. The selection committee will play close attention to what Crean's crew can do without their best NBA prospect on the floor. The expectation level also gets depressed. Whereas in November Indiana was projected as the Big Ten's best team by many, and certainly a team capable of going to the Final Four, now it's looking like winning two games in the Big Dance would be a thrilling comeback of a year.
At the moment, though IU is well-positioned to get its name called on Selection Sunday, there is a lot this team has to prove.
2. This is Indiana's second major injury this season
If you've forgotten, the Hoosiers had done decently this season despite losing senior forward Collin Hartman back in September. Now IU is down two frontcourt players from the expected roster. That's a big ding. IU doesn't get credit in the eyes of the committee for not having Hartman, because there is no sample size of what this roster would have been with him on the floor.
Now Indiana will rely on Blackmon, Thomas Bryant and improved play from junior guard Robert Johnson. This is still one of the five best teams in the Big Ten, I think. But three of the next five games are away from home. And without Anunoby's defense, it becomes all the more difficult. IU isn't great without the ball, and no one was better for them on D than OG.
3. Anunoby's Indiana future is way too tough to call
Since his breakout performance in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, Anunoby has been projected as a future first-round NBA pick. He averaged 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals this season. In October, he was seen as a top-15 pick in a loaded draft. The opinion on him has wavered, though. He's still one of the 30 best NBA prospects, definitely, but his offensive game hasn't made big leaps. And now this injury and subsequent rehab will take him off the floor for, probably, the entire pre-draft process. Teams will not get to evaluate him.
So Anunoby's got an interesting few months ahead of him. He can declare for the NBA, wait for a team to take a chance on him, and try to earn first-round money. But that's a maybe. Or he can fully rehab, return for his junior season and have a chance to get his stock even higher for a 2018 draft that will not be as deep at the top as what we see in 2017. Anunoby almost certainly would have been gone after this year if he hadn't gotten injured, but now there's a case to be made that he should return.
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