The Indiana University men’s basketball program has a storied past, with five national championships and 22 Big Ten titles. Along the way of course, a great number of individuals have contributed to that run of success.
Through the years the Hoosiers have had more than 60 individual All-American seasons and 16 Big Ten player of the year seasons. So how then do you distill that down to the five best individual seasons of all-time? It wasn’t easy.
Of course, with the game changing dramatically over the course of more than 100 years, any analysis such as this runs the risk of recency bias. There is no doubt that our list doesn’t do justice to the first 50 years of IU basketball. Statistically speaking, there is no way to compare the early days of the game — and no one around anymore who remembers it.
That being said, and a bit to our surprise, the list isn’t a whose who of the last 20 years either. Some of the best individual seasons were many years ago — and have stood the test of time.
Before we start, one point of clarification here. Unlike some individual honors, this list for the most part ignores team results. Quite simply, these are the former Hoosiers that produced at the highest levels and had single seasons that were true outliers over the course of the program’s history.
1. GEORGE McGINNIS 1970-71
McGinnis had what was quite simply the most dominant single season in IU basketball history. For his sophomore campaign he averaged 29.9 points and 14.7 rebounds. He led the Big Ten in both categories. He also added 2.8 assists per game and helped the Hoosiers to add 10 more wins to their total from the previous season.
Perhaps more impressive than the numbers themselves is the fact that McGinnis did this in his first (and only) season as a Hoosier (freshmen sat out at this time). If his season is ever matched or exceeded, we highly doubt that it will be in a player’s first year.
2. WALT BELLAMY 1960-61
It isn’t easy to select a single greatest Walt Bellamy season because he had three exceptional campaigns. In his senior season, however, he set a program record that still stands, averaging an amazing 17.8 rebounds per game. He added 21.8 points per game while shooting better than 50% from the field. Bellamy went out with a bang, corralling an IU and Big Ten record 33 rebounds in his last game. His performance that year made him the number one overall pick in the NBA Draft.
3. JIMMY RAYL 1961-62
Without the benefit of a three-point line, shooting guard Jimmy Rayl averaged an amazing 32.4 points during Big Ten play in 1962. Included in that average was the first of his two 56-point games. His final basket in that game was a buzzer beater to defeat Minnesota in overtime. He matched his 56-point performance again the following season and collectively they represent a record that still stands. In fact, no other Hoosier has ever broken the 50-point mark.
4. DON SCHLUNDT 1953-54
Similar to Bellamy, it isn’t easy to call a single season his best, but the outlier was likely 1953-54, when Schlundt’s offensive efficiency was off the charts for that era. For the season he shot exactly 50% from the field. During Big Ten play he set the conference single season field goal percentage record at 50.4%. He averaged 24.3 points per game that year and would go on to become IU’s all-time leading scorer.
5. SCOTT MAY 1975-76
Scott May was a man on a mission his senior year. After suffering a broken arm that ended his junior season, May came back stronger than ever. He averaged 23.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and earned National Player of the Year honors while leading the Hoosiers to a perfect season.
- Everett Dean was IU’s first All-American in 1921. Among his many accomplishments, he had IU’s first 20 point game in 10 years that season.
- Branch McCracken set a Big Ten conference record with 146 points in conference play in 1930.
- Ernie Andres broke the school record with 162 points in Big Ten play in 1938.
- John Wallace set the school record with 302 points in 1946, averaging nearly 15 points per game.
- Archie Dees had several great seasons, but his best was in 1958 when he averaged 25.5 points and 14.4 rebounds per contest.
- Dick Van Arsdale averaged 22.3 points and 12.4 rebounds during his junior season in 1964.
- Tom Van Arsdale averaged (a nearly identical) 21.3 points and 12.3 rebounds during his junior season in 1964.
- Steve Downing was the first All-American under Bob Knight and led IU to a Final Four in 1973 while averaging 20.1 points and 10.6 rebounds.
- Steve Alford put it all together in a 1987 senior season where he added the 3-point shot to his arsenal and led the Hoosiers to a national title while averaging 22 points and a career high 3.6 assists. He shot 53% from behind the 3-point line.
- Calbert Cheaney did it all in a 1993 senior season that saw him claim the Big Ten’s all-time scoring title while averaging career highs with 22.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists.
- Alan Henderson was dominant in his 1995 senior season, averaging 23.5 points and 9.7 rebounds, becoming IU’s all-time rebounding leader along the way.
- Victor Oladipo had a magical 2013 season with a well rounded game that saw him set the IU program record in steals with 78 while shooting an incredible 60% from the field. He was named the Sporting News National Player of the Year.
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