A traditional pre-season top 25? They’re fairly ubiquitous this time of year. Everyone has one, but from Duke to Mississippi Valley State and in between, there’s a lot of intriguing teams for the upcoming college basketball season.
In ascending order of squads that pique our interest, our list consists of teams with a rare chance to make noise, have a lot to prove, quirky schedules, or are just named Kentucky.
Follow along. Story lines aren’t just for the nation’s elite.
They haven't reached the ranks of the Big 10's elite, nor have they even returned to respectability, but the Indiana Hoosiers are moving in the right direction under Tom Crean. For the first time under this new regime there are returning faces to the rotation, working out and practicing together in newly minted Cook Hall. Back is senior Jeremiah Rivers, junior Verdell Jones III and sophomore Christian Watford. Also back is that sophomore you might have forgotten about, Maurice Creek. The Hoosiers only lost seven points-per-game from a couple of irrelevant reserves. It appears this team has finally ridden themselves from the rift-raft and walk-on starters.
With a fairly easy non-conference schedule that keeps the team at home for it's first six games, the Hoosiers will take their time to get their legs under them this season. It's not until December 1st that they head out on the road when IU travels to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts to take on the equally lowly Boston College Eagles as part of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge.
What happened this summer?
2010 recruit, Ohio native Kenny Kaminski, selected Michigan State over the Hoosiers. Kaminski is currently the 23rd ranked power forward, according to Scout.com. Former Indiana University basketball player and radio announcer Todd Leary pleaded guilty to charges stemming from an ex-business partner's multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme. To get media inside the school's new basketball practice facility, Tom Crean invited local and national media people to a strength and conditioning workout. While none of them play in Assembly Hall, ESPN's Pat Forde wrote a nice piece on the Zeller and Plumlee families - both flush with basketball talent and both from small Indiana towns.
Games that Really Matter
- 12/11 @ Kentucky
- 12/22-23 @ Las Vegas Classic (Northern Iowa and New Mexico/Colorado)
- 12/31 vs. Ohio State
- 1/30 @ Michigan State
- 2/8 @ Purdue
- 2/23 vs. Purdue
Most Intriguing Player
Maurice Creek (6'5" Sophomore) - Think back to December, remember that pesky freshman who turned into a legitimate scoring threat for the Hoosiers? Maurice "Mo" Creek led all newcomers in the country in scoring (16.4 PPG at 53 percent from the floor), before fracturing his left knee against Bryant, abruptly ending his freshman season. If he remains healthy, the Hoosier offense could run through Creek. With no defined starting point guard, ball handling duties will vary among Creek and his backcourt mates. He'll be a great compliment to Jones and form a formidable backcourt that I guarantee you will have a few nights of high scoring outputs we all write about the next day. You're looking at a dark horse for First Team All Big 10.
What's on the Line?
There's certainly no real urgency for the Hoosiers to return to the NCAA Tournament this season, but some sort of linear improvement is required. When the program began picking up the pieces the Kelvin Sampson bomb that exploded in Bloomington, the entire country knew the uphill battle Crean faced. Just get your ducks in a row, sell the program's history, and return to relevance in about four seasons. We're entering season three, not a time to take a step back now if this team stays healthy.
Despite our interest in this club, there still far away from postseason play. The Big 10 is as strong as it's ever been (and maybe as strong as it's ever going to be) so improvements probably shouldn't be measured by conference records and the Hoosiers final standing. Crean told Blue Ribbon Yearbook that it's been difficult to actually get better due to lack of competition and talent at practice, suggesting they were simply overmatched in many of their games. But now, with Creek and Jones comprising a legit backcourt, Watford providing versatility, and Rivers providing senior leadership, there's optimism and a reason to be proud of this team.
- Conference: 8th
- Postseason: None