The resurrection of Indiana basketball is in its third season under Tom Crean. Bumps in the road were to be expected and that is exactly what has happened for the Hoosiers as the program has experienced their worst two seasons in school history.
The Sports Bank‘s 99 team college basketball previews in 99 days takes us to Hoosierland. Indiana is the fourth Big Ten to be ranked in the bottom seventeen out of all 72 power conference teams and the top 27 mid-majors. Click here if you missed teams #84-#99.
By: David Kay
Indiana Hoosiers (T-9th, 4-14 in Big Ten, 10-21 overall)
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Tom Pritchard (Jr)/Bobby Capobianco (So)/Guy Marc-Michel (Jr)
F: Christian Watford (So)/Derek Elston (So)/Will Sheehey (Fr)
SG: Maurice Creek (So)/Victor Oladipo (Fr)
G: Verdell Jones III (Jr)/Matt Roth (Jr)
PG: Jeremiah Rivers (Sr)/Jordan Hulls (So)/Daniel Moore (Jr)
Gone: SG-Devan Dumes, C- Tijan Jobe, C-Bawa Muniru (transfer-Tennessee State)
When Tom Crean left Marquette for Indiana, he said the decision was made because, “It’s Indiana. It’s Indiana.” In his first two years on the job, Crean has learned that “Indiana” does not have the same juice it once had as the Hoosiers have been unable to land the highly-touted recruits as he expected. (though the 2011 class is beginning to take shape nicely.) The university is further away from re-establishing their program than originally hoped after the Kelvin Sampson debacle but they are still slowly heading in the right direction.
The Hoosiers followed up their worst season in school history with a five-win improvement. That is impressive considering they lost stud freshman and leading scorer Maurice Creek twelve games into the season with a fractured left knee. With a healthy Creek alongside Christian Watford and Verdell Jones III who both played well last season, IU returns a solid core. Jeremiah Rivers is also back to run the show as the only senior though he may see less time actually handling the ball. Sophomore Derek Elston really impressed me late last season and will be someone to keep an eye on. The weakness of this group lies down low, where there is no true post presence.
As Bill Murray said in What About Bob?, “Baby steps.” Indiana’s re-birth should continue this season but it certainly will not be a drastic jump in an incredibly talented Big Ten. As long as the fan base and administration is patient, Crean should get the Hoosiers back into the top half of the conference sooner rather than later. If steps are not made in 2010-2011 though, Crean’s seat could be heating up a bit.
Player to Watch: Maurice Creek, SG
Creek came out of the gates strong, scoring in double digits in his first seven games as a Hoosier. He really opened eyes with a 31 point outburst in a blow-out loss against Kentucky before the aforementioned season-ending injury. His presence on the court will help open things up for Jones III and Watford, who were forced to play bigger roles without Creek in the line-up. He is a big-time scorer who can stroke it from deep and might be a sleeper candidate for the All-Big Ten team.
Key Non-Conference Games:
12/1 at Boston College (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
12/11 at Kentucky
12/22 vs. Nothern Iowa (in Las Vegas)
12/23 vs. New Mexico/Colorado (in Las Vegas)
Other 99 in 99’s:
#86 Penn State
#87 South Florida
#89 Boston College
#93 Oregon State
#97. Iowa State