Hey Tom, how's that rebuilding process going? (Okay, as a Marquette alum, I promise that will be my only snarky Crean-leaving-for-Indiana comment.) In all seriousness, the resurrection of the Indiana Hoosiers basketball program has taken even longer than anticipated. The arrival of hometown boy Cody Zeller was a huge get for Crean, as the program should finally show some improvement this season.
Like his older brother Tyler, Cody is a talented big man who needs to add weight to his skinny frame. He is a skilled almost seven-footer who should finally give Indiana an upgrade and true post presence at center. Yes, that was sort of knock on both Tom Pritchard, who will now provide some energy and physicality off the bench, and Bobby Capobianco, who transferred to Valparaiso this offseason.
The athletic, versatile Christian Watford blossomed into the team's best player last season, leading the Hoosiers in points and rebounds. His inside/outside ability makes him a tough matchup, and he should greatly benefit from the addition of Zeller. Derek Elston regressed a bit during his sophomore season and will look to have a bounce-back junior year.
Injuries have really derailed the career of Maurice Creek who should provide a scoring boost, if he is finally healthy. Jordan Hulls started every game a year ago and will return to the run the point. He will not wow you with his ability to run the offense, but does have a great basketball IQ and can light it up from deep.
Verdell Jones III started 24 games last season and is the favorite to start alongside Creek and Hulls. However, the crazy athletic Victor Oladipo could replace Jones in the starting lineup since he brings an aggressive style to the floor that Crean loves.
Indiana has plenty of other options at guard as well. Will Sheehy and Matt Roth saw minutes off the bench last season and will compete with freshmen Remy Abell and Austin Etherington for playing time. Abell has a well-rounded game, and might earn immediate playing time for his defensive abilities on the perimeter.
If Crean can get the Hoosiers to show steady improvement this season, Indiana fans will be pleased, especially since they have a loaded recruiting class coming in for the 2012 season. However, the seat will really heat up for Crean if Indiana does not show the expected growth in 2011-12.
Player to Watch: Maurice Creek, SG
Before suffering a fractured kneecap that ended his season, Creek looked like a shell of what he brought to the floor his freshman season, which also ended in a season-ending patella fracture. (Talk about bad luck.) He looked slower, just couldn't find the spring in his step, and really struggled shooting the ball. If he can somehow regain his game from early in his freshman season, the Hoosiers could be a sleeper in the Big Ten.