Indiana went 27-9 last season and lost to the eventual champions in the Sweet Sixteen.
Next season, enter a top-5 recruiting class but all scouting services. In comes help at every position. They will be really good next year and titles, both Big Ten and the National title, will be real possibilities.
Just one day after Kentucky defeated Kansas for the 2012 National Championship, the national media are already looking to next season.
Each of the five outlets below have picked IU as the best team in the country in their first look ahead.
“Surprised? Putting Indiana No. 1 isn’t a reach, and it speaks volumes about how far Tom Crean has brought the Hoosiers. There was legitimate grumbling in the Hoosier Nation a year ago, wondering whether the rebuilding was taking too long. Well, IU had two of the more significant wins of the 2011-12 regular season and then reached the Sweet 16, where it pushed Kentucky as well as any team. Cody Zeller has to stay put for Indiana to remain No. 1 of course. But if Zeller is back, the Hoosiers — with nearly everyone returning and joined by another elite recruiting class — will be right there in the running for a national title.”
“Tom Crean’s rebuild is complete. The Hoosiers should have four starters back (frontcourt studs Cody Zeller and Christian Watford are expected to return) and five freshman who’ll provide depth and athleticism. Indiana won’t be a scrappy underdog next season. Be interesting to see how the Hoosiers handle it.”
“Cody Zeller and Christian Watford (if he stays) could have the Hoosiers talking about a national title.”
“The next step in Tom Crean’s Hoosier Revival is to chase a national title, and this team is the best of a watered-down field of contenders. IU returns 84.7 percent of its scoring, including savvy sophomore center Cody Zeller, a Wooden Award candidate, and also brings in Rivals.com’s No. 2-ranked recruiting class. The two X-factors: Whether or not rising senior Christian Watford stays in school, and how smoothly five-star point guard Yogi Ferrell can make the transition to running a college offense.”
“If Zeller remains, IU fans can begin dreaming of a national title. Coach Tom Crean has an excellent recruiting class, with every position covered. F Hanner Perea is a big-timer whose presence will be even more important if Zeller does leave. IU overachieved this season in getting to the Sweet 16. Far more will be expected next season, and if Zeller stays, the recruiting class lives up to billing and the other returnees make the requisite improvement, IU could be celebrating next April.”
The Big Lead:
“Nobody brings back more than the Hooisers, who lost in the Sweet 16 to eventual champ Kentucky. Their top five scorers are back (as long as Christian Watford stays), along with potential 1st team All-American Cody Zeller (if he hasn’t left for the NBA yet, he’s staying, right?). There are two highly-touted recruitscoming in. If Watford leaves, still Top 3; if Watford and Zeller depart, the Hooisers are still 15-25 material.”
“Assuming Christian Watford sticks around for his senior season, Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers will be the deepest and most talented team in the nation next year. All five starters will return, including Cody Zeller—the projected first pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, according to nbadraft.net. Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Jordan Hulls and even Maurice Creek (2011-12 medical redshirt) will be back on board to join forces with the nation’s second ranked recruiting class according to Rivals.com. Point guard Yogi Ferrell, small forward Jeremy Hollowell, and power forward Hanner Perea will all see major minutes next season and are a big reason why the Hoosiers are the early favorites to cut down the nets in Atlanta.”
A couple more outlets have Indiana near the top.
No. 1 on ‘Five new Final Four contenders’ – “If he returns, sophomore Cody Zeller will be the best big man in the Big Ten, and one of the most productive bigs in the entire country. Coach Tom Crean will again run the offense through him, and with a talented cast of returning players, plus a recruiting class that includes three four-star recruits (per Scout.com), the Hoosiers will be the Big Ten favorites.”
No. 2 – “The Hoosiers bring back every top scorer — as long as Christian Watford and Cody Zeller decide to play in Bloomington another season. The Hoosiers could be aiming at a national title.”
[Photo via IU Athletics]