After Kelvin Sampson's recruiting violations completely tore up the Hoosiers' team and program, Tom Crean has slowly, but surely, rebuilt this team. While the results haven't been there yet, this season will be another stepping stone, and another road on their journey back to the promised land.
Being an Indiana fan has been tough the last few seasons, but things may get a little better this year.
The Hoosiers return team leader Verdell Jones III, as he comes back for his third season starting for this Indiana team. He averaged 14.9 points a game, but really stepped up for this team when Maurice Creek went down by averaging 16.7 points a game through Big Ten play.
As I mentioned, Maurice Creek will return from his injury that put him out for most of last season. However, he did live up to his hype while he was on the court, averaging 16.4 points a game and leading the team in scoring.
With him leading the group, the ninth ranked freshman class from last season also returns with a full year under their belts. Players like Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, and Derek Elston will all improve on last year's performance and should provide a very solid core for this team moving forward.
Then there are the new additions to the team. Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey are the big names coming in that will look to give this team more depth off the bench, and more talent moving forward.
Oladipo, the 6'5'' small forward from Maryland, is known for a very tough, athletic style of play. He's a great rebounder for his position, and has a nose for the ball. On the offensive side, scouts say that he may not be able to create for himself, but he will knock down an open three and plays very strong with the ball.
As for Sheehey, also a 6'5'' small forward, his play is more classified as a skilled ball handler and offensive creator. He has nice range on the outside, and can be a slasher on the offensive side of the court. However, his defensive play will have to improve if he is going to be a consistent contributor on this team.
So, with all of that talent, what are realistic expectations for this team?
Last year, the Hoosiers tied with Iowa for 10th in the Big Ten. However, there were strong parts of the season, and they will look to add more consistency to that.
Another year for all of these players can only mean more good things to come. The very strong class that were freshman last year will only improve as they begin their sophomore season.
I look for the Hoosiers to move up into the 6-8 range in the Big Ten and begin to move back to the middle of the conference. Their talent should allow them to compete in this tough conference.
In all, look for them to make more strides this season. They aren't ready to compete for a conference championship, but may find themselves in the NIT come March. The outlook on this season is completely different from two years ago, which shows the good job that Tom Crean is doing.
This is a process for Indiana basketball and will take time, but Coach Crean appears to be on his way to restoring this program back the national prominence it once enjoyed.