There is no better way to tip off a new season like Hoosier Hysteria. This is where the fans get their first glimpse of the newcomers and what the team has to offer for the upcoming season.
The players get the opportunity to showcase their talents and skills in various scenarios. A three-point competition, dunk competition and a battle between Cream and Crimson squads are all part of the show.
For the past two seasons "we" the fans have struggled to watch our team in hopes of seeing a winning season but knowing we wouldn't reach that realm.
It's been that way since Kelvin Sampson almost singlehandedly destroyed the storied program that is Indiana Hoosiers basketball. We try to hope for the best, but then reality sets in, and soon after the season is over.
Well, I am here to tell you that the reality for this season and this team is the postseason. Some of you may think I'm crazy, but I assure you that isn't the case. When I say the postseason, I don't mean the big dance. Although I wish that was a possibility, but that's even a little too far-fetched for my liking.
This group of young men has all the characteristics of a team that can make the NIT and win 15 to 17 games.
A true big man is what they've been missing for quite some time, and Guy-Marc Michel, the Northern Idaho transfer, should fill that void perfectly. There is no exaggeration when you call him a big man because he's a seven-foot, 277-pound brick wall. He will provide great rebounding skills and has good shot-blocking ability. Adding him to the mix will allow head coach Tom Crean to have more flexibility with his lineups.
Odds are there will plenty of different starting lineups depending on who we are playing against.
Other newcomers are true freshmen Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey. Both bring a lot to the table and will offer the Hoosiers a great deal of depth on the bench.
Odalpio resembles former Hoosier A.J. Ratliff. He is very athletic, quick, has those long arms and can jump out of the gym. Scouts also rave about his three-point shooting ability.
When it comes to Sheehey, I consider him more of a facilitator than anything else. His 6'5" frame will allow for some advantages when he is matched up with a shooting guard instead of at his normal small forward position. The defensive skills are my biggest concern. If he has improved on those in the offseason and continues to improve during the season, then he will be an even greater asset to the team.
Better results should be a certainty this season with a more experienced group returning. Leading the way will be third-year starter Verdell Jones III. Maurice Creek and Matt Roth are both returning from injuries that ended their seasons last year.
The likes of Christian Watford, Bobby Capobianco, Derek Elston and Jordan Hulls all have a full year of experience now, and that will prove to be vital to their success this season. Both Tom Pritchard and Jeremiah Rivers had underachieving seasons last year, and hopefully they can improve on their weaknesses.
Crean can legitimately play up to 13 players and give all of them good quality minutes. This will help in so many areas of the game. Fatigue shouldn't be much of an issue, nor will getting the right matchups, and if a player is in foul trouble someone else will be able to fill his shoes. All of these are great qualities to have when you play in a dominant conference like the Big Ten.
There are so many scoring options on this team that it shouldn't be a problem to improve in every offensive statistical category. The defense is going to be much better now with a true center in Michel, which will allow other players like Watford and Pritchard to play their normal positions.
Versatile will be one way to describe this team. Almost every player has the capability to play a different position, and I guarantee you Crean will not shy away from mixing things up.
A lot of people have continued to question whether or not Crean is the right man for this job. When this season is over, I'm certain that all those people will be singing to a different tune. You won't see a minimal improvement this year like last, but instead you will see a notable one with the Hoosiers gracing the NIT with their presence.
He will no longer be on the hot seat with fans or alumni, but they still won't be satisfied until this team is winning conference titles and going deep in the big dance.
I thank those that have been patient and knew they would have to sit back and enjoy the ride with this rebuilding journey. The patience has paid off because this year we will see our team in a postseason tournament, and not just the conference one. Mark my words—it will happen!