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If Indiana is preseason No. 1, what does that say about college hoops?

Apr 11, 2012, 9:30 AM EDT

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Indiana  v Kentucky Getty Images

Cody Zeller and Christian Watford are both returning to Indiana, which, when combined with the talent that Tom Crean has coming in with this year’s recruiting class, will have the Hoosiers as a consensus top three team nationally.

And if Kentucky doesn’t come out of tomorrow’s signing day with both Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel, there is a very good chance that Indiana will be the nation’s No. 1 team in October.

That’s great for college basketball, and for the state of Indiana. Our sport is that much more entertaining when the Hoosier State is relevant and contending for titles. The good folks of Bloomington rival those of Lexington, KY, when it comes to the passion — bordering on insanity — that they have for their team.

My question, however, is what this says about the state of college basketball next season.

Cody Zeller will be a National Player of the Year candidate next season and will have a legitimate chance of going No. 1 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, but who else on that roster looks like they will be an NBA player? Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford are both currently projected by Draft Express to be a late second round pick in 2013. So is Robert Covington of Tennessee State. The highest-rated recruit Crean is bringing in is Yogi Ferrell, who is a borderline top 25 player and may not even start for the Hoosiers next season.

Who did Indiana beat out for the top spot?

A Louisville team whose best NBA prospect is either Wayne Blackshear, who has a surgically reconstructed shoulder, or Gorgui Dieng, a defensive-minded center with an offensive repertoire that doesn’t go much farther than dunking a basketball? Or a Kentucky team whose future depends on the decisions made by Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad on Wednesday night? Or an Ohio State team that loses Jared Sullinger and William Buford? Or … gulp … NC State?

Look, Indiana is going to be a very good basketball team. They are going to be even more entertaining to watch, if this year’s club was any indication. Every game played in Assembly Hall is going to be jam-packed and rocking and an incredible environment to see a basketball game.

2012-2013 is starting to resemble 2010-2011 in my mind. That year, there really was no dominant team. Ohio State was really good that year, as was Kansas and Pitt. But that year, the top three teams in the preseason — Duke, Michigan State and Kansas State — all fizzled throughout the year while a team that finished ninth in the Big East ended up winning the national title in a Final Four that included a No. 3 seed, a No. 4 seed, a No. 8 seed and a No. 11 seed.

In other words, next year’s college basketball landscape won’t have a dominant team. And while it will make for a year where no teams will be remembered in much of a historical context, it should make for quite the entertaining season.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

  1. maxvv - Apr 11, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    Purdue, Notre Dame and freaking BUTLER don’t count as recent entertaining Hoosier State title contenders? All three have roughly matched or exceeded IU’s 2011 season success at some point over the last four years.

    • llfreedman - Apr 11, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      Right, but its Indiana…

      • maxvv - Apr 28, 2012 at 12:27 PM

        Right, well suck my balls.

  2. AlohaMrHand - Apr 11, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    If there was a dominant team you’d complain about there not being any competition and that next year will not be exciting.But there’s parody and an uncertainty who will win the national title that’s bad also?Which is it?God forbid a so called mid major ever wins the title they might have to dismantle college sports altogether.

  3. critter69 - Apr 11, 2012 at 11:24 PM

    Dauster,

    You are complaining about no one on the IU roster being NBA material?

    That is NOT the reason for college hoops – a benefit of playing in college is getting the attention of the NBA, but the intent is for the students TO BE STUDENTS.

    Besides, how many players from IU’s previous five National Championship teams made it to the NBA and made an impact in the NBA? Not many. The IU philosophy of basketball is NOT playing a game of dominant individual players, but the players playing basketball as a team on offense and/or defense.

    If you are going to whine and pine for NBA players, Dauster, why don’t you comment on the NBA, not college?

  4. janarobb - Apr 13, 2012 at 8:12 AM

    Dauster,

    So the only reason a team should contend for a title is if they have a lot of future NBA players??

    How about the fact these guys have played together as a team. They understand their strength and weaknesses and work together as a team. There have been many teams recently that have played and or won the championship that have not had future NBA stars on their roster.

    You do realize how hard it is to become an NBA?

    I would rather watch a college season where the final game is in doubt and many teams have a chance to get there than having the final game decided before the season even started.

  5. chicagofoodblog - Apr 13, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    Rob,

    I have no doubt that you love the game of college basketball and have an above-average knowledge of the subject, but I think you need to study Indiana’s recruits a little more before pretending to be an expert on them and their NBA potential.

    Before I go there, I’d like to start by echoing what janarobb and critter69 have written, and then propose that college basketball is AT ITS BEST when the national title doesn’t come down to the 2-3 teams loaded with future NBA lottery picks. I’d much rather watch a bunch of student athletes claw and scratch and dive for loose balls than a bunch of kids who are only at college for a year because they have to be. Based on your proclaimed love of this game, I’m sure you’d feel the same way.

    What makes Indiana #1 in a lot of analysts’ minds isn’t just Cody Zeller and Christian Watford. There are a lot of intangibles going on, which I’ll argue makes College Basketball UP, not down.

    First of all, Indiana is a team full of leaders. Watford and Hulls are Seniors who have seen it all. They’ve had to learn how to win against more talented competition and can appreciate success more than most NBA Lottery-bound freshman can. That respect for victory and gritty play from the upper-classmen creates the kind of team culture you want. When that happens, and they actually win… that’s what makes people adore college basketball. It ain’t Anthony Davis’ shot blocking.

    The Juniors? A couple guys named Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey leave everything out on the floor (they’re talented too). On a side note, Oladipo was ranked outside of the top 100 and, as you point out, is still projected as a 2nd-rounder some day. What’s that say about Yogi’s “borderline” top-25 ranking you so authoritatively criticize?

    Now, let’s go there.

    First of all, Yogi Ferrell is an NBA player, period. Remember the 2010 Adidas Nations tournament? Probably not. NBA scouts walked out of that gym with their little hearts going pitter-patter over Yogi. Have you seen him play since then? Have you noticed how he’s one the most under control (without sacrificing quickness) and best passing point guards we’ve seen out of high-school in a long time? And, don’t point to his shooting in the McD AA game. Not one PG shot the ball well that night. Look at his high school and AAU box scores – the kid can shoot the lights out.

    Next, Hanner Parea will play in the NBA. Remember that, just a year ago, he was a top-10 five-star recruit. So, what happened? His rankings were probably hurt a lot by his high school team’s talent level and their competition. It happens. He’s also a little raw. Just wait until Tom Crean gets his hands on the kid NBA scouts were calling the most athletic (with the best NBA body) kid in the class. You probably didn’t know that either.

    Now, if all you do favor Telep’s rankings, who notoriously favors Kentucky and UNC’s recruits, I can see why you sound so naive about Indiana’s recruits. But, if you do your homework and look past the rankings, you’d know better.

    I’ll end by pointing out the most important thing that makes IU a top-caliber team – Tom Crean. He’s the reason for today’s culture. He’s no phony. His endless dedication to restoring the IU tradition bleeds into the team culture and inspires leadership from Indiana’s players. He’s also a pretty darn good coach and assessor of talent.

    You may remember a kid by the name of Dwyane Wade. Do you know what he was ranked in high school? Probably not. Why? Because he was well outside of the top-100. Crean understood the potential, however, and got him to come play at Marquette. He’s notorious for seeing talent others do not. But, he doesn’t stop with talent. He develops. What’s that mean for a kid like Yogi, a “borderline top 25 player”?

    To quote Andy Katz, “It took a while, but Indiana is back. Get used to it.” We are back, and we did it in a way that’s good, or UP, for college basketball… not DOWN.

    • stlouis1baseball - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:57 PM

      Well stated Food Blog! I would also like someone to point out to me (for once)…why Tom Crean got completely shafted in the Coach of the year voting. What did the other Coaches do that Tom didn’t do? I mean that sincerely. Last year IU had essentially the same team w/ Cody Zeller as the addition. Granted…Cody is a huge addition. But last years team win totals matched the previous THREE YEARS COMBINED…AND they were a Sweet Sixteen Team. Someone please provide me with a compelling argument as to why Crean got hosed. Anyone?

  6. stlouis1baseball - Apr 17, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    Dauster:
    A final point. There is a reason the names on IU’s jerseys are on the FRONT and NOT the back.

    • dexterismyhero - Apr 18, 2012 at 1:19 PM

      you mean the school on the front and nothing on the back correct?

      • stlouis1baseball - Apr 18, 2012 at 1:35 PM

        Yes Mr. Obvious:
        The “name” of the School is on the front and there isn’t a “name” on the back.
        It is a team as opposed to individuals. It also speaks directly to Dauster’s ludicrous NBA reference. Again…they are a team. Not a group of individuals. Yeah….a team.

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