Bloomington, IN (Sports Network) - The No. 1 team in the land opens the
2012-13 season at home tonight, as the Indiana Hoosiers entertain the Bryant
Bryant had an absolutely dreadful season in 2011-12, going just 2-28 overall
and 1-17 in the Northeast Conference. With nowhere to go from up, the Bulldogs
welcome back all five starters, and a couple of transfers who will hopefully
make coach Tim O'Shea's job a bit easier this winter. In addition to the
monumental task of taking on the top team in the country right out of the
chute, Bryant will also face Big East foe Providence, ACC member Boston
College, as well as a couple of Ivy League schools in Brown and Yale, and 2012
NCAA Tournament qualifier Lehigh before kicking off NEC play at Robert Morris
on Jan. 3.
The Hoosiers open the season as the No. 1 team in the country, their first
such distinction since ending the 1993 campaign the same way. Like Bryant,
Indiana has the good fortune of returning all five starters from last year's
team that advanced to the Sweet 16 and finished with a 27-9 overall record.
The Hoosiers, who posted better than a 15-game improvement from 2010-11 to
2011-12 which was the seventh-largest turnaround in NCAA history, have won 14
of their last 17 season openers, and 27 consecutive home lidlifters. Indiana
has much tougher games coming against Georgia, UCLA or Georgetown, North
Carolina and Butler, before getting Big Ten Conference play underway at Iowa
on New Year's Eve.
Indiana won the only previous meeting between these two teams, whipping the
Bulldogs in a 90-42 decision on Dec. 28, 2009.
As mentioned, Bryant won only two games last season as it had trouble at both
ends of the floor. The Bulldogs averaged just 61.7 ppg, while at the same time
allowing the opposition to rack up 75.4 ppg. The key to this year's club will
be finding someone, or several someones, to take some of the pressure off
leading scorer Alex Francis (17 ppg). The 6-6 junior is far-and-away the best
player on the Bryant roster, as he added 7.4 rpg to his stat line last season.
Other double-digit scorers back for another go-around include Frankie Dobbs
(13.3 ppg, 138 assists) and Corey Maynard (11.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg). Additional help
could come in the form of transfers Dyami Starks (Columbia) and Joe O'Shea
(College of the Holy Cross). Starks scored 20 points and Francis tallied 19 in
Bryant's rout of Salve Regina in exhibition play last week.
A dangerous team any way you look at it, Indiana can run with the best in the
country, but is coming off a year in which it drained 43.1 percent of its 3-
point shots as well. The team is led by Tom Crean, now entering his fifth year
at the helm, and he has one of the top players in country at his disposal in
6-11 sophomore Cody Zeller. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year as selected by
the league's coaches last season, Zeller averaged 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds
per game, but he isn't the only talented player who will be wearing the
crimson and cream this year as he is joined up front by senior Christian
Watford (12.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and junior Will Sheehy (8.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg). The IU
backcourt is expected to consist of seniors Jordan Hulls (11.7 ppg, 3.3 apg)
and Victor Oladipo (10.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg), as well as the return of junior
Maurice Cheek, who missed all of last season with a ruptured Achilles. Add a
highly-touted recruiting class to the mix, which includes standout point guard
Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell, and anything but a Big Ten title and deep run in the
NCAA Tournament will be a huge disappointment.
The Sports Network