Entering the 2012–13 season, the Hoosiers will be ranked among the top three teams in the country. (For what it’s worth, I think either Indiana or Louisville should be ranked No. 1, and it’s sort of splitting hairs to argue. I also remain very skeptical of UCLA). Surefire Preseason All-American forward Cody Zeller is back with a full summer of offseason workouts and rather funny tweets under his belt. Alongside Zeller is essentially every player of note from last season’s team. Joining him is the No. 11-ranked recruiting class in the country, including No. 3-ranked guard Yogi Ferrell.
There might be a team or two out there with a higher concentration of pure talent in their starting lineups. There might be teams with more future pros or more athleticism on the front line. But no team will be as deep as this one.
When you combine that depth with the towering force that is Zeller, well, no wonder Indiana fans are thinking national title.
The Hoosiers are steadily branching out. After Tom Crean laid the foundation of his program with players from the Hoosier State, he’s now spreading the word and rebuilding the brand nationally. Half of IU’s current four-man class aren’t Indiana natives, and that’s a new twist. The Hoosiers are highlighted by ESPN 100 recruits shooting guard Stanford Robinson (Fairfax, Va./Paul VI), who owns a lefty stroke that extends to 3-point range and is a rangy defender, and power forward Luke Fischer (Germantown, Wis./Germantown) who might have the most momentum of Indiana’s four commits heading into the summer.
Just a few years ago, the status of Indiana’s basketball program had never seemed more dire. Legendary coach Bob Knight was expelled in a fit of campus fury; Mike Davis’ faltered tenure unraveled within years; and Kelvin Sampson conference-called the Hoosiers to a place they had never been before — the NCAA sanctions doghouse. Indiana was a blue blood, sure, but what if those days were gone? What if the Hoosiers’ time had passed?
Those anxious existential quandaries are now the furthest thing from any IU fan’s mind. Tom Crean deserves the lion’s share of credit for that, in large part because he followed the recruiting blueprint required of any Indiana coach, forging alliances with the state’s top coaches and figureheads and, beginning with Cody Zeller, convincing the in-state talent (or most of it, anyway) to stay in the state.
Meanwhile, not enough can be said of Indiana’s new Cook Hall, a 67,000-square-foot facility that not only serves as the headquarters for the program and its players but also hosts a veritable museum of Hoosiers tradition. Before it was built, Indiana practiced at Assembly Hall, where scheduling conflicts with the women’s program were just one of the issues keeping the program from landing top talent. These days, Indiana not only has its name brand and deep cultural connections in a basketball-obsessed (and talent-rich) state to entice prospects. These days, it has the bling to seal the deal.
While surfing the Web late this afternoon, I came across the ESPN College Basketball page and noticed there were some free Insider items (yipee!).
Apparently not enough people are subscribing to Insider, because I’ve noticed quite a few free previews lately. If the content I stumbled across today is any indication of what you get for $39.95 per year, I can see why no one is lining up to subscribe.
First, Bob Gibbons has ranked his top 13 recruiting classes for 2008 to-date. That’s all fine and dandy, except for the fact that he didn’t list IU. You know, the school that has commitments from two consensus top 30 players (Devin Ebanks and Bud Mackey) and one of the best shooters available (Matt Roth) in the country. Apparently that’s only good enough to be listed under the “Other top early recruiting classes.”
I was willing to give them a pass and let it go, but this next discovery just baffled me. Ebanks, a consensus top 15 recruit by any recruiting service worth mentioning, didn’t make the cut for the ESPN 150. You know, the same guy that just played in the Boost Mobile Elite 24 Hoops Classic and was compared to Tracy McGrady and Kevin Durant. Just a hunch, but I’m guessing he deserves to be somewhere on this list.
So, thank me in advance for this warning. And to those of you who actually paid to read this, ask for a refund.