Yahoo! picks IU sixth in Big Ten, Zeller top newcomer

  • 09/13/2011 9:51 am in

The Dagger Big Ten Preview: Projections and five storylines to watch

3. Will Tom Crean’s recruiting success translate into wins?

Indiana’s roster was so threadbare in the wake of Kelvin Sampson’s scandal-tainted tenure that success-starved Hoosiers fans have shown great patience during Tom Crean’s tenure despite three losing seasons. That patience will start to wear thin, however, if the deeper, more experienced Hoosiers don’t return to the NCAA tournament in Crean’s fourth season.

With impact recruit Cody Zeller joining returning star Christian Watford in the frontcourt and a versatile backcourt highlighted by athletic senior Verdell Jones, Indiana has the personnel to improve dramatically on last year’s finish. The Hoosiers won’t contend for a Big Ten title until their highly touted 2012 recruiting class arrives, but 20 wins and a top-six finish in league aren’t unreasonable goals.

The X-factor for Indiana will be the play of Maurice Creek, a 6-foot-5 junior whose first two seasons have been cut short by season-ending knee injuries. Updates on Creek’s progress have been scarce, but if he could regain some semblance of the form he showed as a freshman when he lit up Kentucky for 31 points, that could alter the course of Indiana’s season and increase the chances the Hoosiers play deep into March.

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