Upgraded roster has raised Hoosiers expectations
Indiana basketball is on the move. The Hoosiers have added talent, size and depth. Expectations are increasing, and Tom Crean has the school's biggest restoration project on track. Indeed, this will be a different kind of season for the Hoosiers - one that should be more acceptable to fans in this basketball-crazed state. "We don't want to lead the country in turnovers again, I can tell you that," Crean told the crowd at the team's first official practice. "You can be guaranteed that these guys who represent Indiana University will absolutely spill it every day inside here. They are here to help bring you back." It's a major change from the pessimism Crean encountered before last season, his first as Indiana's coach. Back then, Crean was trying to reconstruct a program gutted by an NCAA scandal. He had only eight scholarship players and two returnees from the 2007-08 season. The result: A 6-25 record, one Big Ten win and the school's worst winning percentage in nearly a century. With fans anticipating more wins this year, Crean is urging the optimists to also be realistic. "We'll have growing pains," Crean said. "We will have tough days but I can guarantee you we will not have days where we don't work hard to get it right." What's changed? Well, Indiana now has a dozen scholarship players and three returning starters - guards Devan Dumes and Verdell Jones III, and forward Tom Pritchard. The addition of 6-foot-9 forwards Derek Elston and Bobby Capobianco, 6-8 forward Christian Watford and perhaps 6-10 Bawa Muniru, who is still waiting for approval from the NCAA clearinghouse, should help inside, too. But all four are freshmen and only one of the returning starters, Dumes, has played more than one season of college ball. Crean also has more help at guard. Jeremiah Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, moves into the point guard spot after sitting out last season because of NCAA transfer rules. The 6-foot-5 junior was a backup on Georgetown's 2007 Final Four team. The emergence of Rivers has pushed Jones from the point to his more natural spot on the wing. Dumes returns after leading the Hoosiers in scoring with 12.7 points per game last season. Crean also has sophomore 3-point specialist Matt Roth, 6-5 freshman Maurice Creek and Bloomington native Jordan Hulls, Indiana's reigning Mr. Basketball. The combination gives Crean more options. "We're really trying to open the floor even more for drives and keep the top of the floor open for drives and keep constant movement," Crean said. "Constant movement, not just spotting up. When you can put three or four good 3-point shooters on the floor at one time, then you will have the drive and kick." Players have noticed a difference, too. "It's much more intense and exciting this year," Jones said. "We all have the same goal and we're fighting for spots and playing time, too." So how much better will the Hoosiers really be? It's not something Crean can measure in predicted victories. "The biggest thing they can do right now is be competitive," he said. "I always tell them the more you demand of yourself, the more you can demand of others. Not the other way around. We don't have a group of juniors or seniors that can lead the way in that respect. Everybody else has that. We don't."