The Indiana Hoosiers will draw headlines throughout the 2015-2016 season. A "blue blood" basketball program trying to re-surge itself back into national prominence and a top-20 ranking will have the media's gaze, both local and national, focused and Tom Crean and the Hoosiers. Outside of game recaps and in-game accomplishment or failures, let's look at the headlines may accrue throughout the season.
1. Off-the-court issues continue for Indiana heading into the new season.
Sophomore Emmitt Holt's dismissal from Indiana last week following a second alcohol-related incident in the last calendar year brings the grand total to three for players kicked off the team this off-season. Devin Davis was dismissed after being caught in possession of marijuana shortly after school ended in May, (though the charges against Davis were dropped last week). Hanner Mosquera-Perea was also present for Davis' arrest, which would become the last straw for the Colombian big man.
The list of Hoosiers that have recently found themselves in trouble also includes Kevin Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, and Stanford Robinson (now with Rhode Island). University President Michael McRobbie and IU Athletic Director have both released statements that this trend will not be tolerated and Head Coach Tom Crean has echoed their thoughts.
2. Tom Crean Is Certainly On the Hot Seat, But How Much So?
Crean enters his eighth season at the helm of Indiana. Days are certainly better than his humble 6-25 beginning with the cream and crimson. But Hoosier Nation had a taste of being on the cusp of the program returning to its former glory thanks to two Sweet Sixteen appearances in the NCAA Tournament and an outright Big Ten regular season championship in 2013.
However, going hand-in-hand with the first story line, fans seem eager to point the finger directly at Crean whenever anything has gone wrong. A 3-6 stumble down the regular season stretch in 2014-15 led many to believe that Crean was on his way out (and possibly on his way to Alabama). With many top media outlets slotting the Hoosiers as a "Last Four In" and some even leaving the Hoosiers out of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, few believed Crean would survive a two-year tournament absence.
Eventually, it was revealed that IU was actually fairly safe from the bubble in the tournament committee's eyes, but a 1-2 post-season record with a Round of 64 exit from the NCAA's certainly left a sour taste in Indiana fans' collective mouths. Now, Indiana will enter this season as a Top-15 team, placing high expectations on the program's shoulders. It seems nothing short of a deep tournament run this season will keep at least some of the Indiana fan base, (at least the very vocal part) from calling for Crean's job.
3. A Number of Hoosiers Will Hear the NBA Calling
Obviously with Yogi Ferrell entering his senior season, we know he will be pursuing his NBA dreams next summer. But who on this Hoosier roster will join him? James Blackmon Jr. found it necessary, for some reason, to hold a press conference that he would return to school this year. Too many inconsistencies and struggles on the defensive end of the ball left Blackmon out of most draft room conversations. But maybe the press conference was a subtle way of preparing the coaching staff and fans for an early departure following this upcoming season. Blackmon showed multiple flashes of being a prolific shooter, and a deep tourney run could help boost his stock for the 2016 draft.
Troy Williams saw his draft stock steadily rise as his athleticism was showcased, especially during the short period that the Hoosiers were able to climb into the Top-25 last season. The lack of a decent outside shot hurt his stock for sure, but Williams has notably committed off-season time to improving his jumper over the past two years. If Williams can help contribute to what should already be a terrific shooting team, the NBA may come calling for the forward a year early.
Finally, there is Thomas Bryant who has an outside chance of being the second one-and-done for Indiana in three years. Bryant is a borderline top-25 recruit as a 6-foot, 10-inch big man. His presence alone gives the Hoosiers at least a handful of extra spots in the preseason polls. If Bryant can take the college game by storm (and stop hanging out with Hanner Perea) he could certainly make the 2016 NBA Draft a special night for the Hoosiers.
While the final storyline may not make waves within the program and among the fan base, there is certainly enough pending developments that could make 2016 a drama-filled season for the Hoosiers. IU needs to stay out of the press off the court and take care of business on to keep the heat from the press at bay. But if the last two years are any indication, the next 8 months or so should be interesting to say the least.