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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Hoosiers hoping to make immediate statement

Thursday, October 16, 2008

By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer

BLOOMINGTON -- Indiana's Tom Pritchard is in an awkward situation.

The freshman forward is telling teammates what he expects in Assembly Hall on Friday. It's the opening night for Indiana basketball, an event billed as Hoosier Hysteria that typically features a boisterous crowd, a 3-point shooting contest and plenty of TV cameras.

Pritchard is one of the few Indiana players to see the event firsthand -- and that was while he was being recruited last year.

"There was a big crowd, and I expect a big crowd again," he said. "There might even be a little more enthusiasm than last year, too, because everyone wants to see what we can do."

A year ago, the Hoosiers started practice as a chic pick to win the Big Ten and possibly make the Final Four.

Now, fans will need a program just to figure out who everyone is.

Only two players return from a team that went into a spiral when allegations of major recruiting infractions hit in February. The NCAA phone call scandal led to the ouster of former coach Kelvin Sampson, and nothing was quite the same after that.

The fallout went every possible direction.

After the season, Indiana hired Tom Crean as Sampson's replacement, brought in all new assistants and revamped the roster. The compliance department was reorganized and athletic director Rick Greenspan, who hired Sampson, announced he would resign in late December. The school is still waiting for the NCAA to rule on Indiana's first major infractions case since 1960.

Now the students and alums will get to see what the housecleaning has wrought.

Indiana fans are bracing for the worst season in a decade. The Hoosiers are a nearly unanimous pick to finish last in the conference. Forward Kyle Taber, the only senior on the roster, has gone from afterthought to the most recognizable face in Assembly Hall. He's not expected to participate Friday night after having offseason knee surgery.

"I guess that's good, they know me," Taber said. "But it's also bad because it means no one else is back. But they'll get to know these people quickly."

Crean hopes those who attend like what they see.

He's re-established discipline in the program, put a premium on academics and is asking the passionate fans to be patient with this rebuilding project.

With a strong tradition that includes five national championships and a state where basketball is king, Crean has already managed to get some things back on track. Indiana's version of Midnight Madness, which tips off after a 7 p.m. volleyball game, will be broadcast on ESPNU and the Big Ten Network.

"You know, there's probably only going to be five or six schools in the country on TV," Crean said. "And I'm sure none of them are picked to finish last in their league. That's a credit to the Indiana tradition."

There are also plenty of questions.

After spending about two months on campus, players have been embraced by the students yet are uncertain how many people will show up for the practice or how they'll react.

"I don't expect anything different," said junior college transfer Devan Dumes, who is expected to be one of Indiana's top players. "It really is special here and I think everyone wants to see it."

Crean is adapting, too. He's modified practices to give the new players time to adjust to the challenges of playing Division I basketball, nixed the usual dunk contest and has about 20 former players committed to attend the first official practice of the season.

The women's team will have its own practice session, too.

But this year's "meet the Hoosiers" party has a whole new meaning.

"I think we're kind of an undiscovered team," Pritchard said. "Everyone wants to see it, everyone wants to know what's going on over here, and I think they'll be excited and revved up."



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