1. Marco Killingsworth is every bit as good as advertised
The 6-8, 270-pound transfer from Auburn dominated in practice a year ago, but most wanted to see what he'd do in a real game before buying into some of the "Beast of the Big Ten" hype that had surrounded his arrival. But based on his averages of 23.5 points and 8.7 rebounds – coupled with a 34-point, 10-rebound effort against Duke's Shelden Williams – there's now no doubt that he'll be one of the league's best post players. He'll consistently command double teams, and that will free up Indiana's shooters to score from the perimeter, which is the same sort of inside-outside game that Indiana used on its march to the 2002 NCAA Championship game.
2. Marshall Strickland is, in fact, a shooting guard
For three years Strickland has struggled trying to run the team from the point guard position, but his off-season move to shooting guard has finally allowed him to show IU fans why he was such a highly-regarded recruit coming out of high school. A career 37 percent shooter entering his senior season, Strickland is knocking down 3s at better than 62 percent, and he's scored in double figures in each of IU's first four contests. As a point guard Strickland was rarely able to get wide open looks from behind the arc, but now that he's moved off the ball he's getting those looks and he's knocking them down.
3. Indiana is good enough to contend for its first Big Ten title since 2002
Michigan State is a legitimate threat to make a repeat trip to the Final Four, and Steve Alford has a chance to finally contend for a league title…in the regular season. Illinois and Wisconsin are both top-25 caliber teams as well, but Indiana has the pieces in place to contend for the conference crown. Barring any unforeseen setbacks with D.J. White and/or Sean Kline, the Hoosiers are expected to be at full strength by the time league play opens Jan. 3, making them unquestionably the deepest team in the league. Circle Feb. 26 on your calendar, as the Hoosiers host Michigan State in a nationally-televised contest that could very well be for the league title.
4. An injury or two shouldn't derail IU's season, nor lower expectations
Unless the Hoosiers somehow lose both Killingsworth and White at the same time, there doesn't appear to be one player on the roster who's loss would prevent this year's team from being able to compete with anyone on the schedule. The team's ability to go toe-to-toe with Duke despite the absence of White and the limited availability of A.J. Ratliff suggests the depth and skill level is there to be able to compensate for an injury and still play the style they want to play, which is up tempo.
5. An up-tempo style fits this team best
Mike Davis has been looking to get up and down the floor ever since he assumed the head coaching position, but he hasn't had the horses to do it – until this season. Indiana has the depth and athleticism to play games in the 80s and 90s instead of the 60s, which was the norm during each of the last two seasons. Indiana won't challenge the school record of 91.7 points per game that it established during the 1964-65 season, but it's a good bet that IU will average better than 80 points per game for the first time since the 1992-93 season (86.5/game). It starts with better point guard play from Lewis Monroe and Earl Calloway. Neither will average double figures this season, but both are adept at running the fast break. Both are very good defenders as well, giving the Hoosiers a chance to trap more often and get more deflections, which, in turn, will lead to more fastbreak opportunities. It also helps that IU's two big men – Killingsworth and White – can fill the lane on the break and finish.
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