Bloomington, Ind. – Hoosier basketball fans aren't the only ones with high expectations for this year's team.
Coach Kelvin Sampson's squad is ranked No. 9 in the USA Today/ESPN Preseason Top 25, which was released Friday. North Carolina tops the poll, while UCLA, Memphis, Kansas and Georgetown round out the top five. Eighth-ranked Michigan State, meanwhile, is the only other Big Ten team in the top 25.
Fresh off last year's 21-11 season and second-round NCAA tourney appearance, the Hoosiers have been tabbed as one of the nation's elite thanks to the return of power forward D.J. White and the addition of a top-flight recruiting classes, highlighted by shooting guard Eric Gordon. That's a inside-outside combination that's expected to be among the best in the country.
With the lofty ranking, though, comes the pressure of living up to that billing. White is among those who says it will give the Hoosier opponents extra motivation when they go up against Sampson's squad.
"It's a target on our back," said White, who averaged a team-best 13.8 points and 7.3 rebounds a year ago. "We have to bring it every game, every practice, every time we step on the floor. If we're in the national spotlight, people want to beat us."
While Gordon is expected to make the biggest contribution of this year's additions, among player who should figure prominently into IU's success is junior college transfer JaMarcus Ellis. Ellis was named the National Junior College Player of the Year after averaging 17.1, 8.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists while leading Chipola (Fla.) J.C. to a runner-up finish in the National Junior College Tournament.
Ellis is pleased by the preseason expectations, but is more concerned with how things end up.
"What really matters is where we're going to end up at the end of the season, whether it's a Final Four or National Championship," Ellis said.
USA Today/ESPN Preseason Top 25
1. North Carolina (10 first place votes)
2. UCLA (12)
3. Memphis (8)
4. Kansas (1)
8. Michigan State
10. Washington State
14. Texas A&M
23. Southern Illinois
24. North Carolina State
Hoosiers No. 9 in Preseason Poll
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