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Indiana University

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Hoosiers downplay expectations

IU players want to be No. 1 at season’s end, not now

– The Sporting News became the latest publication to label Indiana as the preseason No. 1 in its men’s basketball preview. and Athlon Sports were among the others that at some point had the Hoosiers as the top team for the upcoming season.

“We realize it’s nice to start No. 1, but we’d rather finish No. 1,” Indiana junior guard Victor Oladipo said Thursday.

The Hoosiers held their annual media challenge event at Assembly Hall on Thursday that featured plenty of missed layups by reporters and plenty of questions for the players on the high expectations for the season.

“Don’t get me wrong, we love the accolades. We love the recognition,” Oladipo said. “At the same time, we realize it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. We’re going to continue to work hard, listen to the coaching staff, play for each other and play one game at a time. I think that’s big, not looking ahead to where we can’t really affect. We can only affect here and now.”

IU returns its top five scorers from last year, when the team reached the Sweet 16.

That list includes Cody Zeller, who led Indiana in scoring (15.6) and rebounding (6.6). The Sporting News selected the 7-foot forward as its preseason player of the year.

“The preseason stuff doesn’t matter much,” Zeller said. “If those awards come at the end of the year, I’ll be pretty excited. I know I have a lot of stuff to work on and a lot of areas where I can improve. I’m only worried about those.”

The Hoosiers also added one of the top freshman classes in the country. Guard Yogi Ferrell was listed as one of five players on The Sporting News’ All-Freshman team.

“It could be a really special year, and everybody is anxious for the year to start,” Oladipo said. “Coming out here and playing and working hard, you get chills doing it.”

Senior guard Jordan Hulls called the transformation of the team through the years “pretty special.”

“When I first got here as a freshman, there wasn’t necessarily a leadership role that was taken, nobody really took us under their wings and showed us the ropes,” Hulls said.

“Now we have that with the seniors and the upperclassmen that bring those younger guys in and show them how practices should be run and how it should be played.”

With all the preseason buzz, the Hoosiers are adjusting to the role as the hunted.

“It’s a little bit of a different mindset from the standpoint of we have a target on our backs now a little bit, but as far as us approaching each practice, each workout, it’s the same way,” Hulls said.

“We have to come out and compete against one another and make each other better that way.”

Last year’s season ended in Atlanta, and the Hoosiers would like to end this season there again. It’s the site of the Final Four.

“Seeing what this team is capable of and what this team can accomplish is amazing,” Oladipo said.

“It’s stuff you dream about, trying to chase this one goal that everyone is trying to chase. It’s what you dream about, winning a national championship, winning a Big Ten championship, it’s what you dream about. We’re just trying to make our dream come true.”