A No. 1 preseason ranking in both major polls meant Indiana basketball would be a big target entering the season.
The shots just keep coming, and the games haven’t even started yet.
Tuesday’s announcement of nine-game suspensions from the NCAA for both Peter Jurkin and Hanner Mosquera-Perea was just the latest bump in the road in an offseason filled with hype and turmoil.
Ron Patterson, one of the five touted freshmen of “The Movement,” failed to qualify academically and chose prep school before committing to Syracuse.
Key reserve Derek Elston tore his meniscus during the Hoosier Hysteria event and is expected to miss the entire nonconference schedule.
Now come the suspensions for Jurkin and Mosquera-Perea for receiving improper benefits from Mark Adams, their AAU coach and Mosquera-Perea’s legal guardian.
IU was “shocked” at the length of the suspension and plans to appeal.
“That hadn’t followed any precedent that we had ever seen,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said on the Dan Dakich Show on Wednesday. “It would be so different if it made any sense, and if you could point to something, this happened here, this happened here …
“No one’s really come in with a valid answer.”
Crean noted that the freshmen had “endeared” themselves to the upperclassmen by coming in with humble attitudes and respect for what the older players have endured during IU’s rebuilding process.
“It’s hard to see tough situations, but they really do feel for one another,” Crean said. “I think that’s what gives this team the chance to be successful.”
The absence of Elston, Jurkin and Mosquera-Perea puts more pressure on the Hoosiers’ starting frontcourt of Cody Zeller and Christian Watford.
When those two passed on early entry to the NBA and returned for their sophomore and senior seasons, respectively, the expectations for this season’s Hoosiers took off.
And they’ll remain high even if the roster’s depth has taken an initial hit because of Elston’s injury and the two suspensions.
All five players who started last season’s final nine games are back, although Will Sheehey is likely to return to his preferred role in coming off the bench. He’s got a new jersey number, dropping No. 10 in favor of the No. 0 worn the past four seasons by Kory Barnett.
Taking his place in the starting lineup, at least based on the Indiana Wesleyan game, will be Yogi Ferrell, whose ability to run the offense would open up Jordan Hulls to be more of a shooting threat.
That wasn’t the case in the exhibition, of course, when Hulls took just one shot in 21 minutes of play.
But one of the benefits of Indiana’s nonconference schedule will be the opportunity for Crean and his assistants to figure out how to best use the Hoosiers’ depth. Only four of IU’s 13 nonconference opponents had a winning record last season — North Dakota State (17-14), North Carolina (36-6), Butler (22-15) and either UCLA (19-14) or Georgetown (24-8) in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Get past those teams and avoid a monumental upset — the Hoosiers leave the state just once before Big Ten play begins — and IU could have a perfect record when they open the conference schedule on Dec. 31 in Iowa.
The Big Ten schedule is not an easy one. Four other conference teams are ranked in the preseason Top 25, including No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Michigan.
Considering last season’s Hoosiers were just 3-6 on the road in Big Ten play, the notion of IU staying No. 1 for the entire season is improbable.
But the Hoosiers aren’t concerned with being No. 1 now or in February. They want to be No. 1 when the season ends on April 8, 2013, in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.
The first step comes Friday, when the Hoosiers open the season against Bryant. The Bulldogs were just 2-28 last season.