Welcome to Playboy.com’s 2014 Bracket Challenge

Indiana is a favorite to not only return March Madness in 2013 but to take a top seed and win it.

Team Preview: Indiana Hoosiers

By: Fraser Lockerbie

2011-12 Record: 27-9, 11-7 in the Big Ten

Coach: Tom Crean, 82-84 at Indiana, 272-180 overall

Without a doubt one of the most famous programs in the history of the NCAA, the Hoosiers have been relegated to relative obscurity in the past few years, marred by under-achieving, NCAA sanctions and living in the shadow of rejuvenated programs like Michigan State, Florida, Kansas and Kentucky. In fact, in the three seasons prior to 2011-12, the Hoosiers won just 28 games. But last year alone, behind All-American Cody Zeller and Christian Watford, Indiana won 27 and in 2013 are: returning four starters from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team, bringing in a top-ten ranked recruiting class, currently sitting number one in in every national poll and are an early season favorite for their first NCAA title in 26 years.

Strongside: Experience. Athleticism. Offensive output. You name it. This is as well rounded a Hoosiers team as we’ve seen. The return of Zeller and Watford (both of whom at least considered posting for the draft, with Zeller a likely top-ten pick) means this team can do more than contend; Zeller, an offensive big man who can run the floor, should be set to ‘improve’ on his 8.9 boards and 15.7 points per game (even more impressive is that he averages at least 1.2 in ASTs, STLs and BLKs) while Watford’s 16.7 points and 44 percent shooting from beyond the arc in 2012 leave few questions that this offense can hurt you in a handful of ways. He’ll be helped Jordan Hulls, a sharpshooter who banked 72 treys in 2012 on 49.3 percent shooting, and rookie Yogi Ferrell, who having played only a few out-of conference games thus far, is already drawing comparisons to the great Isaiah Thomas. He can stroke a three too, leaving the sky as the limit for this Hoosiers team with a wealth of three-point firepower.

Weakside: Any time spent trying to turn this squad inside out only proves to showcase more strengths; their offense is top notch, the defense is defined by in their athleticism and having already been together for at least a few years, the learning curve should not be so steep. But if this potent offense stalls it will be on the heads of the point guards, namely the rookie Ferrell and junior Victor Oladipo. They’ll be charged with opening up space and creating shots for Zeller, Watford and Hulls, but both have a tendency to try and do too much and a penchant for taking their own shot rather than passing it off. They’re both talented enough shooters that opposing defenses cannot allow them to take an uncontested shot but it will be on Coach Tom Crean to instill better basketball awareness in the two to keep plays alive. If he does, if they do, this Indiana team will be unstoppable.

All Told: Indiana, a once proud program, has been on the shitty end of stick in the Big Ten for the past few seasons, muscled out by bigger, better programs like Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. But as they say in Indiana: “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass every day;” the Hoosiers have quietly been stockpiling talent for a few years and broke out of their slump last season with some surprise wins over top ranked teams in the regular season and strong showing in March, making it through to the sixteen before losing to the eventual champion Wildcats. This season, barring any unforeseen acts of God, the Hoosiers should be even better and likely early season candidate to go all the way. We see them as nothing short of a top seed.

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